Best Known For
Janet Napolitano was the Democratic governor of Arizona (2003-2009) before becoming secretary of Homeland Security under Barack Obama (2009-2013).
Think you know about Biography?
Answer questions and see how you rank against other players.Play Now
Born in New York City on November 29, 1957, Janet Napolitano served as governor of Arizona from 2003 to 2009, when she was nominated and confirmed as U.S. secretary of Homeland Security by President Barack Obama. Known for being an outspoken critic of the federal government's immigration policies, and for pushing for tougher penalties for employers hiring illegal immigrants,
Napolitano forged new partnerships with international allies and expanded information sharing with federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies while serving as secretary. In July 2013, she announced plans to resign from her post in September 2013 in order to head the University of California system.
Janet Ann Napolitano is the oldest of three children born to Jane Marie Winer and Leonard Michael Napolitano. With her brother, Leonard, and sister, Nancy, she was raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where her father served as dean of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.
As a young girl, Napolitano excelled in the arts, becoming quite accomplished at playing clarinet and guitar. She graduated from Sandia High School in 1975, where she was voted most likely to succeed, and attended Santa Clara University in California, where she graduated as valedictorian with a degree in political science. From there, she attended the University of Virginia Law School, receiving a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree. She then traveled to Arizona to serve as a law clerk for Judge Mary Schroder of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. After that, she joined the law firm of Lewis and Roca, settling in Phoenix, Arizona.
In 1991, Janet Napolitano entered the public stage serving as attorney for Anita Hill during Senate testimony against then-U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Hill accused Thomas of sexual harassment while she worked for him at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Napolitano U.S. attorney for the District of Arizona. While there, Napolitano pushed for innovative gun laws, including the Youth Handgun Safety Act, making it illegal to transfer a handgun to a minor when it is known that the weapon will be used in a crime. She also prosecuted one of the first Violence Against Women cases in the country, prosecuting offenders who crossed state lines to commit acts of domestic violence. Napolitano also led a cooperative effort of local, state and federal prosecutors to bolster prosecution of violent and dangerous offenders, and prosecuted the first "Three Strikes" cases in Arizona.
In 1998, Napolitano ran and won election to the position of Arizona attorney general, where she focused on consumer protection and general law enforcement. She defended Arizona's death penalty law—allowing capital punishment cases to be heard before a judge, not a jury—all the way to the Supreme Court. The Court, however, disagreed, stating that such cases must be heard before a jury. Napolitano gained national attention again while serving as attorney general in 2000, when she spoke at the Democratic National Convention just three weeks after having a mastectomy for cancer she'd developed in 1998.
profile name: Janet Napolitano profile occupation:
Sign in with Facebook to see how you and your friends are connected to famous icons.
Your Friends' Connections
Included In These Groups
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."
Influential Women of Washington 73 people in this group
Famous Sagittarians 607 people in this group
Famous Lawyers 150 people in this group