This Woman Is About to Make American Political History


The news: This is Donna Christensen.

Image Credit: For Harriet

One Aug. 2, she won a highly competitive Democratic gubernatorial primary election in the Virgin Islands, an unincorporated U.S. territory. With midterm elections fast approaching, this is major news: If elected in November, Christensen will become the first black woman to ever govern a U.S. state or territory.

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A Christensen victory isn't guaranteed, of course. But, For Harriet reports, it is very likely since she faces only "minor opposition" from other parties. The Virgin Islands (population: 106,405) is 76% black and deeply entwined with the Democrats, and the 68-year-old former doctor and current delegate is considered a shoe-in to win it all.

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While black women have been lieutenant governors of places like Ohio and Florida, not one has led a state in America's entire 238-year history.

Christensen's current position comes with limits: As residents of a territory and not a state, Virgin Islanders are U.S. citizens but cannot vote in presidential elections. As a delegate, Christensen cannot vote on the House floor, but is "allowed to fully participate in committee activities, party caucuses and to gain seniority based on years of service," according to For Harriet.

This would change if Christensen were elected governor. Having graduated with a degree in medicine from George Washington University in 1970, she is already the first woman physician ever to serve in the U.S. Congress. She's also the first woman delegate to represent the Virgin Islands and the first woman to represent an offshore territory in the U.S.

Image Credit: AP

Takeaway: Black women remain poorly represented in elective office in the United States.

According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, just 14 of the 99 women currently serving in the 113th Congress are black. Likewise, a paltry two of the 72 women "serving in statewide elective executive offices" are black, while of the 100 largest U.S. cities, just one has a black woman mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore, Md.

Christensen's important victory is a small step towards alleviating these disparities. A victory in November would be nothing short of historic.

(Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled Christensen's name as "Christenson," and cited the limits of her current position as those she would face as governor.)

h/t For Harriet