Christian-Green, Donna M. 1945–
Donna M. Christian-Green 1945–
The Honorable Donna Christian-Green of the Virgin Islands may be serving in a non-voting capacity in the Congress, but her history suggests that she will not be prevented from having an influence. As the first female physician elected to Congress and the first woman to represent a U.S. possession in that body, Christian-Green has successfully charted an unusual career path. Born to a family of educators and jurists, she earned a medical degree and has used it to serve in the Virgin Islands both in private practice and in the public sector. Voters elected her in 1996 to the ‘at-large’ seat representing the Virgin Islands. In her first term in Congress, she joined numerous committees and groups, including the Black Caucus and the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues. She has been an important part of the ‘status’ debate in the Virgin Islands, as that small island territory considers whether or not to pursue statehood, independence or neither. She vigorously campaigns for the economic well-being of the Virgin Islands in Congress and around the United States.
Christian-Green was born in Teaneck, New Jersey on September 19, 1945 to Virginia Sterling Christian and retired Chief District Court Judge Almeric L. Christian of the Virgin Islands, son of Elena Christian, a respected educator on St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. Christian-Green attended St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, where she graduated in 1966. She went on to George Washington University Medical School and finished there in 1970. She married Carl Green in 1974 and has two children, Rabiah and Karida.
She began her private practice in the Virgin Islands thereafter. She served in the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Health as a physician as well. Throughout her career as a physician, she continued to make contributions in both the public and private sector. She rose to the presidency of the Virgin Islands Medical Society twice. She also became the Territorial Assistant Commissioner of Health in her home territory and served at one time as the Acting Commissioner of Health. She worked for the Virgin Islands Department of Health in various positions from 1975 to 1980.
She continued to be active in the territory’s community in the 1980s, working as the director of a health center in St. Croix from 1980 to 1985. Earlier in the decade,
Born Donna M. Christian, September 19, 1945 in Teaneck, New Jersey; son of VirginiaSterlingChristian and Almeric L. Christian, retired Virgin Islands Chief District Court Judge; married Carl Green, 1974 (divorced 1980), two children, Rabiah and Karida.
Career: Graduated from St. Mary’s College (Indiana) in 1966 and George Washington University School of Medicine in 1970; established successful private medical practice in Virgin Islands; served as community health physician and in many other prominent roles in Virgin Islands medical community; Entered politics in the 1980s and was elected to Congress in 1996, becoming first female delegate from Virgin Islands.
Awards and memberships: Various awards honoring contribution to Virgin Islands community; named to Ebony magazine’s 1997 “100 Most Influential Black Americans” list; Member of Congressional Black Caucus; Executive Committee of Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues; Moravian Church.
Addresses: 1711 Longworth Bldg. 20515, Washington, DC (202) 225-1790; (district offices) Vitraco MalI, Bldg. 2, Bay 3, St, Thomas, VI 00802 (809) 774-4408; Sunny Isle Station, P.O. Box 5980, Christiansted, St. Croix, VI 00823 (809) 778-5900. Internet: www.house.gov/christian-green.
she took her first step into politics, serving as the vice-chairperson of the U.S. Virgin Islands Democratic Territorial Committee in 1980. She joined the U.S. Virgin Islands Board of education for two years, from 1984 to 1986. Two years later, she gained an appointment to the U.S. Virgin Islands Status Commission. That commission’s involvement with the question of the sovereignty of the territory foreshadowed many of the issues Christian-Green would address as a delegate to the U.S. Congress. Her active membership in the St. Croix Environmental Association demonstrates her concern for environmental issues. She is a devout member of the Friedenstal Moravian Church in St. Croix and has served in various leadership capacities there.
Christian-Green also became involved in the Democratic Party, named as a Committeeperson to the Democratic Party in 1984. She appeared as a delegate to that party’s conventions twice between 1984 and 1997 and twice on the platform committee.
Christian-Green had laid the groundwork for a run for the Congress as a candidate of the Democratic Party. She tried unsuccessfully once, but in 1996, she won the seat from the incumbent Victor O. Frazer. A runoff election was required, but Christian-Green got 52% of the votes in the territory on November 19, 1996 and qualified for the 105th Congress. She stopped practicing medicine after taking office.
In Congress, Christian-Green has joined the Resources Committees, subcommittees on National Parks and Public Lands, as well as Energy and Mineral Resources. The Black Caucus and Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues also count her as a member, and she has garnered appointments to task forces related to child-care and juvenile crime. Though Christian-Green suspended her medical practice after joining Congress, she continued her vigorous involvement in the Virgin Islands community, including work with groups such as the Caribbean Youth Organization, the Caribbean Studies Association, and the Moravian Church. Ebony magazine named Christian-Green one of the “100 Most Influential Black Americans” in May of 1997.
“We’re coming into a climate that is not as favorable to territories as it was six years ago,” Christian-Green told Gannet News Service in February of 1997. Christian-Green brought a clear sense of mission to Washington. She sited the work involved in “just making people aware of the impact on territories of federal legislation.” Christian-Green has worked to raise awareness about a pact signed by the United States and the European Union to eliminate tariffs on rum. A small part of the overall trade agreements between the two regions, the rum agreement would, according to Christian-Green, “deal a severe blow to our already fragile economy,” as the sale of rum constitutes the second largest industry in the Virgin Islands after tourism.
Christian-Green also indicated to Gannett News Service that social spending and money for infrastructure were major issues for her territory in February of 1997, citing the difference in Medicaid spending between the states and her territory. Of this she said, “per capita on Medicaid, we’re getting about one-tenth of what they get in the states.” She expressed some frustration with the pace of change during the interview as well. She said, “it’s a slow process of getting things done, with Congress wasting a lot of time on issues that have nothing to do with people’s lives, like the balanced budget and term limits.”
Christian-Green has also concerned herself with the problem of the territory as a way station for drugs moving to the continental United States. At her inauguration in January of 1997, Christian-Green said that drugs were “one [part of the mainstream] that we never wanted to be in.” Christian-Green has for many years given thought to the issue of the territory’s status. In 1993, the voters of the Virgin Islands voted strongly in favor of remaining a territory of the United States, with over 80 percent of the low turnout. Another 13 percent wanted statehood and a small percentage wanted independence. Christian-Green, however, sees the issue as running deeper than simply holding a referendum. She calls it an “education process,” which will lead to “self-sufficiency within the territory so that when we have to decide…we can be in a position to make a choice.”
She has also reached out to delegates of American territories in the Pacific Ocean, which share the political situation of the Virgin Islands. She told the Gannett News Service that forging solidarity with these small territories would be easier than with Puerto Rico, whose larger size and greater wealth make its issues different. She told Gannett News Service in January of 1997 that she would like to see territorial delegates get a vote in Congress.
Christian-Green believes that her islands do not get a proper amount of federal support and she worked during her first term toward getting a numerical understanding of the problem. Gannett News Service reported that she was considering a request to the Health and Human Services to do a formal study of the state of welfare in her territory saying, “it does appear we’re left out of some childcare monies.” She also supports the creation of a presidential commission on the Virgin Islands that would have the power to recommend changes in policy for the territory. During her first term, she made herself readily available to her constituents through many channels, including a site on the World Wide Web.
Ebony, May 1997, pg. 80.
Gannet News Service, January 7, 1997; February 26, 1997; February 27, 1997.
Personal Biography of Donna Christian-Green, July, 1997.
Reuters News Service, February 9, 1997.
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