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Photos capture how Elizabeth Warren became an academic, a US Senator, and a leading Democratic presidential contender

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Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has forged a political identity as a fighter aiming to level the playing field for the American middle class. First a respected academic, Warren started rising to national prominence after the 2008 financial crisis. When she arrived to Washington, she blasted the lack of government accountability for the banks and financiers that nearly caused an economic meltdown.

Then she ran for the Senate in 2012 and won a competitive race against Republican incumbent Scott Brown, becoming the first female senator to represent Massachusetts.

Now she is seeking the presidency, centering her campaign on a progressive vision to tilt the economic scales of power away from corporations and the rich.

Read more: ‘I’ve got a plan’: Elizabeth Warren’s running as the policy wonk candidate and her poll numbers keep going up

On the campaign trail, she regularly talks about a critical juncture in her childhood: her mother’s decision to get a minimum-wage job answering phones at Sears.

In the 1960s, Warren’s father suffered a heart attack. He then lost his job as a salesman in Oklahoma City, and their options were very limited. Suddenly, the Warren family risked losing their home and were on the brink of financial ruin.

She credits her mother’s minimum-wage job with keeping the family out of poverty, which gave them the money to pay the bills and stay afloat during hard times. She pointed out that a similar job could support a family of three then.

“It’s a story about government. And about no matter how hard you work, the rules made by the people in government will still make the big difference in your life,” she said at a presidential candidate forum earlier this year.

Here’s how a spirited academic became an influential senator and now a leading contender for the presidency:

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