Meghan Markle Cold-Calls Senators to Advocate for Paid Family Leave: 'This is Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex'

A spokesperson for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, confirmed to PEOPLE that she gave the senators' numbers to Meghan

Meghan Markle
Meghan Markle. Photo: NDZ/Star Max/GC Images

Meghan Markle is continuing her campaign for paid family leave by personally reaching out to senators about the issue.

The Duchess of Sussex is reaching out to members of Congress as an engaged citizen, calling both Democratic and Republican senators, according to the initial report by Politico.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito told the outlet she was driving in her car when she received a phone call with the number blocked.

"Honestly … I thought it was Sen. [Joe] Manchin. His calls come in blocked," said the Republican senator from West Virginia (Manchin, a Democrat, is her fellow senator from the state). "And she goes 'Sen. Capito?' I said, 'Yes.' She said, 'This is Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.'"

Added Capito, "I couldn't figure out how she got my number."

Republican senator from Maine Susan Collins also received an unexpected call from Meghan.

"I was happy to talk with her. But I'm more interested in what the people of Maine are telling me about it," Collins told Politico. "Much to my surprise, she called me on my private line and she introduced herself as the Duchess of Sussex, which is kind of ironic."

A spokesperson for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, confirmed to PEOPLE that she gave the senators' numbers to Meghan.

"I talked to each of the women senators and let them know that she's going to reach out, because she only completed two of the calls," Gillibrand said, according to Politico. "She's going to call some others, so I let them know in advance."

Gillibrand continued, "She wants to be part of a working group to work on paid leave long term and she's going to be. Whether this comes to fruition now or later, she'll be part of a group of women that hopefully will work on paid leave together."

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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Taylor Hill/WireImage

Last month, Meghan wrote an open letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer published by Paid Leave for All.

"Over the past 20 months, the pandemic has exposed long-existing fault lines in our communities," the mother to son Archie, 2, and daughter Lili, 5 months, said, setting up her argument for national paid leave. "At an alarming rate, millions of women dropped out of the workforce, staying home with their kids as schools and daycares were closed, and looking after loved ones full-time. The working mom or parent is facing the conflict of being present or being paid. The sacrifice of either comes at a great cost."

Noting that the American dream has over time become less about prosperity and more about achieving simple stability, she continues: "I grew up on the $4.99 salad bar at Sizzler—it may have cost less back then (to be honest, I can't remember)—but what I do remember was the feeling: I knew how hard my parents worked to afford this because even at five bucks, eating out was something special, and I felt lucky."

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Meghan Markle. NDZ/Star Max/GC Images

Both Meghan, 40, and Prince Harry, 37, both recently took 20 weeks of parental leave, in line with the policies of their Archewell Foundation.

"We knew we could take her home, and in that vital (and sacred) stage, devote any and everything to our kids and to our family," Meghan wrote. "We knew that by doing so we wouldn't have to make impossible choices about childcare, work, and medical care that so many have to make every single day."

"The families you represent need your strong leadership," Meghan urged. "Paid leave should be a national right, rather than a patchwork option."

Pelosi announced Wednesday that Democrats are adding paid family leave back into the $1.75 trillion social spending and climate policy bill. West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin currently opposes its inclusion.

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