Dianne Feinstein: A woman of many political firsts

U>S> Senator Dianne Feinstein

As far as women in American politics are concerned, Dianne Feinstein is up there with the best of them. No talk of towering female figures in American politics is ever complete without a mention of her name. Born Dianne Emiel Goldman in San Francisco, California, on 22nd June 1933, the late senator had a rich career spanning decades in the US senate. She passed away at her home in Washington DC at the ripe old age of 90.

Breaking the glass ceiling

Feinstein broke many glass ceilings over the course of her career in politics. She started these achievements when she was the first female chair of the San Francisco board of supervisors. It was during this time that she succeeded mayor George Moscone, after Moscone and the City Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated.

Mrs. Feinstein was the first female mayor of San Francisco from 1978-1988. She was a popular mayor and it was during this time, she managed to survive a recall attempt in 1983 and went on to serve until 1988. Thereafter, she tried her hand in the gubernatorial election where she lost her race for governor of California in 1990. That did not dampen her spirit and just two short years later, she began a new chapter in her life, one she would be known for the most. The one that would define her life.

In 1992, she took part in and won a special election to complete senator Pete Wilson’s unexpired term. Wilson had resigned to become the governor of California after he had won the gubernatorial election. As she took her position at the United States senate, she broke another glass ceiling by being the first female US senator from California.

In the senate, she continued her history of firsts by being the first woman to chair the senate rules committee. She was also the first woman to chair the senate intelligence committee from 2009 to 2015. Between 2017 to 2021, Ms. Feinstein was the ranking member of the senate judiciary committee. Before those accomplishments, she became the first woman to preside over a US presidential inauguration when in 2009, she did it for President Obama.

Senate career

To figure out just how remarkable her political journey was, her senate tenure spanned 6 administrations. In her early years in the senate, she teamed up with former senator Barbara Mikulski who was the leader of their pantsuit rebellion to agitate for a change in the senate rules in order to allow women to wear trousers in the chamber.

Her reelection in 2012 saw her make yet another history when she was reelected with 7.86 million votes, the most by any US senate candidate in history. In the course of her senate career, she made history as the longest tenured female senator ever. That was not all, as she was also the oldest sitting US senator at the time of her death. At the same time, she was also the longest serving US senator from California.

Dianne Feinstein turned down the chance to be President Pro Tempore of the senate in 2022. This position would have meant that she would have been third in line to the presidency had she landed the seat. The president pro tempore of the senate presides over the senate in the absence of the Vice President. However, her husband had recently died so she opted not to pursue the position.

She has been vocal on many issues such as women’s rights, intelligence gathering and interrogation techniques by security agencies and her signature issue gun control. This probably came from the fact of her exposure to the assassination of Moscone.  On gun safety regulations, she pushed for the 1994 assault weapons ban which expired in 2004. She tried to come up with newer versions of it after that but never found success on that front.

Feinstein has been described by Democrats and Republicans alike as someone who knew how to work across the isle when she needed to. Her stellar career in the senate was portrayed by actress Annette Bening in the 2019 film “The Report”, which earned the actress a Golden Globe nomination.

Due to her health, and advanced age, she had announced back in February 2023 that she would not seek re-election in 2023.

Family life

Dianne Feinstein was born to a father who was a prominent surgeon and medical professor while her mother was a former model. She claimed that her mother was difficult and at times abusive to her and her siblings.

Feinstein was married three times in the course of her life. Her first marriage was to Jack Berman, whom she married in 1956 and they divorced in 1959. The couple were blessed with a daughter, who is her only biological child.

In 1962, the late senator married Bertram Feinstein, who was a neurosurgeon. They remained married until his death in 1978. Even after his death, she kept his name. It was a marriage she described as a “10”, making it easy to see why she kept the name. In 1980, she married Richard Blum, an investment banker, and they were together until he died in 2022.

Feinstein is survived by a daughter, Katherine Feinstein, a granddaughter, Eileen, as well as 3 stepchildren.

Court case against late husband’s trust

Ms. Feinstein granted her daughter Katherine with the power of attorney in a suit against her late husband Blum’s trust for withholding finances which she claims she was entitled to. Her billionaire late husband had set up the trust. She had a second suit filed which sought to name her as a trustee and a third suit which aimed to force the trust to sell a home that she owned with her late husband in Stinson beach.

Before her passing, judge Roger Picquet, who is handling the matter advised the parties to pursue the matter in mediation as opposed to a court battle. Both parties agreed. With her passing, it remains to be seen what happens in the court case and whether the step-siblings will be able to agree on the matter and settle it out of court as they had been advised.

Final curtain

Feinstein has been mourned by many from all over the world. Her senate chair was draped in black velvet and adorned with a base of white roses. In addition to that, President Biden, who was her colleague in the senate for many years, ordered US flags to be lowed to half staff until the late senator was interred.

As the curtain falls on the late senator’s wonderful and eventful life and career, Dianne is one of the few people who can genuinely claim to have come, seen and conquered. And in so doing, together with other towering women leaders who came before her, those who were with her and those who came after her, managed to help make it a little easier for women on the political front.