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  Elizabeth Furse, former Oregon congresswoman, has died   Her husband John Platt says she suffered from complications after she fell  

Story by Aubra Salt - The Oregon Herald
Published on Wednesday April 21, 2021 - 1:46 PM

PORTLAND, Oregon - The woman who represented northwestern Oregon in Congress for three terms in the 1990 has died. Her husband John Platt said she suffered from complications after she fell, all too common for the elderly. She was 84 when she died on Sunday.

Furse helped five Oregon tribes regain federal recognition, represented Native American rights, and worked to advance the rights of women, children and farm workers and advocated for peace and nuclear disarmament.

Her daughter, Amanda Briggs, remembers growing up without grapes farmworkers had harvested because her mom was sympathetic to the Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers.

"My brother and I probably never had grapes in our entire life because our whole childhood was the boycott! So she was a very engaged social activist her entire life," Briggs said.

She remembers her mother reciting a true story when she was a teenager growing up in South Africa, protesting with her own against apartheid. Both were beaten by thugs.

Briggs believes the beatings helped fire her mother's passion for justice.

"A deep sort of unwavering belief in the power of social justice and the importance of having a voice – a voice against power if necessary. Even if it puts you at risk," Briggs said.

Furse was a lifelong Democrat and was elected in 1992 to the U.S. House representing Oregon's 1st District without ever having held elected office.

At 27-years-old and in office, Briggs developed diabetes and remembers telling her mother how expensive the treatment was for her. Medicare and most insurance did not cover much of it.

Congresswoman Elizabeth Furse became busy with her duties and helped enact two laws that changed many things.

Briggs became very emotional sharing that story with a friend who also had diabetes but had never met her mother.

"In a funny way that was my mother's way of giving me a hug about having diabetes. And my friend said to me, your mother gave a hug to everyone who had diabetes," said Briggs.

It's a great legacy to consider that in her way she touched everyone with the same disease I have," Briggs added.

After six years in office, Furse announced she was done. She believed in term limits and wanted someone else to take her seat.

She eventually became the founding director of Portland State University's Institute for Tribal Government.