Janel Dyan

Women Crushing It Wednesday

#WCIW: Senator Tammy Duckworth

Outstanding Perseverance. Unfailing grit. Outspoken Activism.

We’ve all seen the powerful images of Senator Tammy Duckworth approaching the Senate floor in her wheelchair, her baby on her lap. She had just become the first sitting US Senator to give birth while in office, and she was about to become the first sitting US Senator to bring her baby onto the floor to cast a vote.

With the current political state and the wave of new feminism that has swept the country over the past two years, this was an emotional moment for both those in the room and watching from afar. It was not the first time, however, that Senator Duckworth had experienced a moment of great victory in her life.

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Born on March 12th, 1968 in Bangkok, Thailand to a Chinese mother and British father, Ladda Tammy Duckworth spent her childhood traveling throughout Asia. Her father, who worked with refugees for the United Nations, was stationed in Indonesia, Singapore, and Cambodia before being transferred to Hawaii when Tammy was a teenager.

After graduating from High School, she earned her degree from the University of Hawaii and then her MA in International Affairs from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.. She went on to enroll in a PhD program in Political Science at Northern Illinois University. While attending NIU, Duckworth enrolled in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps with the Illinois Army National Guard and became a Blackhawk pilot in 2004.

That same year, she was deployed to Iraq where she flew Operation Iraqi Freedom missions until her helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade that Autumn.

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Duckworth’s legless body was carried to safety by her team, even though they thought she was dead. Realizing she still clung to life, the team rallied the medical attention that ultimately saved her life.

It only took Tammy thirteen months to return to service, sporting new titanium legs, a new lease on life, and her same can-do attitude that she has always managed to maintain. While she was learning to fly again, she sought other ways to serve her country.

She became an advocate for veterans affairs, lost her first bid for Congress in 2006, and worked for the Obama administration as Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In 2012 she ran for Congress again and won, becoming the first disabled woman to be elected to the US House of Representatives. In 2016 she was elected to the US Senate and became the second Asian-American woman, and the first disabled woman, to do so.

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Throughout her time in the House and Senate, she's been an outspoken, even fierce supporter of veterans and their families, women’s rights, and common sense gun control. She's been quoted saying that she would take any NRA supporter out duck hunting if they would hear her out on common sense gun control legislation.

When she announced her pregnancy in January of this year and became the first woman to give birth as a seated Senator, she proclaimed, “It’s about damn time! I can't believe it took until 2018. It says something about the inequality of representation that exists in our country," and began to advocate for expanded parental leave benefits.

From her hospital bed after giving birth, she stated that “parenthood isn't just a women's issue, it's an economic issue and one that affects all parents — men and women alike. As tough as juggling the demands of motherhood and being a Senator can be, I'm hardly alone or unique as a working parent, and my children only make me more committed to doing my job and standing up for hardworking families everywhere."

Ten days later she rolled into the Senate Chamber to cast a vote against President Trump’s pick for NASA administrator, newborn baby in her lap. The Senate had, only the night before, voted unanimously to change the admission standards and allow Senator Duckworth to bring her child to work.

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For her outstanding perseverance, her unfailing grit, and her outspoken activism, Senator Tammy Duckworth is this week’s #WCIW.

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