Sister Senator: Massachusetts Elects Its First Female Senator

Tuesday, November 6th, Elizabeth Warren defeats the republican incumbent Scott Brown by a narrow margin and is the first woman to claims Kennedy’s old Senate seat. Warren, a true representative of the middle class, is now the success story heard around the nation.

Warren was born Elizabeth Herring to a middle class family in Oklahoma City—no stranger to financial woe’s. Her father, a janitor, would suffer a heart attack when Warren was only 12; this would result in the loss of a family car. He could not continue his work, could not make payments. Her mother would pick up work at a Sear’s catalog-order department and at sixteen years of age, Warren started as a waitress for her aunt’s restaurant. She is named “Oklahoma’s top high-school debater” at Northwest Classen High School and at the age of 16 receives a debate scholarship for George Washington University.

After two years at GWU she marries Jim Warren—a NASA engineer—and moves to Houston, Texas. She completes her two-years-time at the University of Houston, 1970, with a degree in speech pathology and audiology. Here she spends a year teaching children with disabilities, receiving an “emergency certificate” to do so—she had lacked the necessary education courses required of obtaining a teaching certificate.

Warren and her husband move to New Jersey where Warren becomes a stay-at-home mom, pregnant with her first child. She enrolls at Rutgers School of Law-Newark while her first daughter is two and is pregnant with her second shortly before her graduation in 1976.
Somehow balancing time between two children, Warren managed to practice at home writing wills and doing real estate closings.

In between the late 70’s and early 90’s, Elizabeth teaches law at a plethora of Universities—Rutgers school of law-Newark (’77-’78), the University of Houston Law Center (’78-’83), University of Texas Law (’81-’87), a visiting professor at the University of Michigan (’85) and a research associate at the University of Texas, UT Austin (’83-’87). She becomes a tenured professor, joining the University of Pennsylvania Law School in ’87 and begins teaching at Harvard Law School in ’92 as a visiting professor. In ’95 she receives a permanent position as LeoGottlieb Professor of Law (Harvard).

Also in ’95, Warren is asked to advice the National Bankruptcy Review Commission because of her independent interest in bankruptcy and middle-class finance. Here she works for several years, helping to file the commissioner’s report and to protect consumer’s rights. Despite her and her colleagues efforts—Congress passes the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005—referred to as the “New Bankruptcy Law”, making it increasingly harder for persons to file for bankruptcy and is considered one of the more significant changes to personal finance passed by Congress in recent history.

United States Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appointed Warren as heading the congressional committee that oversaw the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the $700 billion taxpayer bailout of the U.S. financial system. While leading this Congressional Oversight Panel Elizabeth Warren makes a name for herself tearing into Wall Street, the Treasury Department and mega-banks.

Perhaps her most notable feat—dreaming up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau established by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and signed into law by President Obama in July, 2010—the CFPB works to highlight and prevent fowl play hidden in the fine print when applying to any kind of consumer financial product or service work (applying for a loan, credit cards, etc.…). Ideally, making it easier and accessible to know exactly what you are applying for, how you’re applying, and what to expect. Warren, however, and due to an extreme front of lobbyist and republican agendas, was not allowed to head her own agency after leading it through the first year preliminary phase. President Obama instead, and more as a compromise to conservative threats (in May, 44 senators signed a letter stating they would block any CFPB director if they did not comply to certain changes) appointed the former attorney general of Ohio, Richard Cordray. This would turn out to be the right choice; Cordray, previously the chief-of-enforcement for the CFPB and a long-time consumer advocate would settle Warren’s brainchild and allow her to announce her campaign for the Senate seat of Massachusetts—and win.

During her Campaign she received appropriate hype for putting her heart and soul in words and declarations. For example, during the Democratic National Convention where she opened for President Clinton she said: “Wall Street C.E.O.’s—the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs—still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors and acting like we should thank them,”—her charismatic demeanor, true middle-class background and irrefutable passion would be her compass.

As it stands, women make up 20% of the Senate and about half the population. On Thursday November 8th, Warren held a joint press conference with Gov. Deveal L. Patrick at the Statehouse, when asked on women—“Let’s get serious here,” said Warren—“This is 2012, and we’re talking about 20 percent of the United States Senate is female. That’s not an overwhelming number. … We’re on the right trajectory, but there’s still a lot to do.”

—Holliday

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