Schakowsky, Janice D.

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SCHAKOWSKY, JANICE D. ("Jan "; 1944– ), member of the U.S. House of Representatives, serving the 9th District of Illinois from 1999. "We need more Jan Schakowskys," New York Magazine declared, noting that the congresswoman from Illinois represents the future of Democratic progressive politics.

Born in Chicago, Schakowsky, a citizen advocate, grass-roots organizer, and elected public official, fought throughout her career for economic and social justice and improved quality of life for all; for an end to violence against women; and for a national investment in healthcare, public education, and housing needs.

She carried on the legacy of her predecessor, Sid Yates, representing a district that is incredibly diverse, stretching from the liberal lakefront through some of Chicago's ethnic neighborhoods, encompassing Devon Avenue and extending to O'Hare International Airport. She picked up his mantle of leadership, especially regarding his support for Israel and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Schakowsky, who served on the House Democratic Leadership team as chief deputy whip, was a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, where she was ranking member of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection; she also served on the Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials and the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

Schakowsky won major legislative victories to increase federal assistance for abused women and children and to protect the rights of battered immigrant women, to reform election laws guaranteeing that no registered voter is turned away at the poll, to expand housing opportunities for low-income people, and to assist small business owners and farmers. Schakowsky worked in Congress to safeguard the rights of victims of identity theft and to protect consumers from predatory lenders. A champion for the nation's seniors, Schakowsky was actively engaged in the campaign for seniors and persons with disabilities to access affordable prescription drugs. Schakowsky was also working to ensure that seniors receive quality home, hospice, and nursing care.

A graduate of the University of Illinois, Schakowsky was a longtime consumer rights advocate. She was responsible for a 1969 law requiring the printing of freshness dates on groceries. She was program director of Illinois Public Action, Illinois' largest public interest group, from 1976 to 1985, where she fought for energy reform and stronger protection from toxic chemicals. She then moved to the Illinois State Council of Senior Citizens as executive director, where she organized across the state for lower cost prescription drugs and tax relief for seniors, financial protection for the spouses of nursing home residents, and other benefits for the elderly. She held that position from 1985 until 1990, when she was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives. She served there for four terms until elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1998.

[Jill Weinberg (2nd ed.)]