The Honorable Donna F. Edwards
“I don’t believe in this idea of women’s issues. I just don’t buy it. . . . Or that if you’re an African American that you only have to work on civil rights and social justice issues. I think it’s really important to have a wide range of experience and gender representation and race and ethnicity representation across the wide swath of Congress. Because, as I said, in my view, if you are around the table, your experience alone, your lived experience, will enable you to see things through a different lens and that has to be part of the conversation.”
—The Honorable Donna F. Edwards, June 29, 2018
U.S. Representative from Maryland (June 17, 2008-January 3, 2017)
From a young age, Donna Edwards felt drawn to politics and law. She followed the careers of Congresswomen Shirley Chisholm of New York and Barbara Jordan of Texas and in her interview explains how growing up in a military family—her father served in the Air Force—reinforced her commitment to public service and community activism. She describes her early involvement in state and national campaigns and how her interest in policy stemmed from family discussions around the dining room table.
As a community organizer Edwards built a foundation for her future House career by establishing a strong grassroots network and learning the ins and outs of local and national politics. Describing her entry into electoral politics as accidental, she actively tried to recruit a candidate to challenge the Democratic Representative in her Maryland district. When no one answered her plea, Edwards surprised herself and others when she decided to run for Congress. She discusses her first campaign, reveals why she ran again, and explains how she garnered enough support to defeat a sitting Member of Congress on her second try.
Edwards shares her thoughts on making history as the first African-American woman to represent Maryland in Congress. She also considers the role of gender and race in her elections and recalls the resistance she faced in the Maryland delegation as well as the Congressional Black Caucus, and from influential Members like John Dingell, Jr. of Michigan because she unseated a popular Democratic colleague. Edwards used her legal training when approaching committee work and legislation in the House, meticulously preparing for hearings and carefully reviewing bills scheduled for votes. She played an integral role in passing legislation to curb domestic violence and to promote health care reform. In her interview, the Maryland Representative talks about her personal connection with both issues. During her five terms in Congress, Edwards often worked closely with the Democratic Party, both as a member of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and as an active participant in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. She offers insight on the committee selection process and her approach to recruiting candidates to run for Congress. Edwards also describes her decision to run for the U.S. Senate, the opposition she faced, and her thoughts on the campaign.
EDWARDS, Donna F., a Representative from Maryland; born in Yanceyville, Caswell County, N.C., June 28, 1958; B.A., Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C., 1980; J.D., Franklin Pierce Law Center, Concord, N. H., 1989; lawyer, private practice; clerk, District of Columbia Superior Court Judge; executive director, National Network to End Domestic Violence; executive director, Center for a New Democracy; executive director, The Arca Foundation; elected as a Democrat to the One Hundred Tenth Congress, by special election, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of United States Representative Albert Russell Wynn, and reelected to the four succeeding Congresses (June 17, 2008-January 3, 2017); was not a candidate for reelection to the One Hundred Fifteenth Congress in 2016, but was an unsuccessful candidate for nomination to the United States Senate.
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The Honorable Donna F. Edwards discusses the impact of her father's military service on her upbringing.
Lifelong Interest in Politics
The Honorable Donna F. Edwards recalls her early passion for politics.
The Honorable Donna F. Edwards shares how she surprised herself and others when she decided to run for Congress.
The Honorable Donna F. Edwards talks about the financial challenges many women faced when running for Congress.
"Just Call Me Donna"
The Honorable Donna F. Edwards discusses breaking barriers and the different ways people approached women Members.
The Honorable Donna F. Edwards speaks about the resistance she faced from some House colleagues after she defeated an incumbent.
Race, Gender, and Politics
The Honorable Donna F. Edwards reflects on the role of race and gender in Maryland politics.
The Honorable Donna F. Edwards recalls the ways in which gender and race can have an impact in politics.
"Arc of History"
The Honorable Donna F. Edwards reflects on the historic nature of health care legislation in the House.
The Honorable Donna F. Edwards talks about her experience as the only woman Representative to play on the Congressional Football Team.
Escorting the President in the House Chamber
The Honorable Donna F. Edwards provides a behind-the-scenes look at how Members escort the President to the House Chamber for Joint Sessions of Congress.
The Honorable Donna F. Edwards describes the significance of diverse lived experiences as a Member of Congress.