House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a towering figure in American politics with a history-making legacy of shattering glass ceilings as the first and so far only woman to be speaker of the US House of Representatives.
She was first elected speaker in 2007 and served in the role until 2011, when Democrats lost control of the House. In 2019, she was again elected speaker after Democrats won back the House from Republicans.
A small, but vocal, faction of Democrats initially worked to derail Pelosi’s bid to become the next speaker following the 2018 midterm elections, but she ultimately secured the votes needed to reclaim the title. Ahead of the final vote, Pelosi deployed her deal-making abilities and negotiated an agreement with some of the Democrats who had been lobbying to block her from the speakership. As part of the agreement, Pelosi backed a proposal to enact term limits for the party’s top three leaders. The 2018 deal was an informal agreement, however, and caucus rules were never changed imposing any time limits on her tenure.
Pelosi was first elected to the House in 1987, when she won a special election to fill a seat representing California’s 5th Congressional District. Over the years, she has earned a reputation as a powerful and formidable leader of House Democrats who has exerted significant influence and a tight grip over members of her caucus.
She has also been a fierce adversary to Republicans in Congress and in the White House, and Republicans have made her a high-profile target of criticism by their party.
When she was first elected speaker, Pelosi reflected on the significance of the event and what it meant for women in the United States.
“This is an historic moment,” she said in a speech after accepting the speaker’s gavel. “It’s an historic moment for the Congress. It’s an historic moment for the women of America.”
Read more about Pelosi and her political career here.