Here's a quick run-down of Brooklyn female elected officials representing the borough in the US Congress. A few things are interesting about this list:
- First, back in the 1950s, the Democratic political machine in Brooklyn was not only open, but "eager" to put a woman candidate on the ballot.
- Two out of the five women profiled below entered politics because a man in their life left the job (one a husband, the other a father) and the women stepped up to keep the seat.
- No women Senators have been elected from Brooklyn, NY.
In 2012, Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez was currently serving her tenth term as Representative for New York’s 12th Congressional District. In the 112th Congress, she is the Ranking Member of the House Small Business Committee and a senior member of the Financial Services Committee.
With strong roots in her then all-black Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, she was, according to the history outlined in the Women in Congress site, " a national figure—catapulted into the limelight by virtue of her race, gender, and outspoken personality." In a largely symbolic gesture, she ran for President in 1972, to underscore the fact that mainstream candidates did not "represent the interests of blacks and the inner-city poor." She declined to run again in 1982, after the ascendancy of Ronald Regan to the presidency. She was instrumental in the founding of the National Political Congress of Black Women.
Subsequently she held other elected offices and today has a private law practice. She also authored her memoirs,Who Said It Would Be Easy?: One Woman’s Life in the Political Arena (New York: Arcade, 1996).
She was a hardline anticommunist who supported the House Un American Activities Committee and became chair of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe in 1955. She introduced bills deploring religious persecutions in Eastern Europe and supported an aggressive US role in mediating Arab–Israeli conflict through the UN, where she subsequently worked as a delegate with Adlai Stevenson.
According to the Women in Congress website, "On July 15, 1949, Kings County Democratic leaders chose Kelly as their nominee to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Brooklyn-based U.S. Representative Andrew L. Somers. Local leaders were eager to put a woman on the ballot. “They felt that this was the time to recognize the work of women,” Kelly later explained. “I had been a long time working in the Democratic Party.”
Kelly's Brooklyn district contained large Catholic and Jewish populations and was heavily Democratic.