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Gabrielle Giffords was an Arizona congresswoman. She made headlines when she became the victim of an assassination attempt, from which she later recovered.
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As the head of a district that shares a 100-mile border with Mexico, Giffords focused her efforts on addressing border trafficking and violence. In 2009, she invited 60 federal, state and local law enforcement officers to a drug violence summit,
in order to address the trafficking issues in northern Mexico and their effect on the United States. She also reached out to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to address border trafficking issues. When Giffords won the November 2010 general election, she continued her fight to protect Arizona borders, and joined other Democratic members of her state's congressional delegation in supporting a $600 million border-security bill. In May of that year, she was the first to announce that President Barack Obama had decided to send 1,200 National Guard troops to protect the Arizona-Mexico border.
In addition to her border security efforts, Giffords pushed for small business tax relief and limits to the alternative minimum tax. She was also an outspoken supporter of the health care reform bill of 2010, also known as The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Her push for universal healthcare drew criticism from her some of her constituents; the senator was allegedly harassed because of her support for the measure, and her office was later vandalized.
Tensions about Giffords' political decisions came to a head on January 8, 2011, when 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner shot Giffords in the head during a meeting with constituents outside a Safeway grocery store in Tucson. After emergency surgery, doctors said they were hopeful for Giffords' recovery. In addition to wounding the congresswoman, Loughner killed District Court Judge John M. Roll, a 9-year-old girl, and at least four others, including an aide to Giffords. Hours after the shooting, President Barack Obama released a statement condemning the attack, stating that "such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society. I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping Representative Giffords, the victims of this tragedy, and their families in our prayers." By all accounts, Giffords made a remarkable comeback from her injuries. She regained her ability to talk, walk and handle other everyday activities after going through extensive rehabilitation.
In January 2012, more than a year after the attempt on her life, Giffords resigned from Congress to devote her time to her recovery. "The only way I ever served my district ... was by giving 100 percent. This past year, that's what I have given to my recovery." Giffords hopes one day to seek office again. She told her Congressional colleagues that, "Every day I am working hard. I will recover and will return, and we will work together again, for Arizona and for all Americans."
Her ordeal has only strengthened her marriage to Captain Mark E. Kelly, a retired NASA astronaut and Navy captain. The couple penned a book together about Giffords' recovery entitled Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope. Her husband served the commander of the 134th NASA shuttle flight, the last planned shuttle mission, using the space shuttle Endeavour, launched on April 1, 2011. He retired from the space agency later that year.
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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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