'Obama Women' Take Hold in Washington Politics

Seven of about three dozen senior positions on President Obama's team are filled by African American women--part of the evolution of their power in the business world, in academia and in policy circles.

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Like two old girlfriends catching up, they ignored onlookers, hugged and laughed.

Donna Brazile, the political strategist and Washington veteran, peppered Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson with questions.

"How are the kids?" "Have you contacted the church? I don't go every Sunday but they know me."

Before she left, Jackson had an open invitation to Brazile's place for home-cooked red beans and rice, served up every Monday night.

"The sisterhood in this town, there's deep history here," Jackson said.

The "Obama women" -- as African American women who've taken big jobs in his administration have been nicknamed -- mark another step in the long journey of black women from outsiders to gatekeepers in political Washington. They have quietly entered their jobs with little attention paid to the fact that they are the largest contingent of high-ranking black women to work for a president.

Many are firsts -- as in the first black woman to run the Domestic Policy Council, the first black EPA chief and the first black woman to be deputy chief of staff. Last week, Obama tapped Margaret (Peggy) Hamburg to lead the Food and Drug Administration. If confirmed, Hamburg -- who is biracial (her mother is African American, her father Jewish) -- will also be a first.

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