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Janet Napolitano was the Democratic governor of Arizona before becoming Secretary of Homeland Security under Barack Obama in 2009.
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Born November 29, 1957; U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. Former Arizona governor.
Janet Ann Napolitano is the oldest of three children 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 was the Dean of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. In school, young Janet 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. Napolitano 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. 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 then, she joined the law firm of Lewis and Roca and settled 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, she pushed for innovative gun laws including the Youth Handgun Safety Act making it illegal to transfer a handgun to a minor knowing that the weapon is to 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, Janet Napolitano ran and won the office of Arizona Attorney General where she focused on consumer protection and general law enforcement. She defended Arizona’s death penalty law all the way to the Supreme Court. The law allowed capital punishment cases to be heard before a judge, not a jury. The Court however, disagreed stating such cases must be heard before a jury. While Attorney General she gained national attention again when she spoke at the 2000 Democratic National Convention. This was just three weeks after having a mastectomy for cancer she’d developed in 1998.
Janet Napolitano ran for governor of Arizona in 2002 as a pro-choice centrist and won by a very slim margin. During her campaign, she identified the state’s challenges as education, children, border control, and Arizona’s rapid growth rate. As governor, Napolitano converted a $1 billion deficit in 2003 to a $300 million surplus without raising taxes. She supported voluntary all-day kindergarten programs and historic pay raises and training for school teachers.
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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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