I’ve been alive for 28 years and I can barely remember a time before Dianne Feinstein was my Senator in California. Elected in 1992, she is on her way to being re-elected for her fourth full term this fall. Prior to that, as Mayor of San Francisco, she led the city through one of its most difficult moments following the dual assassinations of Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. She has surmounted many challenges throughout her 50-plus-year career, and we owe it to ourselves to read about how even in the worst circumstances, she has risen to the occasion and made her opponents seem small.
1. She put frat boys to shame
As a student at Stanford, Feinstein (then Dianne Goldman) ran for student body Vice President, the highest office a woman could aspire to at that time. One night she found herself campaigning in a frat house in front of a bunch of rowdy boys who wouldn’t let her give her speech. In the middle of it, they threw her into the shower, dowsed her with water, and tossed her out of their house. Feinstein not only went on to win that election, she revoked their permit to throw a frat party during Game Weekend the next year, and only gave it to them once they apologized to her personally.
2. She was a working mother
She managed to hold a job on the California parole board in Los Angeles, commuting between LA and San Francisco every week, while raising a daughter from her first marriage. Never let anyone say you can’t “have it all,” because she did.
3. Bathroom Pranks
As President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Feinstein faced internal sexism from her male colleagues. In 1972, she marched into the Executive Bathroom in City Hall, which was exclusively male, and told the men on her exit, “It’s a liberated bathroom now.” They tried humiliating her by refusing to lock the doors to their stalls while she was in there, so she put Venus flytraps in the urinals.
4. She braved death threats and worse to do her job
1970s San Francisco was a tough place to live – the Patty Hearst kidnapping, the Zodiac killings, and the People’s Temple all occurred in this decade. Feinstein found herself a target from fringe groups like the New World Liberation Front, who wrote in a letter that “we would have shot you long ago.” They placed a bomb on her doorstep set to go off at night, but the cold San Francisco weather caused the explosive to detach itself from the generator. Following these incidents, Feinstein took a tip from Eleanor Roosevelt and started carrying a gun in her purse.
5. 1978 was her 2016
If we all thought 2016 was the worst year of our lives, it’s nothing compared to what Feinstein went through in 1978, where she had to lead a divided Board of Supervisors while caring for her dying husband, who passed away that spring. Given the animosity she faced from the board (including Harvey Milk, who never gave her a chance), she decided that she would quit politics that year. Then tragedy struck.
6. She was the first to find Milk’s body following his assassination
The daughter of a doctor, Feinstein knew immediately to check the pulse, and after doing so, realized he was dead before he hit the floor. With the news that Mayor Moscone had also been shot that day, Feinstein became Mayor of San Francisco. Her first action as leader of the city she grew up in was to tell the press what had happened, which she did here in one of the bravest acts a politician has ever performed:
7. She survived run-offs and recall attempts while in office
Before assuming office, Feinstein had lost the mayoral elections of both 1971 and 1975. In 1979, she was up against both supervisor Quentin Kopp, a conservative, and David Scott, a gay activist who jumped into the race following the LGBT community’s dissatisfaction with Feinstein’s performance in office. Gay newspapers refused to endorse her at the time, leading to a split vote that resulted in a run-off that December. Fortunately, Feinstein prevailed, winning the LGBT vote by a wide margin. However, in 1983, she nearly found herself kicked out of office by a far-left fringe group who opposed her strict gun control policies. Thanks to a strong grassroots campaign, she defeated the recall by 80%, and went on to win re-election as Mayor later that year.
8. She tried to stop a burglar from breaking into her car by jumping behind the wheel and chasing him
Yeah, she actually did that.
9. She released the Fusion GPS transcript last January
Last January, when her colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee tried to undermine the Mueller probe by going after Christopher Steele’s credibility, Feinstein released a transcript of their interview with Fusion GPS’s Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, revealing more dirt into Trump's cronies. Lawrence O'Donnell called it the most important act by a sitting Senator during the Trump Presidency, and nearly six months later, he may still be right.
10. She married someone who matches her badassery
Dick Blum, her third husband, is the first American to ever go to the People’s Republic of Tibet, as well as the first person to ever climb the eastern face of Mt. Everest. Again, I don’t need to explain more than that. Badass people deserve each other.