Photo credits: Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives/The U.S. Flag Store/ImageOnline.co
Yvonne Brathwaite Burke was the first Black woman elected to Congress from California as well as the first member of the House of Representatives to give birth while in office and the first to be given maternity leave by the Speaker of the House.
Indeed, Burke, who was elected to Congress in 1972 and served until 1979, was a trailblazer in many ways. Born on October 5, 1932, she graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles with a Bachelor’s degree and received a law degree from the University of Southern California in 1956. She married William Burke, a prominent philanthropist who was the creator of the Los Angeles Marathon (1966–1972).
From 1966 until 1972, she served as a member of the California State Assembly. Burke also served as a vice-chair of the 1972 Democratic National Convention, the first African-American to hold that position. In addition to the Displaced Homemakers Act, she introduced a bill to prohibit pregnancy-related discrimination in the workplace while in Congress. In the photograph illustrating this article, however, she highlighted her work in the Golden State, holding a copy of the California statutes.
She did not seek re-election to Congress in 1978, running instead for attorney general of the state. Burke won the Democratic primary but lost the election by Republican State Sen. George Deukmejian. She went on to serve as the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. After that race, she was elected to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. She retired from that position when her term expired in 2008.
In the year 2012, President Obama appointed Burke to serve on the board of directors of Amtrak.
Source: “This Day in Black History: October 5, 1932” by J.P. Hicks for the BET Network via BET.com
*BlackThen.com writer and historian Victor Trammell edited and contributed to this report.