Maxine Waters Biography

Maxine Waters

U.S. congresswoman
Born: 1938
Birthplace: St. Louis, Mo.


Waters has been a member of Congress since 1991. The fifth of 13 children, Waters began working as a bus girl in a segregated restaurant when she was 13. She later worked in a factory. Graduating from high school at 18, she married Edward Waters and had two children. In 1961 the couple moved to Los Angeles and Waters found work in a garment factory. In 1966 she became an assistant teacher, and later volunteer supervisor, at Head Start, a federal program for children from poor families. Waters also began working on campaigns of local political candidates. She also earned a B.A. degree in sociology from California State University at Los Angeles. In 1972 she got divorced. In 1976 Waters was elected to the California State Assembly, eventually becoming majority whip. She worked on civil rights, women's issues, and helped establish the Child Abuse Prevention Training Program, the first in the nation. In 1990 she became the second Black female elected to Congress. Waters has served as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and on the Veterans' Affairs and Banking, Finance, and Urban Affairs Committees. She has been a vocal liberal and consistent defender of President Clinton. Married to Sidney Williams, the former U.S. Ambassador to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, Waters is the mother of two adult children, from her first marriage, and has two grandchildren.