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Speaker Pelosi Holds the Gavel

Speaker Nancy Pelosi wields the gavel on the floor of the House of Representatives in January 2019 surrounded by children. 

Nancy Pelosi is the 52nd person to serve as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. She is the first woman to hold the position and the highest-ranking elected female official in U.S. history.

“Being elected by my colleagues as the first woman Speaker is an honor,” Pelosi told me via email. “It has been 100 years since Congress passed the 19th Amendment, securing the right to vote for women, and how wonderful it is to serve with over 100 women in Congress today.”

Pelosi, who is a Democrat from California, has been elected House Speaker twice by her Congressional colleagues. She first served from 2007 until 2011. Her term ended when Democrats lost their majority to Republicans in the House. 

After Democrats regained control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections, Pelosi was elected Speaker for a second term. She took up the gavel again in January 2019 at a swearing-in ceremony, becoming the first lawmaker in more than half a century to hold the office of Speaker twice.



I asked Pelosi to describe her role in Congress. “As Speaker of the House,” she explained, “I lead the House of Representatives, which is the ‘People’s House,’ representing the voices and priorities of families and communities across the country.”

The Constitution calls for three co-equal branches of government. The first is the Legislative Branch, which includes the House and Senate. These individuals work together to makes the country’s laws. The other two branches are the Executive, led by the President, which enforces the laws; and the Judicial, led by the Supreme Court, which interprets them.                    

Pelosi has openly criticized Republican President Donald Trump for his policies on immigration, health care, and other issues. Many Democratic members of the House say that the president should be impeached, or officially charged with misconduct. He has been accused of welcoming Russia’s help during his 2018 presidential campaign and thwarting investigations into the matter. So far, however, Pelosi has not called for impeachment. 



Pelosi has represented San Francisco’s 12th District since 1987. Between 2002 and 2003, she served as the House minority whip, an individual who ensures that members vote according to a party’s platform. 

Pelosi told me that she and her Democratic colleagues are focused on such issues as “lowering the costs of health care and prescription drug prices, creating good-paying jobs by building the infrastructure of America, and fighting for a cleaner government in Washington.”

The Speaker said that her skills as a mother of five and a grandmother of nine have been invaluable in Congress. “I never imagined that I would go from housewife to House Speaker,” she wrote. “But the skills you learn as a mother—a diplomat, a problem-solver, and consensus-builder—are so critical in bringing people together in the Congress to advance progress for the American people.”

In 2013, Pelosi was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Seneca Falls, New York. It was there that Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and other activists gathered in 1848 to demand equal rights for women. The Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees women the right to vote, was finally adopted in 1920 after a decades-long battle in state and national legislatures.



Pelosi grew up in Maryland in a political family. She was the only girl in a family of six children. Her father and brother both served as mayors of the city of Baltimore. Her father, who was the son of Italian immigrants, also served five terms in the U.S. Congress.  

Having been surrounded by political activity from a young age, Pelosi learned to use her voice early. She encourages kids today to do the same.       

“Know your power,” she said. “Recognize that you have a unique voice and a unique point of view, and our country needs you to engage in the issues that matter to you and affect your community. Whether it be access to quality, affordable education, or protecting our environment, staying informed on the issues will enable you to play a role in shaping them and will allow you to make a positive impact in the world.”  






Photo courtesy of the House Speaker’s office