Woman of the Week: Tammy Duckworth

Natalie Pate

Women make up 51% of the population, 19% of Congress, and 0% of past presidents.


Name: Ladda Tammy Duckworth

Born: March 12, 1968 (age 45) in Bangkok, Thailand

Current Office: Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois’s 8th district

Political Party: Democratic Party

Residence: Hoffman Estates, Illinois

Education: Bachelor of Arts (Political Science), University of Hawaii; Master of Arts (International Affairs), George Washington University


Why she is the Woman of the Week: In honor of Veterans’ Day, it seems appropriate to honor the first female combat veteran ever to serve in Congress. Not only that, she is the first disabled woman elected to Congress as well. She actually just celebrated her so-called “alive day”—November 12th, the day in 2004 when the helicopter she was flying near Baghdad was shot down, almost killing her and her three Black Hawk crewmates. She not only almost lost her life but she also lost both of her legs, making her the first female double amputee from the Iraq War. This by no means stopped Duckworth. After being awarded the Purple Heart and being promoted from captain to major, she was back on army duty on titanium legs and training to fly again before deciding to dive into advocacy and then politics. She established the Intrepid Foundation, which is raising funds to build a rehabilitation center for other injured veterans. “Miracle on the Hudson” pilot Chesley Sullenberger III has called her “beyond inspiring.” U.S. News has called her one of the Ten Toughest Politicians in Washington. Her injuries have not suppressed her career or her spirit. She’s been known to work out in T-shirts reading “Dude, where’s my leg?” and “Lucky for me he’s an ass man.”

Background: Duckworth comes from a long line of American veterans. Her father, whose lineage can be traced back to the Revolutionary War, was a World War II veteran who traveled around Asia working for the United Nations and international companies. She was born in Bangkok—her mother is a Thai native of Chinese descent—and spent her youth traveling around Southeast Asia with her parents (she is fluent in Thai and Indonesian as well as English) until they settled in Hawaii when she was sixteen. She graduated from high school in 1985 after skipping ninth grade, and went on to earn a Bachelor’s at University of Hawaii and a Master’s in International Affairs from George Washington, where she joined the Army Reserve Training Corps. She was commissioned a few years later and chose to fly helicopters because it was one of the only combat positions open to women. After attending flight school, she joined the Illinois Army National Guard and was working toward a PhD in political science at Northern Illinois University when she deployed to Iraq in 2004. She lost both her legs in an attack on the helicopter she co-piloted and was sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, where she met former Sen. Bob Dole and Sen. Dick Durbin, who invited her to the 2005 State of the Union address and propelled her into a career in politics. She became a vocal opponent of the Iraq War, calling it a “bad decision,” and soon became an advocate for military families and disabled people, testifying in front of Congress and on morning shows. Only a year after her “alive day,” Duckworth declared her candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives. She lost by two points. Others recognized her potential and savvy—the Governor Blagojevich appointed her Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, and President Obama chose her as an assistant secretary to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. However, she resigned in 2011 to again run for the House, this time winning Illinois’ 8th district. As a member of Congress, she publicly supported the American Civil Liberties’ suit to allow women to serve in combat positions. She has also strongly urged Congress to ratify the U.N.’s United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which would protect the rights of disabled individuals across the world.


Her Latest Headline: “Tammy Duckworth makes a pitch for the ‘Ready for Hillary’ Super pac” – Chicago Sun-Times


“I know this sounds really corny, but I’ve just got to be more. I’ve got to be more than I was.” – Rep. Tammy Duckworth



[Image Credit: http://www.usnews.com/dbimages/master/37715/FE_DA_0131_Tammy_Duckworth.jpg]