Political Powerhouses: Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune is known for many things: her activism, her philanthropy and her work as an educator and civil rights activist. However, she was also a political activist. Mary was born in South Carolina, the daughter of two former slaves. After completing her education she planned on becoming a missionary in Africa before deciding to become a teacher instead. In 1917 she became the President of the Florida chapter of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW). In 1924 she became the national president of the NACW, and went on to establish national headquarters in Washington D.C.,...

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Political Powerhouses: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

As someone who views American politics from afar, I have some major preconceived notions about Democrats and Republicans. To me, these two parties are the complete opposite of each other, and for the most part I thought all Democrats and all Republicans had the same beliefs and rarely stepped far from their party’s line. That’s why reading about Ileana Ros-Lehtinen such a pleasure. She was born in Cuba but fled to Florida to escape the Castro regime when she was a child. She began her career as an educator before entering politics. In 1989 she made history when she became the first...

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Political Powerhouses: Kamala Harris

The past week has been an incredibly tumultuous one in the United States. How many times this year have we said that? Following the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville and the death of Heather Heyer social media erupted with condemnation of both those in attendance and the response of the President. One prominent politician who made her voice heard was Kamala Harris. The Democratic Senator from California took to her Facebook page to write a powerful post about the tragic events. ‘Many sides’ suggests that there is no right side or wrong side about what happened in...

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Political Powerhouses: Tammy Duckworth

Tammy Duckworth was born in Thailand, but moved around Asia due to her father’s work with the United Nations. As a result she is fluent in Thai and Indonesian, as well as English. At the age of 16 her family moved to Hawaii. She graduated with a degree in political science from the University of Hawaii in 1988, and went on to get her Master’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University. Her family has a long history of military service, so when Tammy was a graduate student she joined the Army Reserves Training Corps. At the time–1990–there were limited options for...

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Political Powerhouses: Ilhan Omar

Ilhan Omar was born in Somalia in 1982. She came from a big family, the youngest of seven children. She was raised by her father and grandfather after her mother died when she was still young. In 1991, civil war broke out in Somalia, and she and her family were forced to flee to Kenya. Ilhan and her family spent four years in a refugee camp there before they immigrated to Minnesota. Ilhan graduated with a degree in political science and international studies from North Dakota State University. Afterwards, she worked as a Community Nutrition Educator with the University of Minnesota. She...

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Political Powerhouses: Maxine Waters

Maxine Waters began her political career in 1976 in the California Assembly. Today, she is one of 12 black women in Congress, having represented the State of California since 1991. She’s recently been in the news due to her criticism of the 45th president. She received even more coverage when TV host Bill O’Reilly mocked and dismissed her, saying, “I didn’t hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig.” Though he later offered a (non)apology, Ms Waters replied on Twitter, “I am a strong black woman. I cannot be intimidated, and I’m not...

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Political Powerhouses: Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was born in 1947 near Manila in the Philippines. When she was just 14 years old her father was elected President of the Philippines. As a result of coming from such a well-known family, she received the best education. She spent two years in Washington D.C. studying economics at Georgetown University, where she was a classmate of Bill Clinton. She returned to the Philippines, where she earned a Masters degree, then Doctorate, in economics. She then went on to become a university professor in economics. In 1986 she was appointed as the undersecretary of trade and...

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Political Powerhouses: Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto was born in 1953 to a political family: her father was the former premier of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. She graduated from Harvard University with a degree in comparative government, followed by a degree in international law and diplomacy. Afterwards, she returned to Pakistan where a military coup had just taken place, as a result she was placed under house arrest. In 1978 her father was hanged after being found guilty of sanctioning the murder of a political opponent. While living in exile in Britain she became the joint leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). She...

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Political Powerhouses: Yulia Tymoshenko

Yulia Tymoshenko has had a varied career. She started off working as an economist and academic before becoming involved in the gas industry. This led to her becoming one of the wealthiest people in the Ukraine. She went on to become involved in politics and was one of the co-leaders of the Orange Revolution, a series of rallies and protests in the Ukraine in late 2004. These protests were in response to the general elections of 2004 which were marred in controversy. They ultimately led to another election in 2005 which saw her become the first female Prime Minister of the Ukraine. That year...

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Political Powerhouses: Aja Brown

In 2013 Aja Brown made history when she became the youngest woman elected as Mayor of Compton, California. Just last week she was re-elected for a second term. Aja was born in Altadena, California but she has strong roots to Compton. Her mother was born there and, tragically, in the 1970s her grandmother was raped and murdered in her Compton home. To this day no one has been arrested for this crime. Aja received a full scholarship to the University of Southern California. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Policy, Planning and Development in 2004 and she went on to earn a master’s...

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