- CompanyU.S. House of Representatives, Illinois’s 14th Congressional District
The youngest black woman to serve in Congress and the first woman ever elected in her Illinois district, Lauren Underwood took a roundabout journey to Capitol Hill. As a child, she was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia, a pre-existing condition that led her to pursue a career in nursing. As she was earning her degree at the University of Michigan, she took a course on the politics of health care, which, she says, changed her life and her trajectory. Two master’s degrees later, she found herself working as a senior adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services under the Obama administration, helping to implement the Affordable Care Act.
It was another twist of fate that led her to first run for office, beating six men in the primary and eventually incumbent Republican Randy Hultgren. In 2017, Hultgren voted for the American Health Care Act, which would have undone Obamacare, and the threat was enough to drive Underwood to action. She ran on a platform that prioritized affordable health care, which clearly resonated in her previously red district.