Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) passed away at age 90, it was confirmed on Friday morning.
The oldest member of the U.S. Senate, Feinstein had suffered health issues this past year, including a bout of shingles that kept her absent from the upper chamber for months. In August she was briefly hospitalized after suffering a fall in her home.
Feintstein began her political career in 1961 when Gov. Pat Brown appointed her to the California Women’s Board of Terms and Paroles.
A number of firsts followed. Feinstein was the first woman Mayor of San Francisco, and the first woman elected Senator from California, and the first woman to chair the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
In 1984 Feinstein became the first woman vetted for the position of Presidential running mate—by Democratic candidate Walter Mondale, though he ultimately chose Geraldine Ferraro.
She was elected to the Senate in 1992, dubbed the “year of the woman” when, in response to the treatment of attorney Anita Hill during the Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991, many women took it as a sign that they did not have adequate representation in Congress—including just two in the Senate at the time.
In February of this year, Feinstein announced she would retire at the end of her term in 2024, (amid which several California House members, including Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter and Adam Schiff tossed in their hats for the Democratic nomination for her seat.
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) will appoint a replacement in the aftermath of Feinstein’s death. He has already vetted Lee, having done so when he chose then-state Secretary of State Alex Padilla to replace then-Sen. Kamala Harris as she departed for the Vice Presidency, and he has previously committed to choosing a Black woman should he get the chance to make another appointment.
Words of honor began pouring in for Feinstein from her colleagues in the Senate Friday. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, “She’s a legend. A legend in California as the first woman senator. A legend in the Senate. She was the leader on so many different issues.”
Later in the day on the floor of the Senate, his voice shaking, Schumer added, “Today, there are 25 women serving in this chamber, and every one of them will admit they stand on Dianne’s shoulders.”
He was followed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who called Feinstein “our dear colleague and friend.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) lowered the U.S. Capitol flags to half staff, honoring Feinstein as a “trailblazer.”
And House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, “Dianne Feinstein, right from the start, was an icon for women in politics.”