US Senator Dianne Feinstein Dead At 90

California's longest-standing senator and one of the longest-standing women in U.S. congressional history, Dianne Feinstein, has died at age 90 (via NBC).

Dianne Feinstein's career in American politics spanned more than 50 years and embodied a willingness to reach across the political aisle and a dedication to standing firm on one pro-social issue after another, including women's rights, environmental protection, fighting the United States' use of torture following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, and ongoing attempts to introduce stricter gun control legislation. Feinstein's political career started way back in 1969 at the age of 36 when she became the first woman elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors without being appointed to a panel. In 1978 she became San Francisco's mayor following the assassination of Harvey Milk, and in 1992 she became a Californian senator. She held the position until her death, although had planned to retire at the end of the current term.

A legendary, storied career

"It would be impossible to write the history of California politics, it would be impossible to write the history of American politics without acknowledging the trailblazing career of Sen. Dianne Feinstein," Politico quotes former Dianne Feinstein staffer and Senator Alex Padilla. Feinstein always showed an affinity for politics, going back to her university days at Stanford when she was vice president for its student body. The daughter of a prominent surgeon and University of California professor, Leon Goldman, Feinstein was in a position to not just have opinions, but do something about them for the greater good. And so, after graduating in 1955 with a B.S. in history, she worked at the California district attorney's office. This segued into a career in politics when Californian Governor Edmund Brown appointed her to the Board of Trust of the California Institution for Women, which oversaw women's prison sentences and parole conditions.

After two unsuccessful mayoral vies in San Francisco, the tragic 1978 death of Mayor Harvey Milk — the state's first openly gay government official — provided Feinstein with the path she needed to become mayor and eventually senator in 1992. In that role, Feinstein was a relentless advocate for a sensible, tempered approach to countless issues. Aside from protecting California's natural lands, The Cut defines gun control, civil rights, and abortion rights as some of Feinstein's standout concerns.

[Featured image by Nancy Wong via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and scaled | CC BY-SA 3.0]

Not unaccustomed to tragedy

As Politico describes, Dianne Feinstein came under fire during the Trump administration — a time of extreme sociopolitical polarization within the U.S. — for being centrist and displaying a willingness to work with those of opposing political slants. But as John Burton, former California Democratic Party chair, said, Feinstein "got s*** done by working with people on both sides of the aisle and refusing to get caught up in unnecessary nonsense. To those lining up to run for her seat, I hope you honor the fact that this powerful lady blazed the trail for you."

In her personal life, Feinstein persevered through multiple tragedies. Her second husband, Bertram Feinstein, died in 1978 from colon cancer. Her third and final husband, Richard Blum, died of lung cancer very recently in 2022, as the San Francisco Chronicle recounts. Across three marriages Feinstein had one daughter, Katherine, with her first husband Jack Berman, whom she divorced after three years. As a child, Feinstein survived an abusive mother who hated Feinstein's Jewish heritage, as The Cut describes. Add to all these events the assassination of colleagues like Harvey Milk, her daughter Katherine surviving an assassination attempt by a bomb at age 19, and watching the AIDS epidemic come into full swing in San Francisco, and it's clear Feinstein's character was sterner than steel.

In her late life Feinstein received care from Nancy Pelosi's daughter, per Politico. Feinstein is survived by her daughter, Katherine.