- Singer, actress, director, and producer
- Founder of the Hollywood Women’s Political Caucus
Barbra Streisand is an award-winning singer, actress, director, and producer. She is also a highly visible, outspoken advocate for Democratic Party candidates and leftist causes.
Streisand was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 1942. Her father, Emanuel, was a grammar school teacher, and her mother, Diana, was a school secretary. Her biological father died when she 15 months old.
Streisand attended Erasmus Hall High School, where she sang in the school choir with Neil Diamond. She graduated in 1959, and for the next few years she performed in a number of nightclubs and on local television variety shows. In 1964 she landed the role of Fanny Brice in the Broadway hit Funny Girl, and over the next forty years she became a dominant force in the entertainment industry, enjoying an enduring and illustrious career as a stage performer, singer, and movie actress. Streisand has starred in such films as The Way We Were, Yentl, and the Prince of Tides. She is the first person to have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award during her career. Her lifetime music album sales rank second only to those of Elvis Presley.
In June 1999 Streisand signed on to a full-page USA Today ad by Handgun Control, Inc. This “Open Letter to the National Rifle Association” demanded the implementation of a number of gun-control measures, including mandatory child-safety locks, background checks, and 72-hour waiting periods for all handgun purchases. Among the other notable signatories to the ad were Alec Baldwin, Candice Bergen, Walter Cronkite, Phil Donahue, Bonnie Raitt, Julia Roberts, and Bruce Springsteen.
In 2000 Streisand was a signatory to a letter addressed to President Bill Clinton, asking him to place a moratorium on federal death penalty executions. The letter specifically opposed the scheduled execution of death row inmate Juan Garza, stating, “We cannot bring Mr. Garza or others back if we decide that they were the victims of a death penalty system distorted by bias and arbitrariness.” Garza was a convicted drug dealer who had murdered three people in the U.S. and was suspected of four more killings in Mexico. Other signers of the letter included Mary Frances Berry, Julian Bond, Wade Henderson, Jesse Jackson, Norman Lear, Robert Reich, George Soros, and Jim Wallis.
An ardent environmentalist, Streisand claims that Republicans are to blame for “poison in the water, salmonella in the food, carbon dioxide in the air, and toxic waste in the ground.” While she urges ordinary Californians to do their part for energy conservation and environmental protection, one of Streisand’s numerous homes is a 10,000-square-foot oceanfront mansion in Malibu that some environmentalists believe is contributing significantly to coastline erosion. Streisand initiated an unsuccessful $50 million lawsuit for "invasion of privacy" against one environmentalist organization that had photographed her house and made the foregoing observation.
Streisand passionately believes that “global warming” is caused by human industrial activity, and that the U.S. should do more to combat the problem. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, she said, “We are in a global warming emergency state and these storms are going to become more frequent, more intense … I mean, for the United States not to be part of the Kyoto treaty is unforgivable.”
In 2002 Streisand accused President George W. Bush of being “a destructive man” guilty of “poisoning our air and water” and “poisoning our political system as well.” “The Clinton administration left this country with a budget surplus,” she added, “and also a surplus in the goodwill we shared with our allies. Now we have a deficit in both.”
At an October 2002 Democratic Party fundraiser in Hollywood, Streisand blasted the Bush administration for “bringing the country to the brink of war [in Iraq] unilaterally five weeks before an election.”
Two months later, Streisand was a signatory to a letter addressed to President Bush and drafted by Artists United to Win Without War, expressing opposition to America's seemingly imminent attack on Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. “A pre-emptive military invasion of Iraq will harm American national interests,” the letter stated. “…We reject the doctrine -- a reversal of long-held American tradition -- that our country, alone, has the right to launch first-strike attacks.” Additional signers included Edward Asner, Kim Basinger, Mike Farrell, Mia Farrow, Danny Glover, Robert Greenwald, Bonnie Raitt, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Martin Sheen, Gloria Steinem, and Howard Zinn.
Streisand has held many fundraisers and given many performances and speeches on behalf of the Democratic Party and hundreds of its candidates for House and Senate seats. In recent years, she has been an avid backer of Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Gore/Lieberman presidential ticket of 2000, and the Kerry/Edwards presidential ticket of 2004.
In November 2007 Streisand publicly endorsed Hillary Clinton for the following year’s presidential election. “Madame President of the United States,” Streisand said, “it’s an extraordinary thought.... Hillary is a powerful voice for change as we find our country at an important crossroads. Under her leadership, our country will regain its respect within the global community. She will prioritize issues of global climate change, universal health care and rebuilding a strong economy. After eight long years, the public will once again have faith in their government.”
After Mrs. Clinton failed to secure the Democratic presidential nomination in June 2008, Streisand shifted her support to Barack Obama.
At the annual Women in Entertainment breakfast in Los Angeles on December 9. 2015, Streisand received the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award. In her acceptance speech, she urged American women to band together and vote for Hillary Clinton in the upcoming presidential election. "We [women] come from the heart," said Streisand, "and our instinct for love and compassion is something that this chaotic world needs more than ever. But that means all of us have to get the rest of us out to vote." Streisand also spoke out about how "gender discrimination drives me crazy," adding: "Women are still treated as second-class citizens in the workplace and equal representation in Congress. In the last 55 years, almost all heart disease research has been done on men. Gender inequality even extends to mice in the labs: They're all male! So even female mice are discriminated against."
Over the years, Streisand has given money to the campaigns of numerous political candidates, all Democrats. Among the donees were Tammy Baldwin, Barbara Boxer, Sherrod Brown, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, Richard Durbin, John Edwards, Sam Farr, Al Gore, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Patrick Leahy, John Lewis, Jim McGovern, Cynthia McKinney, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Al Sharpton, Hilda Solis, and Tom Udall. She also has made contributions to EMILY’S List, the Moveon.org Voter Fund, Progressive Democrats of America, and Progressive Majority.
In 1986 Streisand established and endowed the Streisand Foundation, through which she supports organizations that share her political and social ideals in such areas as environmental activism, civil rights, race relations, civil liberties, gay rights, voter education, women’s rights (including abortion rights), nuclear disarmament, gun control, poverty, and AIDS. Margery Tabankin has been the Foundation's executive director since 1988.
Streisand’s Internet blog is devoted almost entirely to scathing condemnations of the Bush administration and Republicans generally.