Berkeley Talks: Portraits of power: Women of the 116th Congress


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U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood celebrates on election night in November 2018, when she was first elected to the House of Representatives. She is the youngest Black woman to serve in Congress. (Photo by Stephen Hanafin via Flickr)

“I would say the loudest, boldest, most powerful voices coming out of Washington have been the voices of women,” said U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood (IL-14), the youngest Black woman to serve in Congress. “The way that we, collectively, have reframed the conversation about where this country is going has really, I think, been jarring for some of those who have been the power class in Washington for decades.”

Underwood was part of a panel that discussed the history-making women of the 116th Congress, and a recently published New York Times book that features powerful portraits of all but one Congresswoman. Also part of the conversation was Rep. Jackie Speier (CA-14), UC Berkeley Ph.D. candidate in political science and photojournalist Elizabeth Herman and New York Times photo editor Marisa Schwartz Taylor. It was moderated by Kathryn Pearson, an associate professor of political science at the University of Minnesota.

“One thing that Marisa and I love to talk about all the time is: How can we acknowledge the history of the way that women have been involved in politics in the past and bring them into the present,” said Herman, who photographed 130 Congresswomen in just six days for the book The Women of the 116th Congress. In the photos, Herman asked the Congresswomen to hold objects of significance — something that’s common in historical portraits.

Herman continued, “As Representative Speier had the image of Jeannette Rankin, who was the first woman ever elected to Congress, it’s also important we’re thinking about what women’s political participation has been over the course of history and how it differs for white women and women of color and what that means in the future”

This talk was co-sponsored by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, the Robert T. Matsui Center for Politics and Public Service and the Center for Race and Gender.

Listen above to Berkeley Talks episode #97, “Portraits of power: Women of the 116th Congress.”

Watch a video of the discussion below.