March is women’s history month. A roster of women’s names scrolled across my mind as potential blog ideas. I’d read biographies of amazing women, and the internet would provide thousands more. I’d pluck out Fab Five Women, telling of their turning points and milestones.
Sitting down facing a blank page on the computer screen, I made a list of names of women who’d contributed to people in need. It was hard to narrow it down to ten, even harder to cut it down to five. Thinking, is there value in knowing a little about a lot? Cramming facts and particulars, a veneer of information without depth. I scratched the Fab Five idea and replaced it with one imperfect woman who started by wanting a better life for herself—something we can relate to. Then she sought a better life for her family; finally. Finally, it grew to include her community and country. She’s not from the pages of the history books, nor has she written an autobiography. She’s an ordinary woman who happens to be the age of my older children.
Cori Bush was born in 1976. After graduating from Cardinal Ritter College Prep High School in 1995, she attended a historically black public university, Harris-Stowe State. During her first year at Harris-Stowe, love arrived, then marriage and the baby carriage. She dropped out of school. Daughter of a Missouri politician, her future career aspirations included anything except politics. Her work life began teaching preschool making $9 an hour. Years later, she’d worked her way up to school assistant director, yet her paycheck remained at $9 an hour.
In 2001, with a second child on the way (a difficult pregnancy) she quit her job. Cori and her then-husband struggled to pay the rent without her income and were eventually evicted, and lived out of their car for months. In an interview years later, she recalled sitting outside a PayDay Loan office thinking, “Who speaks up for people like me?…Why do I keep having to live like this?” With her husband no longer in the picture, navigating her economic realities, armed with student loans, she returned to school. After three years of long days and nights and deep faith in God, Cori Bush was a registered nurse.
She went to work at the SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital (2008-2011), and around 2010 became an ordained minister in her native St. Louis area. By her early thirties, in addition to mother, nurse, and minister, she hosted a radio show, Grounded, with BlogTalkRadio. Her name recognition was growing. In 2013, she was promoted to nursing supervisor at Hopewell Health Center, Inc. Life was improving, but fate came knocking.
In August of 2014, Michael Brown, an unarmed Ferguson teenager, was shot dead by a white police officer. Watching the series of protests that lasted more than a year, Cori Bush and colleagues from a mental-health clinic drove to Ferguson, setting up a tent for trauma work. For Cori, the Ferguson riot lit the wick of a new candle. “There’s only so much you can do when you don’t have that pen (power) in your hand,” she said in an interview.
In 2016, she was 40-years-old, and a growing voice in the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Supported by fellow activists, she registered to run for one of Missouri’s Senate seats, but lost in the Democratic primaries. Two thousand sixteen was also a year she experienced a sexual assault, not the first time finding herself on the receiving end of violence. As a teenager, trapped in an abusive relationship, her partner fired a gun at her but, fortunately, missed.
Undeterred by her defeat, she set her sights on the 2018 election, running in her home congressional district—the Missouri 1st—that includes the St. Louis area and Ferguson, and lost again.
In addition to nursing, she continued her work as a pastor and various civic engagements around her local community until early 2019 when she decided to run for a second time (2020) for the same congressional seat. “If I won this seat, I would be a regular person representing regular people in Congress.” In two years of campaigning, she was slowed down and hospitalized twice, most likely because of COVID-19.
Her persistence and faith paid off, and she beat the incumbent by sixty percentage points. Cori Bush became the first African American woman Missourians voted to represent them in Congress. As one of the newest Congressional members, Bush pushes for progressive legislative goals that would benefit her constituents.
Today, Rep Bush is fighting for legislation that would have helped her in her struggles, a $15 minimum wage, tuition-free college, and Medicare for all. She had to pay out-of-pocket for her two hospitalizations. One of her first congressional actions was to seek to expel Congress members who supported the January 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Knock Down the House, is a documentary on Netflix includes Cori Bush’s journey from Missouri to Washington D.C.
On January 13, 2021, after an incident with (mask-less) Marjorie Taylor Green, Cori Bush requested her office be moved for her and her staff’s safety.
As of March 2021, Cori Bush’s Twitter following: 800k. Instagram 380k. Facebook 104k.