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The far reach of trailblazing California Sen. Dianne Feinstein

The far reach of Sen. Dianne Feinstein
The far reach of Sen. Dianne Feinstein 02:57

SACRAMENTO -- Women in politics remember Dianne Feinstein, California's first female and longest-serving senator, as a rallying voice for equality and a leader who opened doors for the next generation of female leaders across the country.

Former Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo, who served from 2000 to 2008, remembers one of the first phone calls she received when she was first elected mayor. It was from Sen. Feinstein, who called to invite her to Washington, D.C., to get work done on water issues that had been at the center of a more-than-a-decade-long lawsuit in the Sacramento Valley. 

"It was kind of startling at first to get a phone call from the senator, but obviously, I needed to go and pack my bags," Fargo said. "It was the start of several years of negotiations between the City and County of Sacramento and the East Bay Municipal Utility District."

Fargo won't forget how Feinstein fought for farmers.

"Her being there made it OK," she said. "She was supportive, but just knowing she was there and doing the job made it seem like it was doable, and it was OK to do it."

The year 1992 was "The Year of the Woman" after a record number of women were elected to Congress. With Sen. Feinstein and Senator Barbara Boxer, California was the first state in the nation to be represented in the Senate by two women.

Oftentimes, Feinstein was the only woman in the room and worked to change that — something she's remembered for by the next generation.

"Her legacy is going to inspire generations of women," said McKenna Jenkins of Fem Dems of Sacramento. "Sen. Feinstein carved a path for women to be recognized as legitimate candidates against their male counterparts."

The shift in women in elected to office during Feinstein's time in politics happened as Americans shifted their willingness to vote for them.

Feinstein herself was quoted often on her work to bring up the next generation of female leaders. She was known for mentoring many women throughout California and the country, many of whom hold positions in President Biden's administration, he said in a statement Friday. 

"Run, but prepare yourself. So many times, and I've seen it happen in the Senate elections, talented young women go for the top first. You can't do that. Start young and, you know, with a commission or committee or special effort. Earn your spurs," Senator Feinstein told CNN in 2017 when asked about her advice to young women who want to be the next Dianne Feinstein, "You don't drop out. You take defeat after defeat after defeat, but you keep going."

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