Elizabeth Warren, a high-profile presidential candidate in the 2020 race, speaks often about her childhood growing up in Oklahoma and her family's experience as a part of the working class. Warren's father, Donald Jones Herring, (opens in new tab) passed away in 1997, not long after her mother Pauline Herring died in 1997, but his legacy lives on through his daughter—and the political causes she's fighting for as she continues her campaign.
As a part of the, in her words (opens in new tab), "jagged edge of the middle class," Warren's father worked as a janitor/maintenance man. He was born in Oklahoma, according to his obituary (opens in new tab), and later served as an Army flight instructor during World War II. According to Warren, he fell "head over heels" for future wife Pauline, despite his family being bitterly opposed to the match because of the Native American heritage on her side of the family. The two eloped at a young age, eventually having four children (Warren was the youngest).
Herring had a heart attack (opens in new tab) when Warren was 12 years old. He subsequently lost his job and was out of work for a long time. "We lost our family station wagon, and we were about an inch away from losing our home," explained Warren in a Facebook message. Luckily, Warren's mother got a job and saved the house—teaching Warren a great deal about perseverance and the tenacity of mothers, according to her. Warren began waiting tables (opens in new tab) herself shortly after. Herring was eventually self-employed. "I used my Daddy's relentless optimism when I was balancing babies and books," remembers Warren of her later experiences as a working mom.
Warren also speaks about the connection her parents had. "From the time they were teenage sweethearts, my daddy bought my mother a heart-shaped box of chocolates every year. I still have a box of valentines that he gave her all those years ago," she said in an Instagram post (opens in new tab).
And she continues to speak fondly of both her parents. In a Father's Day message, she called Herring "a cool guy" who led by example of a father fighting for the wellbeing of his children:
A post shared by Elizabeth Warren (@elizabethwarren) (opens in new tab)
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She added, "He taught me to dream big and fight hard, and I wish I could call him today."
Katherine’s a Boston-based contributor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle—from “Clueless” to Everlane to news about Lizzo. She’s been a freelancer for 11 years and has had roles with Cosmopolitan and Bustle, with bylines in Parents, Seventeen, and elsewhere. It’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.
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