Donna F. Edwards (1958- )

Congresswoman Donna Edwards
Public Domain

Elected to Congress in 2008, Donna Edwards was a Democratic member of U.S. House of Representatives, representing the 4th Congressional District of Maryland.

Donna Edwards was born on June 28, 1958 in Yanceyville, North Carolina. Her father served in the U.S. Air Force, so Edwards attended 14 schools worldwide before moving to Maryland for her high school senior year. Edwards then attended Wake Forest University, graduating in 1984 with a BA in English and Spanish. She was one of only six African American women in her class.

Edwards settled in Prince George’s County, Maryland where she raised her only son, Jared from after her divorce. Prior to her political career, Edwards worked with the United Nations Development Program, and then as a systems engineer with the Spacelab program at Lockheed Corporation’s Goddard Space Flight Center. During the 1980s, Edwards worked as a clerk for then district judge Albert Wynn when he served in the Maryland House of Delegates. She later earned a JD from Franklin Pierce Law Center in New Hampshire (now known as the University of New Hampshire School of Law) in 1989.

Edwards also was involved in numerous community organizations prior to entering political office. She co-founded, chaired, and served as the first executive director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, a legal support and advocacy group for battered women. She was instrumental in helping to pass the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. Edwards also headed the Center for a New Democracy and was a lobbyist for the nonprofit Public Citizen organization. She also served on numerous nonprofit boards including Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, and the League of Conservation Voters.

Since 2000, Edwards has served as executive director of the Arca Foundation. Founded in 1952 as the Nancy Reynolds Bagley Foundation, the foundation was renamed the Arca Foundation in 1958. Since its inception, the Arca Foundation has made grants totaling over $50 million including funding lobbying efforts against U.S. policy in Central America. Since 1994, the Arca Foundation has donated to organizations and politicians working to normalize relations between Cuba and the United States.

After a controversial Democratic primary loss to Rep. Albert Wynn in 2006, she defeated Wynn two years later in the primary in 2008. Later that year, she filled the congressional seat after winning a special election when Wynn resigned mid-term. She served on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the Science and Technology Committee, and the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.

On April 27, 2009, Edwards was arrested outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington D.C., during a protest against genocide in Darfur. She and four other members of Congress protested the blocking of aid to victims. She ran for U.S. Senate in 2016 in the primary to replace retiring Senator Barbara Mikulski but was defeated by Chris Van Hollen in the Democratic primary. Edwards left public office when her term expired in January 2017. On July 7, 2017, Edwards announced she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. In 2018, Edwards ran for Prince George’s County Executive, but lost to Angela Alsobrooks. She currently lives in Fort Washington, Maryland.