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Democrat Barbara Boxer served ten years in the House of Representatives before being elected Senator for the state of California.
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U.S. Senator. Born Barbara Levy in Brooklyn, New York, on November 11, 1940. Her parents, Sophie Silverstein Levy and Ira Levy, were both first-generation Jewish immigrants to the United States. Barbara Levy met husband Stewart Boxer as a student at Brooklyn College. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics, Barbara Boxer worked as a stockbroker for three years while her husband attended law school. In 1965, the couple moved to northern California, where they had two children: son Doug and daughter Nicole.
After an unsuccessful run for the Marin County Board of Supervisors in 1972—her first attempt at political office—Boxer worked as a journalist at the Pacific Sun, an alternative weekly newspaper published in Marin County. In 1976, she ran again for the Marin County Board of Supervisors, this time winning a seat and serving for six years. Following the retirement of U.S. Representative (and Boxer mentor) John Burton in 1982, Boxer ran successfully for his seat in Congress.
In Washington, Barbara Boxer soon developed a reputation as a liberal feminist, campaigning for abortion rights and many environmental causes. In 1991, Boxer became a prominent opponent of the First Gulf War. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Boxer also exposed egregious examples of Pentagon overspending, such as the $7,600 once appropriated for a single coffee maker.
During the 1991 confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice nominee Clarence Thomas, Boxer led a march of women in support of Anita Hill, a law professor who had accused Thomas of sexual harassment. Boxer was also implicated in the House banking scandal of 1992, in which she and 450 other congressional members and aides were found to have written bad checks on the House Bank, covered by overdraft protection paid for by taxpayers. Boxer apologized and wrote a check to the Deficit Reduction Fund in the amount of her overdraft fees.
When Democratic California Senator Alan Cranston retired in 1992, Boxer sought his seat. In the November general election, she defeated Bruce Herschensohn, a Republican whose candidacy unraveled in the final weeks of the race after reports surfaced that he had visited a nude bar.
Once in the Senate, Boxer's voting record continued to favor liberal causes. She opposed bills designed to limit abortion rights; drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; and the authorization for use of military force in Iraq in 2002. Boxer also worked on behalf of voting reform, co-sponsoring the Count Every Vote Act of 2005 with then-Senator Hillary Clinton and filing an objection to Ohio's electoral college votes in the 2004 election, voicing concerns of vote fraud.
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When the 19th Amendment was ratified, women were finally given the right to vote, and over the years many courageous women have stepped onto the national political stage as well. In 1916, Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to Congress and almost a century later Sonia Sotomayor became the first Latina woman to serve on the Supreme Court. And within the last two decades, the esteemable Hillary Clinton has served as First Lady, a New York senator and Secretary of State. These women, and many more, are setting the stage for the future of female leaders in Washington.
Visit Biography.com's Women's History group to explore more biographies, photos and videos of some the world's most fascinating women."
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