Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu
City Councilor At-Large Michelle Wu is the first woman of color to serve as Boston’s City Council president as well as the first Asian-American woman to serve on the council. The daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, Councilor Wu grew up in Chicago before attending Harvard College for her undergraduate and law education, where she was able to work and learn under Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. To this day, she uses her background as an attorney to serve small business owners and immigrants.
Councilor Wu is well-known for her boldly community-oriented and progressive policy proposals. As an Asian-American woman of color, she has an intimate connection to Boston’s Chinatown and has used her platform to advocate for Chinese-Americans against gentrification and development in the Leather District, as well as for immigrant-owned businesses in light of Asian-American racism during the COVID-19 pandemic. Growing up in a working-class immigrant household, Councilor Wu has a deep understanding of the hardships faced by first-generation and low-income Americans and the importance of community building in our city’s most vulnerable spaces. She has also sponsored the passage of legislation for paid parental leave, the prohibition of gender discrimination in healthcare, opportunity reform for minority- and women-owned businesses, and food access.
Some of Councilor Wu’s most well-known initiatives include the Free the T campaign, a call for fare-free transit for the MBTA in Greater Boston. Recognizing that access to transportation is critical for low-income families across the city and encourages more environmentally sustainable transportation options for all, Councilor Wu has made bold proposals for Boston, a historic city in many aspects, to lead the change in transportation equity in America. She has also advocated for abolishing the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), which oversees the process of construction and urban development in the city, and establishing a municipal public entity in its place. Councilor Wu has been very outspoken about the lack of community stakeholders in the current conversation around urban development, and she advocates for a system accessible not just to the wealthy.
Councilor Wu has also spoken extensively on the need to reallocate funding from the Boston Police Department to community-oriented programs and advocated municipal accountability for use of military-grade weapons against protestors.
-Aileen Luo WF’20
Born in Chicago with immigrant parents and the oldest of 4 kids, Councilor Michelle Wu saw and faced countless economic, societal, and cultural barriers while growing up. Against these odds she graduated valedictorian of her high school class in 2003 and found her way to Boston, studying at Harvard College. After graduating she would continue her studies at Harvard Law school. During this time she supported her family in all sorts of ways, opening a small family restaurant, caring for her mother, and becoming the legal guardian for her youngest sister.
Soon in 2010, she found herself working for Mayor Menino as a Rappaport Fellow in Law and Public Policy. It was during this time when she produced a Restaurant Roadmap guide and the Boston Food Truck Challenge to help local restaurant owners. After working for the mayor, Wu helped with her former Harvard Law School professor, Elizabeth Warren, with her 2012 campaign for the US Senate seat.
Having been involved in government and active in the community, it wasn’t long until November 2013 when, at age 28, Wu ran and was elected to the Boston City Council. Since then, Councilor Wu has pushed for major reforms while serving as the Council’s first Asian American woman and first WOC to serve as Council President. Notable work that she has done during her time includes sponsoring Boston’s Paid Parental Leave ordinance and Healthcare Equity ordinance. Current projects include the Free the T campaign which hopes to make public transportation more equitable for all and more environmentally friendly and the Climate Justice Report which works to address major climate reform for the City of Boston. Michelle Wu is a voice for her constituents, prioritizing racial equity, climate justice, and ensuring economic mobility for all.
-Jess Schnitzer WF’20
Today, Michelle Wu is widely recognized as a bold Boston politician advocating for fundamental change from her seat on the Boston City Council. However, Wu is originally from Chicago, where she grew up as the eldest daughter of immigrants from Taiwan. She attended high school there, during which time she was selected as a member of the prestigious U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, before moving to Boston to attend Harvard College. She ended up staying in the city, working as a consultant and opening a restaurant before attending Harvard Law School, where she was a student of Elizabeth Warren. During her time there, she used her legal training to assist domestic violence survivors in immigration cases as well as low-income small business owners.
While at Harvard Law, Wu also served as a Rappaport Fellow in Law and Public Policy for then-mayor Thomas Menino. While in his office, she played an instrumental role in setting Boston’s now ubiquitous food truck program in motion, among other projects. Her work with Mayor Menino, as well as her experience as Constituency Director for Warren’s Senate campaign, propelled her into the world of public service at a young age.
Wu was first elected to the City Council in 2013, and served as its president from January of 2016 to 2018. She was the first woman of color to do so, and was also the first president to give birth while in office. She has drawn on her own experiences as a mother of two young children and legal guardian of her sisters in sponsoring Boston’s Paid Parental Leave ordinance and Healthcare Equity ordinance, which forbids gender-based discrimination. Driven also by her experience as a first generation American, Councilor Wu has taken great steps to assist Boston’s immigrant and lower-income communities by providing increased access to translation services, as well as affordable, healthy food. She has also been outspoken about her desire to reform the city’s planning and development, public transportation system, and, most recently, budget (with regard to police funding).
Councilor Wu’s tireless efforts to combat Boston’s socioeconomic and racial inequality undeniably make her an accomplished politician, but it is her frank transparency and warm demeanor that truly make her the approachable Councilor with whom her constituents feel comfortable sharing their stories!
-Camille Shilland WF’20
Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu is bringing a much-needed change in the landscape of Boston’s political system today. Known for her progressive policies, Councilor WU ushers in a new era of young, progressive women in government, with a majority of women and people of color in the Boston city council today. She is the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants and grew up in the city of Chicago. She attended Harvard University for both college and law school, where she was a student of Elizabeth Warren. From there, she got her first glimpse at life in public service, working as a Rappaport fellow for Mayor Menino and as a Constituency Director in Warren’s bid for the U.S. Senate. She eventually decided to run for city council and won, becoming the first woman of color to serve as the council’s President, as well as the first to give birth while in office! She has been instrumental in shaping the city of Boston to what it is today, sponsoring the passage of legislation for paid parental leave, the prohibition of gender discrimination in healthcare, opportunity reform for minority- and women-owned businesses, and food access. Most notably, she has led the campaign to Free the T, advocating to make transportation more accessible to all. Currently, Councilor Wu has been outspoken on the allocation of funding from the Boston Police Department to community-led programs, ranging from public health and housing stability, to food access, mental health, and transit access. She also recently submitted a 17F order, which is an internal subpoena between the different branches of government, so as to hold the city accountable for its military-grade weapons, but especially the way that they’ve been using it against protesters.
-Miggy Antonio WF’20 (Babbitt Fellow)