Nita Melnikoff Lowey

Nita Melnikoff Lowey

Nita M. Lowey is currently serving her twelfth term in Congress, representing New York’s 18th Congressional District. She was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1988. In 2001, Lowey became the first woman and the first New Yorker to chair the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Born and raised in the Bronx, Lowey graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1959. As a young mother, she ran a Parent-Teacher Association in Queens, which led to broader engagement with the community and politics. Lowey worked on a neighbor’s campaign—a neighbor named Mario M. Cuomo, who ultimately became New York’s governor—and later served as assistant secretary of state of New York.

In 1988, at age 50, Lowey defeated a conservative Republican opponent by the smallest of margins. Today, she’s one of the dozen legislators who control the appropriations process in the U.S. House of Representatives. As chair of a subcommittee that focuses on foreign aid, she is committed to expanding women’s opportunities well beyond her district.

Lowey has championed public education, school modernization, teacher development, and literacy programs. Under her leadership, federal funding for after-school programs increased from $1 million in 1996 to $1 billion in 2008. She’s also a leading proponent of stricter public safety laws and authored the first-ever bill mandating clear, concise food allergen labeling. Her legislation, enacted in 2006, was cited by the New York Times as “an all too rare example … of bipartisan cooperation to serve the public good.”

Class Year: 
1959

Mount Holyoke College

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