Today is the birthday of Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren (books by this author), born Elizabeth Herring in Oklahoma City (1949). She grew up in Norman, Oklahoma, and she’s from a solidly working-class background: her mom worked at Sears, and her father was a maintenance man. Her dad had a massive heart attack when Warren was 12 years old; the family lost their car as a result of his crippling medical bills, and Warren went to work at her aunt’s Mexican restaurant to help support the family.
Even with the extra work, she was the state high school debate champion, and graduated two years early. She received a full scholarship to George Washington University, but left after two years to marry her high school sweetheart. They moved to Texas, where she completed a degree in speech pathology at the University of Houston. Her husband, mathematician Jim Warren, worked as an engineer for NASA. They moved to New Jersey, where she worked as a special education teacher and later went on to law school at Rutgers University. She passed the bar in 1976, and practiced law — especially bankruptcy law — out of their home. She and Jim divorced in 1978. She had some money put aside — thanks to advice she had once received from Jim’s mother: “I got married when I was 19,” Warren told Elle magazine, “and my mother-in-law took me aside and said, “You always need walking-out-the-door money.’” Warren often emphasizes the importance of an emergency fund when she gives financial advice.
Warren taught at Harvard Law School, where she met legal scholar Bruce Mann. They married in 1980. She wrote books about the financial hardships faced by the American middle class, including The Fragile Middle Class: Americans in Debt (2000) and The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke (2003). And she frequently testified before congressional committees, which led to her appointment as chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program in 2008. She was the driving force behind the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and she successfully ran for the Senate in 2012, beating Republican incumbent Scott Brown to claim Ted Kennedy’s former seat. She’s the first woman to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate. She published her memoir, A Fighting Chance, in 2014, and this year published her 11th book, This Fight is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class (2017).