Born on August 15, 1938, U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters (pictured) was one of thirteen children in a poor family living in a housing project near St Louis, Missouri.
She credits her childhood for making her who she is today—competitive, outspoken, and determined. “Just getting heard in a family that size is difficult,” Waters explained in Ebony Magazine.
Waters’ mother, Velma Moore Carr, struggled to support her family by working intermittently at a series of low-paying jobs augmented by welfare. Waters described her mother in Ebony as “a strong woman” and “survivor,” whose determination served as an inspiration to her.
Although Waters’s high school yearbook had predicted that one day she would be the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Waters found that possibility to be extremely remote. After graduating from high school, she married and had two children.
“Head Start made a significant difference in my life. It helped me see how I could help people, and it helped steer me into politics,” Waters stated in Essence Magazine.
Waters got her start in politics as the chief deputy to Los Angeles city councilman David Cunningham. She managed Councilman Cunningham’s campaigns and was actively involved in the campaigns of Senator Alan Cranston and former Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley.
She gained a reputation for superb legislative ability and determination. Although her move into state politics was natural, it was also a rough transition. Because some of her colleagues regarded her as a maverick, Waters found all sorts of roadblocks when she arrived at the California State Assembly.
“My early struggles in the Assembly came from this perception they had of the black woman coming from Los Angeles who needed to be taught a lesson,” Waters once told Ebony Magazine.
Waters was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1991. In 1992, as Los Angeles was rocked with rioting following the verdict in Rodney King’s beating case, she founded Community Build, the city’s grassroots rebuilding project.
In recent years, Waters has been a vocal opponent of the War in Iraq, forming the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus in 2005, for which she is the founding member and former chair.
In 2012, Waters was elected to her 12th term in the U.S. House of Representatives. She serves as the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Financial Services and is also a member of the Steering & Policy Committee and Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Additionally, Congresswoman Waters is a member and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
“Too many Black politicians want to be in the mainstream. My power comes from the fact that I am ready to talk about Black people…Everybody deserves a good quality of life,” Waters once said, according to Encyclopedia.com
“There is too great a divide between the haves and the have-nots, and I believe I can do something to change that,” she continued.
Sources: B. Middleton/BET Network (BET.com) and Columbia Encyclopedia (Encyclopedia.com)