Congresswoman Kaptur, of Polish-American heritage with humble, working-class roots, mirrors the bootstrap nature of her district. Her family operated a small grocery where her mother worked after serving on the original organizing committee of an auto trade union at the Champion Spark Plug Company.
Congresswoman Kaptur became the first member of her family to attend college, receiving a scholarship for her undergraduate work. Trained as a city and regional planner, she practiced 15 years in Toledo and throughout the country. Appointed as an urban adviser to the Carter White House, she helped maneuver 17 housing and neighborhood revitalization bills through the Congress during those years.
Subsequently, while pursuing a doctorate in urban planning and development finance at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the local Democratic Party recruited her to run for the House seat in 1982. Kaptur had been a well-known party activist and volunteer since age 13. Although she was outspent by a 3-to-1 margin, she parlayed her deep roots in the blue-collar neighborhoods of Toledo and the rural areas of the district to pull the national upset of 1982.
Congresswoman Kaptur fought vigorously to win a seat on the House Appropriations Committee . She has risen in seniority and now serves as the senior Democratic woman on the committee. She has secured appointments to three important subcommittees: Defense, Agriculture, the leading industry in her state; and Transportation/Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Congresswoman Kaptur was also appointed by party leadership to serve on the prestigious House Budget Committee for the 112th Congress.
Kaptur is the first Democratic woman to serve on the Defense subcommittee. During her legislative career, she has also served on the Banking and Veterans Affairs Committees.
Dedicated to the principle that fiscal responsibility begins in "one's own backyard," Congresswoman Kaptur has consistently returned money to the federal Treasury. She refuses to accept congressional pay raises and donates them to offset the federal deficit and charitable causes in her home community.
As co-chair of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus, she has lead efforts to establish a Congressional-Rada exchange program. She is the key sponsor of regulatory changes that force accountability on Russian food aid relief, helping to insure $1 billion in U.S. resources go to people in need, not into the black market or pockets of government bureaucrats. As leader on issues related to international trade and human and labor rights, Kaptur will continue to assess the impact of North American Free Trade Agreement and actively engage upcoming trade negotiations like the Columbia, Korea, and Panama agreements on the side of workers.
Kaptur is a native of Toledo, Ohio, a member of Little Flower Roman Catholic Church, and a graduate of St. Ursula Academy. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in history from the University of Wisconsin in 1968 and a master's in urban planning from the University of Michigan. In 1993, Congresswoman Kaptur was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree by the University of Toledo in recognition of her "effective representation of the community." St. Ursula Academy named Kaptur Alumna of the Year in 1995. She is recipient of the Taubman College Distinguished Alumna award from the University of Michigan, making her the first woman so recognized and the first graduate of the Urban and Regional Planning Program to be so honored.
Kaptur recently received the Director's Award from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University for her commitment to increased understanding and appreciation of the peoples and cultures of Eurasia, Russia and East Europe. She was named the National Mental Health Association's "Legislator of the Year" for her championing mental health and received the 2002 Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
Kaptur is also the author of a book, Women in Congress: A Twentieth Century Odyssey, that was published by Congressional Quarterly in 1996.