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Ayanna Pressley
Rep. Ayanna Pressley, 117th Congress.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 7th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2019
Preceded by Mike Capuano
Member of the Boston City Council
In office
January 4, 2010 – January 3, 2019
Preceded by Sam Yoon
Succeeded by Althea Garrison
Personal details
Ayanna Soyini Pressley

(1974-02-03) February 3, 1974 (age 50)
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Other political
Working Families Party
Conan Harris
(m. 2014)
Children 1 stepdaughter

Ayanna Soyini Pressley (born February 3, 1974) is an American politician who has served as the U.S. representative for Massachusetts's 7th congressional district since 2019. This district includes the northern three quarters of Boston, most of Cambridge, parts of Milton, as well as all of Chelsea, Everett, Randolph, and Somerville. Before serving in the United States House of Representatives, Pressley served as an at-large member of the Boston City Council from 2010 through 2019. She was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2018 after she defeated the ten-term incumbent Mike Capuano in the Democratic primary election for Massachusetts' 7th congressional district and ran unopposed in the general election. Pressley was the first black woman elected to the Boston City Council and the first black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts. Pressley is a member of "The Squad", a group of left-wing progressive Congress members.

Early life and education

Pressley was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Her mother, Sandra Pressley (née Echols), worked multiple jobs to support the family and also worked as a community organizer for the Chicago Urban League advocating for tenants' rights. Her father, Martin Terrell, was incarcerated throughout Pressley's childhood, but eventually earned multiple degrees and taught at the college level. The marriage ended in divorce.

Pressley grew up on the north side of Chicago and attended Francis W. Parker School, where she was a cheerleader, did modeling and voice-over work, and was a competitive debater. During her senior year of high school, she was voted the "most likely to be mayor of Chicago" and was the commencement speaker for her class.

Pressley's mother later moved to Brooklyn, where she worked as an executive assistant and remarried. When Pressley was elected to the Boston City Council, her mother would often attend the public meetings, wearing a hat that said "Mama Pressley".

From 1992 to 1994, Pressley attended the College of General Studies at Boston University, before leaving school to take a full-time job at the Boston Marriott Copley Place to support her mother, who had lost her job. She took further courses at Boston University Metropolitan College.

Early political career

After leaving Boston University Metropolitan College, Pressley worked as a district representative for Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II (DMA), for whom she had interned during college. She became Kennedy's scheduler, then worked as constituency director, before becoming the political director and senior aide for Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) In 2009, Pressley served as Kerry's political director.

Boston City Council

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Supporters of Pressley's 2009 Boston City Council campaign march in the 2009 Dorchester Day Parade

Pressley was first elected to the Boston City Council in November 2009. Upon being sworn in on January 4, 2010, she was the first woman of color to serve in the 100-year history of the Boston City Council.

Pressley placed a strong focus to women's and children's issues. Pressley founded the Committee on Healthy Women, Families, and Communities, which addresses issues such as domestic violence and child abuse.

Ayanna Pressley Feb 2011
Pressley speaking in 2011

In June 2014, the Boston City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Pressley coauthored with Councilor Michelle Wu, which prohibits its city government "from contracting with any health insurer that denies coverage or 'discriminates in the amount of premium, policy fees, or rates charged...because of gender identity or expression". This ordinance guaranteed healthcare (including gender reassignment surgery, hormone therapy, and mental health services) to transgender city employees and their dependents. Pressley declared, "We can't be a world-class city if anyone is made to feel like a second-class citizen."

Pressley worked on the issue of liquor licenses in the city. The ultimate product of Pressley's push was the passage of state legislation in 2014 granting Boston the authority to distribute 75 additional liquor licenses over a three year period, with the aim of distributing them to less advantaged neighborhoods in order to increase economic activity in those neighborhoods. However, The Boston Globe's Meghan Irons observed that an unintentional impact of this was that, "it created uneven competition. It left out certain neighborhoods. It allowed businesses that were already established to get the licenses." Nevertheless, in 2018, The New York Times called Pressley's work on the matter a "major accomplishment". To remedy the shortfalls, Pressley worked with Mayor Walsh to further expand the number of new available liquor licenses. In 2017, Pressley and Mayor Walsh unveiled a proposal to increase the number of liquor license in the city by 152 over a three year period, with the majority of licenses being granted to underserved communities.

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Pressley (far left) with fellow city councilor Tito Jackson, Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Elizabeth Warren, and Suffolk County Clerk of Courts Criminal Business Maura Hennigan at the Boston Caribbean Carnival parade in August 2012

In 2017, the Council passed the Equity in City of Boston Contracts Ordinance, which was sponsored by Pressley and Councilor Michelle Wu. It required that the city create a supplier diversity program to conduct outreach to female and minority-owned businesses in regards to the city contracting process. It also required the city to actively solicit bids from at least one female-owned business and one minority-owned business for contracts under $50,000. It also created a quarterly reporting requirement for the city.

Ayanna Pressley at the Reggie Lewis Center
Pressley speaking at a Boston campaign rally for the 2013 Senate election campaign of Ed Markey

In the Boston City council election of November 2011, Pressley finished first among at-large candidates with 37,000 votes. She led in 13 of the city's 22 wards and finished second in three others. Pressley won Boston's communities of color and many progressive neighborhoods. In all, she placed first in more than half of Boston's 22 wards. Pressley placed first ticket again in November 2013 and November 2015, and placed second in November 2017 behind only Michelle Wu.

While on the Boston City Council, Pressley was one of the first notable Massachusetts politicians to endorse Elizabeth Warren's successful campaign in Massachusetts' 2012 U.S. Senate election.

U.S. House of Representatives

Ayanna Pressley Portrait
Pressley during the 116th Congress

Pressley is the first black woman elected to represent Massachusetts in Congress. With the November election victory of Jahana Hayes in Connecticut's 5th congressional district, they became the first women of color to be elected to Congress from New England.

Pressley is a member of the informal group known as "The Squad", whose members form a unified front to push for progressive changes such as the Green New Deal and Medicare-for-all. The other original members of "The Squad" are Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Pressley is the oldest and most politically experienced of the four, and she was asked by the group to act as their spokesperson after then-President Donald J. Trump attacked them.

In an interview with The Boston Globe in July 2019, Pressley said her office received death threats after President Trump's tweets on July 14, 2019, and in general since her election.

In May 2019, Pressley gave the commencement address to the graduates of University of Massachusetts Boston.

On September 17, 2019, Pressley filed a resolution that called for the House Judiciary Committee to launch impeachment proceedings against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

In November 2019, Pressley introduced a criminal justice reform resolution that called for abolishing cash bail, capital punishment and solitary confinement, and shrinking the U.S. prison population by greater than 80 percent. The house resolution was called The People's Justice Guarantee.

In July, 2021, Pressley joined Cori Bush and Ilhan Omar in sleeping on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to protest the expiration of the eviction moratorium during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.

On November 5, 2021, Pressley was one of six House Democrats who broke with their party and voted against the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, as it was decoupled from the social safety net provisions in the Build Back Better Act.

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Political positions


Pressley is an advocate of Medicare for All.

In May 2019, Pressley and Senator Cory Booker introduced the Healthy MOMMIES Act, legislation that would expand Medicaid coverage in an attempt to provide comprehensive prenatal, labor, and postpartum care with an extension of the Medicaid pregnancy pathway from 60 days to a full year following birth for the purpose of assuring new mothers have access to services unrelated to pregnancy. The bill also directed Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program's Payment and Access Commission report its data regarding doula care coverage under state Medicaid programs and subsequently develop strategies aimed at improving access to doula care.

Civil liberties

Pressley has supported the U.S. national anthem protests, which have been used to bring attention to the disproportionate rate of which police brutality affects black people.

On March 5, 2019, Pressley proposed lowering the voting age from 18 years old to 16 in an amendment she introduced in Congress. This was her first amendment on the House floor and was intended to amend the For the People Act of 2019. Her amendment was defeated 305–126–2, with a slight majority of the Democrats and one Republican voting in favor.

On December 5, 2019, Pressley, Cory Booker, and Representatives Cedric Richmond, Marcia Fudge, and Barbara Lee introduced the Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act to ban discrimination based on hair textures and hairstyles that are commonly associated with a particular race or national origin.


In June 2018, Pressley called for the defunding of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, saying the law enforcement agency poses an "existential threat" to immigrant communities. In June 2019, Pressley was one of four Democratic representatives to vote against the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Humanitarian Assistance and Security at the Southern Border Act (H.R. 3401), a $4.5 billion border funding bill sponsored by Nita Lowey that required Customs and Border Protection enact health standards for individuals in custody such as forming standards for individuals for "medical emergencies; nutrition, hygiene, and facilities; and personnel training."


On April 9, 2019, Pressley was one of four House Democrats to introduce the Be HEARD Act, legislation intended to abolish the tipped minimum wage along with ending mandatory arbitration and pre-employment nondisclosure agreements. The bill would also give workers additional time to report harassment.

Student loan forgiveness

In early February 2021, Pressley supported a plan to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for approximately 44 million Americans who have federal student loans. She has asked President Biden to forgive this debt by using executive order rather than going through the legislative process that would likely get bogged down in partisanship. Pressley told The Boston Globe, "It's about an equitable economic recovery. If people really do believe that Black Lives Matter, then the only receipts that matter in this moment are budgets and policies."

Credit reports

As a city councilor, Pressley introduced an ordinance that would have prohibited the use of credit scores by employers in assessing prospective and existing hires.

As a congresswoman, Pressley was the author of a credit report reform bill titled the "Comprehensive Credit Reporting Enhancement, Disclosure, Innovation, and Transparency Act" ("CREDIT Act"). It passed the House 221-to-189 in January 2020. The resolution would have:

  • Placed limits on employers' use of credit scores in their hiring process
  • Provided greater oversight of the credit score industry by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  • Decreased the amount of time which most negative credit information remains in credit scores from a seven-year period to a four year period.
  • Decreased the amount of time that bankruptcy information remains on credit scores from ten years to seven years
  • Made it easier for individuals to request that "potentially material" errors on their credit reports be remedied
  • Provided expanded opportunities for those with student loans to improve their credit scores
  • Prohibited debt from "medically necessary" procedures from being reported
  • Placed greater delays on the reporting of other debt incurred from medical expenses
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Pressley at a town hall for Elizabeth Warren in November 2019

Public transit and infrastructure

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April 2023 press conference by Pressley (far right) and Senator Ed Markey (second from right) promoting their "Freedom to Move" legislation. They are joined by Boston Mayor Michelle Wu (second from left) and others

Pressley advocates for making public transit fare-free for users. In 2020, she co-authored the Freedom to Move Act with Senator Ed Markey, which would have offered $5 billion in annual competitive grants to transit agencies that offer fare-free transit access. She and Markey reintroduced the bill in April 2023.

On November 5, 2021, Pressley was one of six House Democrats who broke with their party and voted with a majority of Republicans against the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a $1.2 trillion infrastructure spending bill.

Voting age

In January 2023, Pressley was one of 13 cosponsors of an amendment to the Constitution of the United States extending the right to vote to citizens sixteen years of age or older.

Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023

Pressley was among the 46 Democrats who voted against final passage of the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 in the House.

Personal life

Ayanna Pressley and Conan Harris 49649433761
Pressley with her husband in 2019
Ayanna Pressley speaking on her alopecia, September 2020 (cropped)
Pressley speaking in the House chamber about her alopecia

Pressley lives in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood with her husband, Conan Harris, and her stepdaughter. In January 2019, her husband resigned from his position as a senior public safety adviser at Boston City Hall to form his own consulting firm, Conan Harris & Associates.

In January 2020, Pressley revealed that she had been diagnosed with alopecia areata, resulting in the loss of all of her hair; she said in a public announcement, "I want to be freed from the secret and the shame that that secret carries with it."

Pressley is a member of the nonprofit social and service organization The Links.

Honors and awards

  • 2012: Aspen-Rodel Fellow in Public Leadership, Class of 2012
  • 2012: Truman National Security Project Partner
  • 2014: Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, 10 Outstanding Young Leaders
  • 2014: Victim Rights Law Center, Leadership Award
  • 2015: Boston magazine, 50 Most Powerful People
  • 2015: EMILY's List, Gabby Giffords Rising Star Award
  • 2016: The New York Times, 14 Young Democrats to Watch
  • 2018: Boston magazine, 100 Most Influential People in Boston, #20
  • 2020: Children's HealthWatch Champion
  • 2021: Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa from Simmons University

See also

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