Elizabeth Warren biography
Born in Oklahoma City in 1949, Elizabeth Warren became the first member of her family to graduate from college, eventually earning her law degree from Rutgers University. After working as a law professor at Harvard University, Warren was selected to lead the National Bankruptcy Review Commission. In 2008, she headed the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Four years later, in November 2012, Warren won election to the U.S. Senate, defeating incumbent Republican Scott Brown.
Born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on June 22, 1949, Elizabeth Warren was the last of four children—and the only daughter—of Donald and Pauline Herring. Warren spent most of her early life on what she referred to as "the ragged edge of the middle class." Her father worked mostly as a maintenance man, and when he suffered a heart attack that created massive medical bills, Warren's mother brought in extra money by working in the catalogue-order department at Sears. Warren also began helping out at the age of 13, by waiting tables at her aunt's Mexican restaurant. But despite efforts to relieve the financial strain on the family, money remained tight; Warren recalled her mother's hesitation to take her to the doctor when she was a child because of a lack of finances.
A brilliant student, Warren became a state debate champion and graduated high school at the age 16. That same year, she entered George Washington University on a full debate scholarship. After two years at the university, Warren left school to marry her high-school sweetheart, NASA mathematician Jim Warren. She and Warren moved to Texas, and Elizabeth finished her degree in speech pathology at the University of Houston, becoming the first member of her immediate family to graduate from college.
Elizabeth and her husband moved to New Jersey, where Warren worked in public schools, helping children with disabilities. During this time, Warren gave birth to two children, daughter Amelia and son Alex. The day her first child turned 2, she headed to graduate school for law at Rutgers University. She earned her J.D. in 1976, and practiced law out of her living room.
By 1978, she had divorced her first husband. In the year after the split, Warren began exploring the economic pressures facing the American middle class, looking specifically at a 1978 law passed by Congress that made it easier for companies and individuals to declare bankruptcy. Warren decided to investigate the reasons why Americans were ending up in bankruptcy court, and discovered that most of the financial victims were from middle-class families who had lost jobs, experienced financial hardship from a divorce, or suffered illnesses that decimated their savings. From then on, Warren would focus her research on bankruptcy and commercial law—specifically on how it affected financially distressed companies and women, the elderly and the working poor.
Warren married Harvard law professor Bruce Mann in 1980. She and Mann then moved together around the country, with Warren teaching at the University of Texas, the University of Michigan, and the University of Pennsylvania.
The couple finally settled at Harvard in 1995. That same year, Warren was asked to advise the new National Bankruptcy Review Commission. During Warren's time as chief adviser, Warren testified against Congressional efforts to limit consumers' ability to file for bankruptcy. Despite her best efforts, the bill passed in 2005. It was considered a victory for the business lobby, and a defeat for Warren.
In November 2008, Warren was tapped by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to chair the Congressional Oversight Panel, which was created to monitor the $700 billion bank bailout effort known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Warren headed investigations, conducted televised public hearings, led interviews of government officials and submitted monthly reports demanding accountability from banks. For her oversight efforts, The Boston Globe named Elizabeth "Bostonian of the Year" in 2009.
In July 2011, Warren helped design the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation. The main goal of the CFPB was to police credit lenders and prevent consumers from unwittingly signing up for risky loans. But, due largely in part to Republican opposition, Warren was not chosen to head the agency. She stepped down from the post in August 2011, and in September 2011, President Obama appointed Warren as his special assistant.
Elected to U.S. Senate
On September 14, 2011, Warren officially announced her candidacy for Massachusetts Senate, pitting herself against Republican incumbent Scott Brown. Around this time, a speech Warren delivered went viral on YouTube, endearing Warren to populist supporters. In the clip, filmed in an informal living room meet-and-greet, the Harvard law professor explained how everyone benefits from roads, public safety, and the public education system in the United States, which are paid for by taxes. "You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea—God bless!" she said. "Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along." The talk earned some credit for bumping Warren up in the polls.
Warren's campaign ran into some trouble in early 2012. She found herself in a media maelstrom over her Native American ancestry claims. Reporters for the Boston Herald could not find any proof of her Cherokee heritage, and a Cherokee genealogist also challenged Warren's assertion. To try to quell the controversy, Warren released a statement to Boston's WBZ-TV. "Growing up, my mother and grandparents often talked about our family's Native American heritage. As a kid, I never thought to ask them for documentation—what kid would?" Warren further explained that "I never sought nor gained personal benefit in school or job applications based on my heritage."
In June 2012, Warren clinched the Democratic nomination in the Senate race, facing incumbent Republican opponent, Senator Scott Brown. The candidates were involved in a tight race.
A poll released in September 2012 by the Public Policy Polling showed that Brown had a five-point lead over Warren. However, later that month, Warren earned national exposure as one of the speakers at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, gaining the favor of many critics as well as a slight lead in the polls. At the convention, she heavily discussed the need for economic and government reforms. "America's middle class is getting hammered, and Washington is rigged to work for the big guy," Warren told ABC News.
Warren won the election in November 2012, defeating Brown by a small margin and earning her first term in the U.S. Senate. To Massachusetts residents, Warren states on her website, "I won't just be your senator, I will also be your champion."