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United States Senator Tammy Baldwin (b. 1962) was in kinship care as a child. 

Tammy Baldwin was born in 1962 in Madison, Wisconsin. Her mother, Pamela Joan Bin-Rella, was nineteen years old when Tammy was born. At the time, she was going through a divorce and became a social worker. Pamela struggled with chronic illness and was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

She also had various physical conditions and illnesses that resulted in chronic and really acute pain. And not unlike so many of the stories I’ve heard these days, she was prescribed powerful narcotics to help her deal with the pain (Glauber).

But Tammy’s mother took more pain medication than prescribed and was “oftentimes debilitated in her addiction.” 

As a result, Tammy lived with her grandparents and visited her mother on weekends. Her grandparents both worked at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her grandmother was an artist and seamstress who became chief costumer, and her grandfather was a scientist. Tammy appreciates the stability that her grandparents provided, but remembers feeling like she let her mother down as a child.

As a little kid, I felt like I was trying to fix things and I always failed. You can’t cure somebody’s mental illness. You can’t cure their addiction. I was a little kid and I didn’t know better (Glauber).

Tammy became seriously ill at the age of nine and spent three months in hospital. Her grandparents had to make great sacrifices to cover her medical bills because their health insurance would not allow them to list their granddaughter as a dependent.

Tammy attended university at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She graduated in 1984 with majors in mathematics and political science. She followed this with a law degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1989. 

Tammy’s political career began in 1986 when she served on the Madison Common Council. Next, she was elected to four terms on the Dane County Board of Supervisors between 1986 and 1994. She then won a seat in the Wisconsin State Assembly in November 1992 and served in that role for three terms. 

In 1998, Tammy was the first woman from Wisconsin to be elected to Congress. and the first openly gay US Representative to successfully campaign in US History. In 2012, Tammy won a seat in the US Senate, once again making history as the first Wisconsin woman elected to the Senate and as the nation’s first openly gay senator. She went on to win a second term in the Senate in 2018. 

Throughout her political career, Tammy has been a staunch advocate for issues affecting women, families, and the LGBT community. She sponsored the RAISE Family Caregivers Act which enhances care coordination, training, and respite for family carers. In 2022, she helped pass a bill to protect same-sex and interracial marriages to solidify a 2015 Supreme Court ruling in the wake of a recent Supreme Court ruling which overturned the right to abortion.

Tammy has also worked to improve health care and middle-class economic security. She helped design the Affordable Care Act, and led the initiative to enable young people to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans until the age of twenty-six.

In response to the opioid epidemic, Tammy supported efforts to enable local prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts in Wisconsin. She also authored the Jason Simcakoski Memorial and Promise Act, which increased oversight of opioid prescribing practices within the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide safer care for American veterans.

In April 2023, Tammy Baldwin announced that she would seek reelection for a third term in Wisconsin. She has previously campaigned on a platform that she is “looking out for the best interests of everyone in the state” (Bauer). After winning her first Senate race, she had the following message for the American public.

I didn’t run to make history. I ran to make a difference (Bauer).


“About Tammy Baldwin”. Tammy Baldwin website.

Bauer, Scott. “Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin launches run for 3rd term.” AP News, 13 April 2023.

Glauber, Bill. “Tammy Baldwin talks about late mother’s opioid addiction”, Associated Press, 1 May 2018.

McNamee, Gregory. (2021).  ”Tammy Baldwin United States senator”. Encyclopedia Britannica.

“Tammy Baldwin.” Wisconsin Women Making History.

Image available here