Janel Dyan

Women Crushing It Wednesday

#WCIW: Maxine Waters

Powerful Female Voice. Lifelong Leader. Tireless Activist.

About this time last year, Maxine Waters captured our attention with her now-famous “reclaiming my time” pushback against Steven Mnuchin during the House Financial Services Committee meeting. Since then, we've come to know her as much more than a soundbite: she is the Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee. She’s a former Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. She’s an all-around badass. Congresswoman Maxine Waters of is not only a strong voice for the State of California, but a powerful voice for women and people of color across the country.

Waters was born Maxine Moore Carr on August 13th, 1938 in St. Louis, the fifth of thirteen children raised by a single mother. Carr’s life was not an easy one. At thirteen she went to work as a busgirl in a whites-only restaurant to help support her family. She graduated from High School in 1956 and her High School class voted her “most likely to be Speaker of the House” for their yearbook superlatives.

Maxine had been inspired early on by her strong, hard-working mother and was determined to lead a life helping others. She married Edward Waters shortly after her graduation and had two children. The family moved to Los Angeles in 1961 and Waters worked in a garment factory and later for a telephone company.

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Having lived through the Watts race riots of 1965, Maxine determined to help underprivileged people — especially children. She began working as an assistant teacher for a Head Start program that focused on setting up low-income children for success in school.

In 1972, Maxine had a bittersweet year, as she divorced her husband, but also graduated from California State University with a BA in Sociology. Continuing to work for the Head Start program after graduation, Waters realized that there was not enough funding for the program to have maximum impact on the community. She organized local parents and they fought for, and receive,  additional funding. The experience inspired her to pursue a career in politics, and by 1976 she she had won a seat in the California State Assembly, going on to serve for 14 years.

She rose quickly through the ranks to became Democratic Caucus Chair, responsible for some of the boldest legislation California has ever seen: the largest divestment of state pension funds from apartheid-era South Africa; landmark affirmative action legislation; the nation’s first statewide Child Abuse Prevention Training Program; the prohibition of police strip searches for nonviolent misdemeanors; and the introduction of the nation’s first plant closure law.

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She was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1990 and continued her, by then trademarked, no nonsense, no-holds-barred style of politics. She became a Democratic Party leader on the national stage and was a key player in five Presidential campaigns.

Throughout her tenure she brought awareness to her old neighborhood and eventually founded Community Build, a grassroots rebuilding project in South Central Los Angeles. She has been a champion for affordable housing, Section 8, small businesses, equality, youth training programs, developing nations, and female veterans.

She has also long been an advocate for expanding affordable health care, especially among high risk HIV and AIDs patients. According to her website, “Under her continuing leadership, funding for the Minority AIDS Initiative has increased from the initial appropriation of $156 million in fiscal year 1999 to approximately $400 million per year today.”

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In times such as these, strong women leaders like Maxine Waters are essential in maintaining the interests of minorities, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and women. For her powerful voice, her lifelong leadership, and her tireless activism, Congresswoman Maxine Waters is this week’s #WCIW.

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