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social sciences

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Maddow, Rachel (b. 1973)  
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On September 8, 2008, Rachel Maddow became the first out lesbian to host a prime-time television news program when The Rachel Maddow Show premiered in the 9:00 p.m. weekday slot on MSNBC.

Maddow has been a rising star of political commentary during the protracted 2008 presidential campaign. Widely noted for her keen intelligence, self-deprecating wit, and ever-present kindness and good cheer amid the often belligerent world of cable television, Maddow has been described as post-gay (or post-) in the same way that Barack Obama has tried to portray himself as post-racial.

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Although she instructs the television make-up crew to "do me up like you'd do a dude" (as she recounted in an interview in Velvet Park magazine), Maddow ventures onto the subject of her orientation only when others bring it up, because she believes deeply that she--and every other glbtq person--is just the same as everyone else. No explanations are necessary, no apologies owed.

In silently asserting her right to be treated as a first-class citizen, Maddow lays claim to that right for all marginalized groups and individuals.

Though a Rhodes Scholar with an Oxford doctorate, "Dr. Maddow" also exhibits more "regular-person" charm than anyone could possibly hope for, using expressions like "Holy mackerel" and "Duh-h-h" with abandon. She is a joyful specimen of a lesbian completely comfortable with herself.

Maddow's personal political development makes for a "great American story," as she remarked to Howard Kurtz in a pointed recollection of her youthful decision to vote Democratic in her first presidential election in 1992. Just 19, and only two years after she had come out, Maddow was horrified to hear Pat Buchanan's infamous speech at the Republican convention, in which he called for a "culture war" against left-wing ideas such as "homosexual rights." Feeling that her "country was declaring war on [her]," Maddow found welcome with Bill Clinton and never looked back.

Not until August 25, 2008, that is, when she recalled the experience as she sat as a member of the MSNBC political panel at the Democratic convention in Denver, with none other than Pat Buchanan himself seated to her left, occupying his own position as an MSNBC analyst. The two are frequent sparring partners on the network.

Born on April 1, 1973, Rachel Maddow is the daughter of a school program administrator mother and a lawyer father. Her father served stateside during the Vietnam War as a U.S. Air Force captain. She has one brother, named David.

Maddow grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and graduated from Castro Valley High School in Castro Valley, California. During high school she lettered in three sports and "started to figure out [she] was ."

Although her athletic ability garnered her several small-college athletic scholarship offers, they would have required her to delay enrolling in college in order for a shoulder injury to heal. She opted instead to attend Stanford University because she "decided [she] couldn't stay at home another year during [her] coming-out process!"

At Stanford, Maddow majored in public policy, receiving her B. A. in 1994. She became active with ACT UP and the AIDS Legal Referral Panel. She found her niche in the nexus of AIDS activism and the radical prison reform movement of the 1970s. She worked for such reforms as allowing secure hospices to take dying prisoners.

In her senior year at Stanford, Maddow was awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, which allowed her to attend Oxford University. To prove to her friends that the scholarship did not mean that she had sold out to the establishment, she shaved her head save one lock of hair, which she died blue.

Upon completing her coursework at Oxford, Maddow moved back to the United States to write her dissertation, which focused on the intersection of the AIDS and prison movements. She received her D. Phil. from Lincoln College, Oxford in 1999.

Upon completing the doctorate, Maddow returned to prison AIDS work, but had to take a variety of odd jobs to support herself.

One of those jobs was as a landscaper, and one of the assignments proved providential. As Maddow told Jacques Steinberg, when one landscaping client--artist/photographer Susan Mikula--opened the door, "We both went, 'Aaaaah.' It was love at first sight."

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