Nancy Pelosi served as the first woman Speaker of the United States House of Representatives and the first woman in American history to lead a major political party in Congress.
Pelosi was born in Baltimore, Maryland, with a strong family tradition of public service. Her late father, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., served as Mayor of Baltimore for 12 years, after representing the city for five terms in Congress. Her brother, Thomas D’Alesandro III, also served as Mayor of Baltimore. In 1962, she graduated from Trinity College in Washington, DC. One year later, she married Paul Pelosi, a native of San Francisco, where they settled with their five children.
As Pelosi raised her children, she volunteered for the Democratic Party and served on the San Francisco Library Commission. In 1987, she won a special election to represent the city of San Francisco in the House of Representatives.
Pelosi’s colleagues elected her House Democratic Whip in 2001 and House Democratic Leader in 2002, making her the first woman to hold both positions. Finally breaking the marble ceiling of the Capitol, Pelosi was elected by her colleagues to serve as the first woman Speaker of the House from 2007 to 2011.
As Speaker, Pelosi spearheaded passage of the historic Affordable Care Act in the House and led the Congress in passing strong Wall Street reforms. A powerful voice for women’s rights, she was instrumental in passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to restore the ability of women and all workers to fight pay discrimination. Her legislative accomplishments also include the passage of historic investments in college aid, clean energy and innovation, and initiatives to help small businesses and veterans. Under Pelosi’s leadership, the 111th Congress was heralded as “one of the most productive Congresses in history” by Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein.
Pelosi has worked tirelessly to increase the number of women in public service, and through her leadership, she has paved the way for many more women to enter politics.