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Profile: Congresswoman Gwen Moore

Congresswoman Gwen Moore
Congresswoman Gwen Moore

The first week of 2005 saw two notable passages: the death of Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress, and the congressional inauguration of Gwen Moore. Wisconsin's first African-American member of Congress, Moore took her official oath of office on Jan. 4, using a Bible from her late mother.

In her hometown of Milwaukee, hundreds of people -- black, white, Hispanic and even Hmong -- gathered to usher in the tenure of this former teenage mom. On and off welfare during her years as a student at Marquette University, Moore became a housing activist and policy analyst. She then spent 16 years in the Wisconsin Legislature before winning the seat previously held by House Democrat Jerry Kleczka, who retired from Congress after almost 21 years.

Despite her historical accomplishment, Moore, a famously blunt speaker, remains grounded. "People have a BS meter," she tells NPR's Jacki Lyden. "People who don't agree with you want to know that you're for real. As the young people say, they want you to keep it real."

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