Tammy Duckworth, Junior Senator from Illinois (Official portrait of 115 Congress)

Women and Adversity: Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth

Tammy Duckworth is one of today’s most remarkable American women.

I posted a blog in 2014 about Senator Duckworth – whose first name is Ladda – when she was U.S. Representative of the 8th District in Illinois, but in 2016 she was elected junior senator from Illinois and in April 2018 at the age of 50 gave birth to daughter Maile. She and husband Bryan Bowlsbey also have daughter Abigail, born in November 2014.

Senator Duckworth has achieved a number of “firsts”:

First member of Congress born in Thailand

First female double amputee from the Iraq War

First Asian-American woman in Congress from Illinois

First disabled woman elected to Congress

First sitting senator to give birth

Senator Duckworth was born in 1986 in Bangkok, Thailand of Thai mother Lamai Sompornpairin and Franklin Duckworth, an Army veteran. The Duckworths settled in Hawaii where Tammy received her degree in political science from University of Hawaii. She received a master’s degree from George Washington University in international affairs, then moved to Illinois to study for a Ph.D. in political science at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. While there, she enrolled in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps with the Illinois Army National Guard and trained to be a helicopter pilot.

She suspended her studies when she was deployed to Iraq. On Nov. 12, 2004, the Black Hawk helicopter she was co-piloting was shot down. She lost her entire right leg, her left leg below the knee and lost significant use of her right arm.  She was 36 years old and had married Bryan, fellow Illinois Army National Guard member, in 1993. Bryan is the joint regional security stacks migration manager at VAE, Inc. in Virginia.

It took Duckworth a year to recover from her injuries, and she chose to advocate for better health care for wounded veterans. She ran in her first Congressional race in 2006, lost that election but accepted the post of Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. She started a program helping those with post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries.

In 2009 President Obama chose her to be assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. She concentrated her efforts on ending homelessness for veterans.

In 2012 she won election to the House of Representatives and won reelection in 2014. She was pregnant and due to deliver baby girl, Abigail, within weeks but her doctor did not recommend she travel to Washington for House Democratic Caucus leadership meetings. She requested to vote by proxy, but rules do not allow proxy votes, so her request was denied. Members of the Caucus objected, but Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi voted with the majority that no exceptions be made, no matter the circumstances.

In 2010 Duckworth received an honorary doctorate from Northern Illinois University, and

in 2015 she received a Ph.D. in human services from Capella University. After she gave birth to Maile, rules were changed so that a senator has the right to bring a child under one year old on the Senate floor and breastfeed during votes. The day after those rules changed, Duckworth brought Maile on the Senate floor.

Check out:




Article By: Jo Ann Mathews

I published three ebooks in 2020: Women and Adversity, Honoring 23 Black Women; Women and Adversity, Recognizing 23 Notable Mothers; and Women and Adversity, Saluting 23 Faithful Suffragists to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. These books are meant to be study guides for all students from grade school through college to help in choosing topics for assignments and to learn more about these noteworthy women. Go to amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and goodreads.com to learn more.

    Write a Reply or Comment About This Article

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Time limit exceeded. Please complete the captcha once again.


    Subscribe to Blog via Email

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 219 other subscribers

    Discover more from Jo Ann Mathews

    Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

    Continue reading