“Women make up 51% of the population in North Carolina. Because women represent such a large segment of our community, they should have a significant presence in our state legislature, and believe me, women most certainly have what it takes to be legislators,” says Senator Valerie Foushee.
Senator Foushee is a Democratic member of the North Carolina General Assembly, representing Chatham and Orange Counties in the 23rd district. A life-long resident of Orange County, Senator Foushee began her 20-year career in public office as a mother with two young children and evolved into a state leader determined to use her elected position as an advocate for women and families.
Senator Foushee began her public service at the local level when she was elected to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board in 1997. Senator Foushee’s decision to get involved in public service was rooted in her experience as a mother. When her oldest son started school, he was placed in a program for “at-risk” students without her consultation. Aware of the impacts these programs have on students, Senator Foushee was frustrated by this decision, asserting that students of color and specifically black students who are enrolled in these programs at a young age are tracked into similar programs for the rest of their academic lives and kept from long-term academic achievement.
This prompted Senator Foushee to become increasingly involved in school governance, where she linked forces with other mothers and learned how disparities in education were impacting students in schools. When asked how she came to run for school board, she said, “these mothers were some of the first people I turned to for support and guidance when I was thinking about running for public office, making education a key piece of my political trajectory moving forward.”
Senator Foushee made headlines, becoming the first African American woman elected to the Orange County Board of Commissioners, eventually leading to serve in the North Carolina House of Representatives and later joining the North Carolina Senate. A fierce champion for women’s rights, Senator Foushee has worked to introduce legislation that prioritizes the needs of women and their families. This has included ensuring equal pay between women and men for equal work, prohibiting incarcerated women from being bound during labor or delivery, and ensuring livable environmental and housing conditions for families across the state. Foushee remains committed in her efforts to directly improve women’s quality of life, stating “I and other women in the legislature are working hard to keep women’s issues at the forefront of our work.”