Former U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Furse (D-Ore.) died April 17 at age 84. She served three terms in Congress from 1993 to 1999, representing a district that stretched from Portland’s West Hills to Astoria.
Furse was born in Kenya to a British military family and raised in South Africa, where she marched against apartheid at age 15 before later immigrating to the U.S. Furse was remembered for her advocacy on behalf of tribal sovereignty, LGBTQ+ rights, reproductive health and the environment.
“Our mom often mentioned how meaningful it was to come full circle,” said her daughter Amanda Briggs, “from protesting apartheid as a child to witnessing the beginning of the post-apartheid South Africa with the inauguration of Nelson Mandela”—which she attended as a congresswoman.
Oregon’s current congressional leaders praised her leadership: “She was a trailblazer and an inspiration to many—including me,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), who now serves in the 1st District seat Furse held. “Elizabeth Furse made the world a better place, and she will be missed.”
“Former Rep. Elizabeth Furse lived the Jewish concept of tikkun olam with every fiber of her being, repairing the world to help Tribal communities, strengthen women’s health care and support vulnerable Americans everywhere,” wrote U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore). “I’ll miss her tremendously.”