New Beginnings for Boston with Mayor Michelle Wu

Boston elects its first ever woman of color as mayor, ending a 200-year history of electing white men to the position.


Kenneth C. Zirkel / Wikimedia Commons

Michelle Wu makes history as Boston’s first woman, Asian American, and person of color to become the city’s mayor.

On November 2nd, 2021, Boston elected its first ever female Asian American mayor, Michelle Wu. This historic milestone puts an end to the city’s 200-year history of electing white men for the position. With about 64 percent of the vote, Wu won the election over Democrat Annissa Essaibi-George and fared better among all racial groups, including Hispanic, Black, and Asian voters. This extraordinary feat as the first woman and person of color to become mayor of Boston brings hope for reform in a changing city.  

Wu is the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, a heritage she embraces and cites as highly influential to her life. Growing up, Wu would often serve as the family interpreter, despite not being proficient in English, and assist with translations starting from the young age of four. Growing up in Chicago, Wu’s family were often targets of racial harassment. Nonetheless, her parents encouraged her to ignore such taunts, and to instead focus on “keeping your head down, and working harder.” These experiences later shaped her political aspirations and inspired her to go into politics to “break the cycle of invisibility,” as she said in an interview with NBC News

Wu’s historic win represents the culmination of a decade-long shift in Boston demographics, with the city’s overall population growing roughly 9.3 percent from 2010 to 2020 and the white population dropping from 47 percent to 44.6 percent. The Asian and Hispanic communities, in particular, experienced significant growth. Political representation has also become more diverse in recent years with the City Council becoming dominated by women and people of color. A changing demographic in Boston is a call to action to advocate for communities that have been previously marginalized.

Wu built her mayoral campaign on the basis of community and reform, focusing specifically on issues of equity, such as education, food access, affordable housing, and free public transit. Her campaign promised Boston residents “a more resilient, healthy, and fair Boston” that would strive to “take on [the] hardest challenges.” This would be done through efforts to close the wealth gap, support small local businesses, and push for racial, economic, and climate justice. As her campaign calls it, Wu’s platform is “more than a vision” that will bring much needed change and investments to the city. 

Wu’s mayorship adds to her already impressive résumé in politics. Prior to being elected mayor, Wu had been a member of the Boston City Council since January 2014 and is the first Asian American woman to serve in that position. She was first elected in November 2013 and has been re-elected three times. Throughout her political career, Wu has also been favored by the city’s progressives and endorsed by prominent politicians, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey.

Wu was sworn in on November 16th, 2021, and since then, she has made good on her promises. Her first act as mayor has been to divest the city from fossil fuels. She signed the ordinance bill on December 1st, 2021 in support of the Boston Green New Deal to work towards a greener and cleaner economy. The ordinance requires that Boston divest from fossil fuels, tobacco, and private prisons by the end of 2025. Many have applauded Wu for her first step as mayor. The Sierra Club, an environmental organization, praised Wu’s climate leadership and spoke highly of her. “Our new mayor understands that to build a resilient Boston, the city must divest from the corporations that are powering the accelerating climate crisis,” said Michele Brooks, Sierra Club’s Boston Lead Organizer.  

Wu’s inspiration comes from not only her parents but also her two children. “It makes a difference when moms are in charge, and for me, being a mom and raising two boys in this moment in our city and in our country’s history gives me an urgency to make sure that we’re getting things done,” Wu said. Wu’s status as a woman and Asian American brings hope for a new beginning in a changing Boston.

“Our new mayor understands that to build a resilient Boston, the city must divest from the corporations that are powering the accelerating climate crisis,” said Michele Brooks, Sierra Club’s Boston Lead Organizer.