The Honorable Barbara Boxer
“So without Anita having the courage of her convictions, and without those of us walking over, I never would have made it to the Senate ever because no one really knew in the country how few women there were. And I had many male supporters, who started off not supporting me, who when they saw the Senate said, ‘Oh my God, never realized there were so few women in the Senate. I’m going to back you and Dianne [Feinstein],’ because Dianne was running at the time. So it was, I would say, it was impactful is an understatement. Without that situation, I never would have made it. I just wouldn’t have.”
—The Honorable Barbara Boxer, November 29, 2018
U.S. Representative from California (January 3, 1983-January 3, 1993)
U.S. Senator from California (January 3, 1993-January 3, 2017)
At a young age, Barbara Boxer learned the importance of voting from her mother who was born before the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Boxer explains how the Vietnam War sparked her political and community activism and led her to work on campaigns, including George McGovern’s presidential run in 1972. In her interview she describes why she decided to run for local office—Marin County Board of Supervisors—and how she made the difficult choice to try again after losing her first bid. Boxer won her second campaign and eventually served as the first chairwoman of the board. She explains how her work at the local level taught her the importance of “building consensus” and “keeping in touch with the people”—lessons that served her well in Congress. Boxer also gained valuable experience working for Representative John Burton of California. When Burton opted not to seek re-election for a sixth term in 1982, he asked his former staffer to run for his seat.
In her interview, the California Representative describes the challenges of her first House campaign and discusses the significance of John Burton’s endorsement, as well as the assistance provided by California Congressmen Vic Fazio and George Miller. Boxer comments on her efforts to encourage women to donate to her campaign and how this led to an annual fundraiser featuring the historic achievements of women. Once in Congress, Boxer became an outspoken advocate for women, children, and the environment. She explains how she became the original House sponsor for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and reveals the way in which the AIDS epidemic—that had such a devastating impact on San Francisco during the 1980s—propelled much of her legislative work in Congress. During her decade in the House, Boxer fought against gender discrimination in the institution. She describes the early 1980s as “a time of great change” where she and her women colleagues often faced discrimination. Boxer illustrates how women Representatives, although small in number, worked together to gain access to the House gym and to lead a protest during the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination hearings that made national headlines and contributed to her successful run for the U.S. Senate in 1992. As one of the few women to serve in both the House and the Senate, Boxer compares her experiences and outlines the key differences between the two bodies.
BOXER, Barbara, a Senator and a Representative from California; born Barbara Levy in Brooklyn, Kings County, N.Y., November 11, 1940; attended public schools in Brooklyn; graduated, Wingate High School 1958; B.A., Brooklyn College 1962; stockbroker 1962-1965; newspaper editor 1972–1974; congressional aide 1974–1976; elected member, Board of Supervisors, Marin County, Calif. 1976–1982; delegate, California State Democratic convention 1983; elected as a Democrat to the Ninety-eighth and to the four succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1983–January 3, 1993); was not a candidate for reelection to the House of Representatives in 1992; elected to the United States Senate in 1992; reelected in 1998, 2004, and again in 2010, and served from January 3, 1993, to January 3, 2017; chair, Committee on Environment and Public Works (One Hundred Tenth to One Hundred Thirteenth Congresses), Select Committee on Ethics (One Hundred Tenth to One Hundred Thirteenth Congresses); was not a candidate for reelection to the Senate in 2016.
Read full biography
The Honorable Barbara Boxer reveals some of the lessons she learned as a child including the significance of the right to vote.
"It Was a Hard Race"
The Honorable Barbara Boxer describes the challenges she faced during her first congressional campaign when she ran to replace Representative John Burton of California.
"Women Making History"
The Honorable Barbara Boxer recalls the changing role of women in political campaigns.
The Honorable Barbara Boxer talks about her political style in the House.
The Honorable Barbara Boxer talks about her close bond with future Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Accessing the House Gym: Part One
The Honorable Barbara Boxer explains how she and other women Members attempted to exercise without access to the House Gym reserved for Congressmen.
Accessing the House Gym: Part Two
The Honorable Barbara Boxer describes the leading role she played in women Members gaining access to the House Gym.
Few in Numbers
The Honorable Barbara Boxer recalls an incident highlighting the prejudice she faced as one of the few women Members in the House during the 1980s.
"I Was the First One Up the Stairs"
The Honorable Barbara Boxer recalls how she and other Congresswomen responded to the Senate hearings involving Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas.
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