Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald, who had just become the first African-American woman chair of the powerful House Administration Committee, died of colon cancer. Millender-McDonald, from Carson City, Long Beach, and South Los Angeles, California, was a staunch supporter of women’s rights who also served as co-chair of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues from 2001-2002.
As co-chair of the Women’s Caucus, Millender-McDonald led efforts to pass the Afghan Women’s Empowerment Act and other crucial bills for women’s equality. “Congresswoman Millender-McDonald could be counted as a strong advocate for women globally and domestically, especially in education, business and politics,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority.
A very strong and determined leader, Millender-McDonald in 1999 led a sit-in at then-Senator Jesse Helms’ office because he was blocking the confirmation of former Senator Carol Moseley Braun (D-IL) as ambassador to New Zealand and Fiji. Moseley Braun was later confirmed as ambassador.
Millender-McDonald was a teacher, an advocate for women and young people, the first African American elected to the Carson City Council, and a California state legislator before being elected to Congress in 1996 with the support of EMILY’s List and the National Organization for Women PAC. She was a frequent speaker at feminist events, including the 10th anniversary of the Feminist Majority in 1997. Governor Schwarzenegger, in the next 14 days, must call for a special election to fill her seat, in a district that is heavily Democratic.