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Influential Women Series: Nancy Pelosi

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

In this series of Cheat Sheets, we are celebrating the lives and achievements of influential women, as chosen by our writers.

Today, we are taking a look into the life and political achievements of American politician and speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.

Influential Women Series: Nancy Pelosi

Who is Nancy Pelosi?

Pelosi was born in Baltimore to an Italian-American family. She was the only girl and the youngest of seven children of Annunciata M. Lombardi and Thomas D'Alesandro Jr. When Nancy was born, her father was a Democratic congressman from Maryland (he became Mayor of Baltimore seven years later). Pelosi's mother was also very active in politics.

Pelosi has been interested in politics since she was a child. She was a volunteer in her father's campaign. Pelosi graduated from the Institute of Notre Dame in Baltimore in 1958. In 1962, she graduated from Trinity College in Washington, D.C., with a Bachelor of Arts in political science.

How did she start her career in American politics?

Pelosi first ran for public office in 1987, when she won a special election in California's Eighth Congressional District. She has been a vocal advocate for increased financing of health research as well as other health care and housing programmes and initiatives; she also advocates for human rights and speaks out about environmental issues.

Pelosi was chosen as the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives in 2002, making her the first woman in history to do so. Four years later, she broke new ground for women in American politics once more. Pelosi was elected as the first female speaker of the House after the Democrats won majorities in both the House and the Senate in the 2006 midterm elections.

Her role as Speaker of the House and in the Impeachment of Donald Trump

Pelosi was a divisive figure in the House as the Democratic Party's leader under a Republican president. She was a vocal critic of President George W. Bush's stance on the war in Iraq and defended the withdrawal of troops from the region.

With the victory of Barack Obama in 2008, Pelosi was able to work with a president of the same party. She was a driving force behind the healthcare reform legislation that became the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in 2010, earning her even more criticism from the Republicans.

Pelosi was Speaker of the House until November 2010, when the Republican Party took control of the House, demoting Pelosi to minority leader.

After Democrats reclaimed control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections, Pelosi was re-elected House Speaker at the start of 2019, putting her at odds with President Donald Trump.

Pelosi announced in September 2019 that the House would launch a formal impeachment inquiry against President Trump. On 10th December, two articles of impeachment were announced. On 18th December, the House of Representatives approved both articles, formally impeaching Trump. On the day of Trump's Senate trial, The Washington Post political reporter Paul Kane referred to Pelosi as ‘the most powerful House Speaker in at least 25 years.’

Pelosi demanded that Trump either resign or be removed from office following the storming of the United States Capitol on 6th January 2021, threatening impeachment if this did not happen. On 13th January, the House of Representatives voted for a second time to impeach Trump.

Why is she considered an influential woman?

Nancy Pelosi is widely considered to be one of the most influential figures in US politics. Her rise to power and leadership have been marked by her intense partisanship, fundraising skills and her ability to forge coalitions within her own party.

She was one of the most outspoken opponents of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Pelosi was leading the charge when Democrats fought to protect reproductive rights, pass paid family leave, and hold the administration accountable.

Pelosi has been a long proponent for civil liberties and human rights. She discussed having to break a “marble ceiling” of a very male-oriented society to be elected as a woman in the US Congress. She also voted in favour of reauthorising the Violence Against Women Act.

Pelosi has long supported LGBTQ+ rights. In 1996, she voted against the Defense of Marriage Act and, in 2004 and 2006, she voted against the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment, which defined marriage as being only between one man and one woman. She also demonstrated her support for the prohibition of job discrimination based on sexual orientation. Similarly, she also endorsed the Equality Act to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In 2019, she spoke in Congress in favour of the bill and called for the end of discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.

Head to our Gender Issues & Feminism section to read about the other women who have inspired A News Education's writers.

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