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Congresswoman Yvonne Brathwaite Burke has one of the most incredible stories in politics. In 1973, she became the first woman serving in Congress to give birth, adding to a list of boundaries she broke over the course of her career.

Born Perle Yvonne Watson in Los Angeles on this day in 1932, the future congresswoman attended college at UCLA and then earned a law degree from the University of Southern California School of Law. After running a private practice, she was elected in 1966 to the California State Assembly, becoming the first Black woman elected to the state legislature.

In 1972, Burke became the first Black woman from California elected to Congress. In 1973, she gave birth to her daughter, Autumn, shattering another barrier. However, the choice of raising a child and working in Congress was made when she decided to not run for re-election in 1978 and returned to her hometown.

In 1957, Burke married Louis Brathwaite, divorcing in 1964. She married William Burke in 1972.

Burke was also the first Black woman  to serve as chair of the Los Angeles County of Supervisors in 1993. She officially retired in 2008, but in 2012, President Barack Obama appointed her to the Amtrak board of directors, a position she still holds.

PHOTO: Public Domain



Little Known Black History Fact: Yvonne Braithwaite Burke  was originally published on