Ayanna Pressley, on March 3, 2015 in Washington, D.C.
Ayanna Pressley, on March 3, 2015 in Washington, D.C.  Leah Puttkammer—Getty Images

Boston's Champion Council Woman

Boston went 106 years before electing a woman of color to its city council—that is, until 42-year-old powerhouse Ayanna Pressley came along with a no-nonsense platform and a hunger to serve women and children.

“I ran on a platform of [saving] our girls because I believe broken girls grow up to be broken women. I know intimately the challenges of single parenthood, and I’m a survivor of a near decade of childhood sexual assault. I didn’t just run on my résumé. I told the totality of my journey. That resonated.”

I want to create a policy that will stand long after I’m gone, to prevent social ills and to mitigate the adverse impact of them.”

After working as a senior aide to Congressman Joe Kennedy and political director for Secretary of State John Kerry during his senatorship, Pressley was pushed by colleagues and mentors to run for office herself. “People around me said, ‘I believe you have something to contribute,’ ” Pressley recalls.

“My family’s roots are primarily in Ohio. My mother was born and raised in Cincinnati; my father, Columbus. I grew up in Chicago. [My mother] raised me alone; I’m an only child. I like to say she gave me my roots, my wings and my voice. My mother was never cynical about the role that government, compassionate government, could play in our lives. On Election Day, from a very young age, I felt powerful.”

There is nothing like being able to express your own voice, to articulate your own vision and then get to work doing exactly that.

“I don’t think anyone who has made history set out to make history. Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Jordan, Ruby Bridges, Sojourner [Truth]—they just set out about their business.... I’d like to think that my election made it easier for the women who came behind me. Since I’ve been elected, three women of color have joined the council.”

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