Nancy Pelosi is the 52nd Speaker of the United States House of Representatives and currently the second most powerful woman in the U.S after Vice President Kamala Harris. She was born Nancy D’Alesandro on March 26, 1940, in Baltimore, Maryland to an Italian-American family. She is the youngest and only girl of seven children of Annunciata M. “Nancy” D’Alesandro and Thomas D’Alesandro Jr.
Both her parents are of Italian descent, her mum being from Fornelli, Isernia, Molise, in South Italy, while her dad was from Genoa, Venice, and Abruzzo. Both her parents were actively involved in politics, her father was a Democratic congressman from Maryland when she was born, subsequently becoming Mayor of Baltimore seven years afterwards. Her brother, Thomas D’Alesandro III, was also a Democrat and was Mayor of Baltimore from 1967 to 1971.
With her family deeply rooted in politics, Nancy Pelosi was exposed to politics at a very young age. She notably aided her father at campaign events and even attended John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address when he was sworn in as President in January 1961.
Nancy Pelosi graduated from the Institute of Notre Dame, an all-girls Catholic high school in Baltimore in 1958. In 1962, she graduated from Trinity College in Washington, D.C., with a Bachelor of Arts in political science. She subsequently interned for Senator Daniel Brewster (D-Maryland) in the 1960s alongside future House majority leader Steny Hoyer.
She moved to San Francisco in the early 1970s, becoming friends with 5th district congressman Phillip Burton, while also steadily moving up the ranks of Democratic politics. In 1976, she was elected as a Democratic National Committee member from California, a position she would hold until 1996. She also got elected as party chair for Northern California in January 1977, and four years later was selected to head the California Democratic Party, which she led until 1983. She subsequently served as the San Francisco Democratic National Convention Host Committee chairwoman in 1984, and then as Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee finance chair from 1985 to 1986.
Nancy Pelosi’s involvement in the U.S House of Representatives began on April 9, 1987, after she won the special election to succeed Sala Burton after she passed away a month after resuming office. She defeated Harry Britt initially, after which she defeated Republican candidate Harriet Ross on June 2, 1987.
In 2001, Nancy Pelosi was elected the House Minority Whip, second-in-command to then Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri.
In 2002, she became the first woman in U.S. history to hold the post of Minority leader after Gephardt resigned as Minority Leader to seek the Democratic nomination in the 2004 presidential election. Nancy Pelosi was elected to replace him.
After the 2006 Midterm elections which saw the Democrats take 30 seats in the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi was unanimously chosen by the Democratic caucus to become Speaker of the House in the next Congress. This was on November 16, 2006. On January 3, 2007, Pelosi defeated Republican John Boehner of Ohio, 233 votes to 202, in the election for Speaker of the House. With her victory, Nancy Pelosi became the first woman, the first Californian, and the first Italian-American to hold the speakership. She was also the second Speaker from a state west of the Rocky Mountains.
She comfortably won the elections in the 2010 Midterms and defeated Tim Ryan by a vote of 134–63 on November 30, 2016.
In the 2018 midterm elections, the Democrats regained a majority in the House. On November 28, House Democrats again nominated Nancy Pelosi to once again serve as Speaker. She was re-elected to the speakership at the start of the 116th Congress on January 3, 2019.
Nancy Pelosi “clinched the speakership after weeks of whittling down opposition from some fellow Democrats seeking a new generation of leadership. The deal to win over holdouts put an expiration date on her tenure: she promised not to stay more than four years in the job”. 220 House Democrats voted for Pelosi as Speaker, and 15 for someone else or no one.
Nancy Pelosi was elected to a fourth term as speaker in January 2021, with a 216-208 vote.
Some of her honours include; Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (June 2, 2007, Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun (April 29, 2015), Barbara Walters’ Most Fascinating Person of the year (2006) and National Women’s Hall of Fame inductee (2013).