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The Rise of Elizabeth Warren From Determined Little Girl to Powerful Senator

One of the most beautiful things in women’s history happened this week, even a screenwriter couldn’t have scripted it better. Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced on the floor of the Senate as she read from a letter written by Coretta Scott King. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell instigated the shut-down using an obscure law written to prevent debates from devolving into fistfights. When asked about his decision later, McConnell said, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” *Collective eyeroll*

Twitter caught fire with #shepersisted, as women tagged stories of women pressing forward.

Second only to Hillary Clinton, Warren is perhaps the most-known female legislator. She also might be the Democratic candidate for the 2020 presidential election, and she’s a spectacular role model for women. Let’s get to know her a little better with a timeline of her life.

1963: May I take your order?

If you passed through Oklahoma City in 1963 Warren just might have been your waitress.

Born in Oklahoma City in 1949 Warren has said she, “Came up the hard way…out of a hard-working middle class family in an America that created opportunities for kids like me.” 

At age 12 her father suffered a heart-attack that crippled the family financially and Elizabeth went to work as a waitress at her aunt’s restaurant. Her upbringing set the stage for her lifelong battle to help the working-class.

More: Forget about having a smart kid and focus on teaching them hard work

1968: Determined young mama

One of Oklahoma’s top high school debaters, Warren graduated high school at 16 and started college on a debate scholarship. Two years in she dropped out to marry her high-school sweetheart. As her husband’s job moved them around she finished her education in Houston, then enrolled in Rutgers School of Law. Passing the bar enabled her to raise their two young children while writing contracts and wills from home.

Elizabeth Warren and her two children
Image: Boston Herald

1978: Single ladies

The Warren’s marriage ended and Elizabeth dove into teaching. A newly enacted law that made bankruptcy easier caught her interest, and she began studying what led average people to declare insolvency.

1980: Proving her point

Warren remarried to law professor Bruce Mann (she proposed to him!) and in feminist form kept her first married name. Her stellar record as a law professor paved the way for teaching and research opportunities on her favorite topic: how people are impacted by finance law.

Elizabeth Warren and second husband Bruce Mann celebrate 30 years
Image: Elizabeth Warren

Her work proved that medical bills and job loss drive bankruptcy far more often than laziness or opportunism. She’s one of the most-cited scholars on the topic.

Warren became an outspoken advocate for consumer protection and didn’t shy from the big banks and corporations that flourished during the decade.

1995: Washington D.C. calls

Warren accepted a prestigious teaching post at Harvard Law School. Over a 20-year career she has been the only teacher twice honored with the Sacks-Freund Teaching award, awarded by the law students.

Elizabeth Warren testifies before the Federal Bankruptcy Commission
Image: Wenn

Her expertise earned her an invitation to advise the National Bankruptcy Review Commission. Thus began her run-ins with Congress, as she testified against legislation that limited bankruptcy options. Her input was ultimately rejected as Congress passed more laws restricting consumer rights during bankruptcy.

2008: She tried to warn us!

Warren’s worst fears come true as the predatory lending practices she’d railed against crippled the U.S. economy. In the wake of the financial collapse, she was appointed to chair the congressional panel overseeing the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Her dogged work earned her supporters on both sides of the aisle and led the Boston Globe to name her Bostonian of the Year for 2009.

Watch her have an adorable girl moment then talk about women stepping up, at 1:02.

Angered by the lack of financial reform Warren starts to shed her diplomatic classroom persona. Ever fair, she even criticized Hilary Clinton anti-corporate rhetoric that didn’t match up with her fundraising.

More: Hillary Clinton’s best speeches give us a look into the mind of a nominee

2010: Hollow victory

Way back in 2007 (before the financial collapse!) Warren had suggested a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Now that the country was in crisis they took her suggestion and created it. President Obama appointed Warren as Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Treasury Secretary charged with setting up the bureau. Democrats and consumer groups pushed for Warren to be named as the bureau’s first director, but republicans vowed to block her. President Obama doesn’t even bother to nominate her.

2011: Battling corporate money

Warren announced her first political campaign, running as a Democrat for theU.S.Senate representing Massachusetts. Despite more than $5 million given to her Republican opponent by the financial sector, Warren wins.

Part of her success is attributed to a talk during a meet and greet when she challenged big business and lobbied for higher taxes. The gist is that nobody gets rich in America with using tax-funded infrastructure, but it deserves a watch to hear it the way she says it.

2012: Rising political star attracts haters

Warren becomes a national darling with her speech at the Democratic National Convention, where she refutes Mitt Romney’s statement that corporations are people. “Wall Street CEO’s—the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs—still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors and acting like we should thank them.” 

But controversy swirls as it comes to light that for nearly ten years Warren listed herself as a minority in legal directories, claiming a small bit of Native American heritage. Opponents slam the new Senator while her brothers come to her defense. In the end, nothing can be proven due to poor documentation and racial prejudice that existed when her ancestors settled in Oklahoma.

2014: Is she or isn’t she?

Misinformation circulates that Warren is sitting pretty in a $5.4 million dollar home while she pretends to be an advocate for the common man. (Politifact debunked the accusations.) 

Meanwhile, she participated in the 15-hour filibuster launched in the wake of the Pulse club shootings, an effort to force Congress into enacting stronger gun regulation.

And she includes her story in the It Gets Better campaign, talking about bullying and promoting The Trevor Project.

2015: Second-in-command?

Always a powerful voice for women, Warren co-sponsored the Schedules That Work Act. The bill is designed to guarantee more stability for low-income employees, the segment most in jeopardy of having hours cut or rearranged.

Hillary Clinton wrote the profile for her political ally when TIME named Warren to its list of the Most Influential People of 2015, and rumors spread that she is shortlisted as a Veep candidate for both HRC and Bernie Sanders.

2016: Taking on big money

Warren excoriated Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf in cheer-worthy senate hearings about the giant bank’s scam to sign up new customers. Stumpf is left dumbfounded and it was glorious.

And Twitter feels the wrath of a woman who is settling in for the long haul. She takes down Ted Cruz for his ill-conceived complaints in an email to supporters about the sacrifices of running for office.

“Hey @TedCruz: Maybe you should spend less time complaining about your “significant sacrifices” – & more time doing something about theirs,” she also Tweeted before listing groups like Muslims and low-income families.

Warren also jumped into the shark tank with a whole bucket of chum, mixing it up with then-candidate Trump. In a March 2016 interview with NBC Massachusetts, she said, “I am not happy to see Donald Trump even threatening to get anywhere near the presidency. Don’t take me there. That is a form of extremism. He advocates a form of ugliness that I don’t want any part of.”

Tweetstorms erupted between the two all year. She pounded him for his comments about Alicia Machado, criticized his choice of running mate, and calling him out as a bully.

In response Trump called Warren Pocahontas, a very weak Senator, and “goofy”, saying he hoped Clinton would choose her as running-mate so he could defeat them both. Warren shot back:

2017: Hitting her stride

And now this tough girl from the heartland has become the inadvertent face of a growing disquiet among American women. But by no means did she become an overnight hero, and in her sixth decade I have the feeling Elizabeth Warren is pacing herself for the long haul. It’s not making her any friends among Republicans, and I expect we’ll be hearing a lot more about her stirring up the Senate.

Watch her make the candidate for Health and Human Services secretary squirm for, among other things, buying stock with insider knowledge. You go girl!

More: 20 powerful women you didn’t hear enough about in 2016

Before you go, check out our slideshow below.

Inspiring Feminism Quotes slideshow
Image: WENN

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