New Feminist in Office: Kamala Harris

We didn’t yet break that looming glass ceiling of the presidency, but there is still much to celebrate in the election of 2016. Congress will be more diverse and have more women of color than ever—thanks to a strong group of feminists heading now for their first term in the House and Senate. 

In the 115th Congress, 21 women will serve in the Senate—four of them women of color. Among them is Kamala Harris. 

In the days since the election, she has been vocal in her unyielding support of justice and equality and has urged her supporters to continue fighting on in the face of a Donald Trump presidency. “Do not despair,” Harris said during a speech in Los Angeles after the election. “Do not be overwhelmed. Do not throw up our hands when it is time to roll up our sleeves and fight for who we are.”

This excerpt of a profile of Harris comes from of a larger piece introducing her and the other women new to Congress next year in our special member-only fall issue of Ms. To meet the rest of her cohort, subscribe today.

Thanks to a 2010 California law that advances the top two primary candidates, regardless of party, to the general election, we’ve known since June that not just a Democrat—but a feminist woman Democrat—would be replacing Sen. Barbara Boxer, who is stepping down in January after years of spectacular feminist leadership in Congress. With her victory over Rep. Loretta Sanchez, Kamala Harris, the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, becomes the first black and South Asian woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate.

On election night, Harris was set to begin. “We know the stakes are high,” she told a crowd in Los Angeles. “When we have been attacked and when our ideals and fundamental ideals are being attacked, do we retreat or do we fight? I say we fight!”

Harris led the effort in California to fight human trafficking and strengthened services for victims of domestic violence by bolstering the state’s domestic violence program. As attorney general, she refused to defend California’s Prop. 8, the voter initiative that prohibited same-sex marriages in the state until the U.S. Supreme Court overturned it. During her tenure, Harris defended California’s landmark climate change law from challenges by the biggest polluters, like Big Oil. In the Senate, she’ll be a fierce advocate for reproductive rights, criminal justice reform (a hallmark of her time as San Francisco’s district attorney), free tuition at public colleges and universities, and a reinvestment in higher education.

“I strongly believe that I have a duty to be bold, not just for the state, but for the country,” Harris says. “The American dream belongs to all of us.”