This painting of US Senator Patty Murray by artist Carol Meckling is displayed at McMenamins Anderson School in Bothell, Washington, where there is also a guest room named in Senator Murray’s honor. This patriotic piece envisions Patty as Rosie the Riveter—the WWII icon that celebrates the power of women’s work and equality.
Patty grew up in Bothell, with a large family in a working-class home. Her father managed a five-and-dime store along Bothell’s Main Street, but was eventually unable to work due to multiple sclerosis. Patty’s family relied on governmental programs, such as veterans’ benefits, federal grants, and food stamps, in order to survive. They were grateful for these social safety nets and personally experienced how the government has the ability to serve people positively. But Patty learned that it takes courage and persistence to get involved and safeguard those rights.
Patty graduated from Anderson School and Washington State University. She started her career as a preschool teacher, and went on to teach early childhood education at Shoreline Community College. When her own children’s preschool was in danger of closing due to state budget cuts, Patty knew firsthand that the political is personal. She was determined to make a difference. While lobbying to save the preschool, a male legislator tried to belittle her by describing Patty as “just a mom in tennis shoes”. Instead of being slighted, this phrase became her badge of honor. It was a reminder that she is a representative of everyday working people, especially women and mothers facing enormous obstacles— a struggle only made worse by regressive policies of the day. Patty successfully organized her community and through the grass-roots efforts of 13,000 parents, she prevented the shutdown of the preschool program. Patty won a seat on the Shoreline School Board in 1985 and was elected as Washington State Senator in 1988.
In 1992, Senator Murray ran for US Congress and won, thereby earning the distinction of becoming Washington State’s first congresswoman. Her tenure in the U.S. Senate now stands at thirty years and counting, making her the sixth-most senior member of the US Senate, and the third-ranking leadership position for the Democratic Party.
From the beginning of her political career, Senator Murray has been a consistent champion and defender of civil rights for BIPOC citizens, women’s health and autonomy, LGBTQ+ rights, Native tribal rights, environmental protection, infrastructure, public education and children, veteran benefits, affordable healthcare, voting rights and defending American democracy.
Senator Murray is also the founder of the Golden Tennis Shoe awards in Seattle, which honors outstanding Washington state citizens who have improved their community through vision, dedication and hard work.
Thanks, Senator Murray, for standing up for the independence and well-being of your constituents in Washington State and for citizens across the USA. As Rosie the Riveter says, “We can do it!”