Congresswoman Cardiss Collins, D-IL, the longest-serving African American women in Congress, has been the representatives for Illinois' Seventh Congressional District for over 20 years. Her leadership on important social, political, and economic issues has earned her the reputation of an effective policy maker and representative.
She was born September 24, 1931 in St. Louis, Missouri, and moved to Detroit at the age of ten. She was graduated from the Detroit High School of Commerce and attended Northwestern University. She has received honorary degrees from Barber-Scotia College, Spelman College, and Winston-Salem State University. She also has received awards from both Loyola University and Roosevelt University in Chicago, as well as numerous other awards and commendations. In 1990, the Congressional Black Caucus presented Mrs. Collins with the William L. Dawson Award for Legislative Development in recognition of her legislative agenda and successes.
Congresswoman Collins began her career as a stenographer with the Illinois Department of Labor. She was later promoted to secretary with the Illinois Department of Revenue, then accountant, and eventually moved into the position of revenue auditor.
Mrs. Collins was first elected to Congress on June 5, 1973 in a special election to fill the seat left vacant by her husband, Congressman George W. Collins, who was killed in an airplane crash. In 1992, Mrs. Collins was reelected to her 10th term by an 81 percent margin.
A trailblazer, she was the first African-American woman to represent a Congressional district in the Midwest, the first woman and first African-American to serve as Democratic Whip-at-Large. She was elected chair of the Congressional Black Caucus in the 96th Congress.
In 1991, she became the first woman, and first African-American to chair a subcommittee of the Committee on Energy and Commerce when she was named Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Competitiveness. In January, 1993, she was elected to serve a second term as chair of this subcommittee.