Congresswoman Karen Bass

Congresswoman Karen Bass

BY IN First Women In History to: On 03-07-2011

Karen Ruth Bass (born October 3, 1953) is the U.S. Representative for California’s 33rd congressional district. She is a member of the Democratic Party. Prior to her election to Congress in 2010, she had served as a member of the California State Assembly representing the 47th district since 2004. From 2008 to 2010, she served as Speaker of the California State Assembly.

Brief Bio

Within four years of first running for office, Bass rose to one of the most powerful political positions in California: she was elected state speaker in 2008, making her the first African-American woman to lead a legislative chamber anywhere in the country. Her time as speaker was marked by California’s fiscal troubles and by high-stakes budgetary negotiations with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.).

In 2010, Bass was poised to capture California’s 33rd Congressional District, a heavily Democratic district that covers part of Los Angeles County. She easily won the Democratic primary after securing enthusiastic endorsements from retiring incumbent Diane Watson and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and easily beat James Andion for the House seat.

Before her election to the California Assembly in 2004, Bass worked for more than a decade as the head of the Community Coalition, a non-profit organization she founded in 1991 to address pressing problems of poverty and substance abuse in South Los Angeles.

Gwendolyn Cross and Karen Bass


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We Make More Effective Congresspeople (When We Manage to Get Elected)

Regardless of party affiliation, congressional women deliver more federal projects to their home districts and sponsor and co-sponsor more legislation than their male colleagues. In a study that was recently published in The American Journal of Political Science, researchers from Stanford University and the University of Chicago attributed women's political success not to some innate political instinct but to the fact that it's really hard for us to get elected (there are currently 360 men and 75 women in the House; 83 men and 17 women in the Senate). They theorize that women feel immense pressure to measure up, so instead of meeting expectations, we surpass them.