Photo: Pelosi Facebook
Despite first running for office at age 47, House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has managed to become the most powerful woman in Washington.
It’s been a long road, but with staggering fundraising skills and a political sixth-sense, Pelosi has managed to break gender barriers and force her way into the notorious Old Boys Club on Capitol Hill.
Here’s how a San Francisco housewife became part of the Washington elite.
Pelosi grew up in Baltimore, the daughter of the Democratic Mayor Thomas D'Alesandro. As a young girl, she manager her father's book of who owed him political favours.
She attended her first Democratic National Convention at age 12. Here she is at age 20 with JFK at his inaugural ball.
Pelosi met her husband Paul at Georgetown. She was a mother of five by 1969, when the family moved to San Francisco. Paul worked as a banker, while Nancy raised their children and started a Democratic Party club at her home.
In 1976, she worked for the presidential campaign of California Governor Jerry Brown, and by 1981, she was the Democratic Party Chair for the state of California, working behind the scenes to recruit candidates and raise money in the left-leaning state.
At age 47, after her youngest child had left for college, Pelosi was encouraged by a dying congresswoman to run for her seat. She threw 100 house parties, recruited 4,000 volunteers and raised a million dollars in 7 weeks.
She defeated a San Francisco supervisor in the special election, winning one of the most solidly-Democratic seats in the country. In June 1978, she was sworn in with her wheelchair-bound father by her side.
With innate political acumen, Pelosi rose fast in the Democratic caucus. Here she is with then-California Congressman Leon Panetta, who would go on to serve as Secretary of defence and Director of the CIA.
One of Pelosi's earliest and most prominent financial backers is E & J Gallo Winery, which produces 25 per cent of the wine in America. The Pelosis own two vineyards in California.
Pelosi knew California Senator Dianne Feinstein as a neighbour years before they became two of the most powerful women in Congress. Here they are hanging out after Feinstein lost the California gubernatorial election in 1990.
As the member of congress from San Francisco, Pelosi took the lead on gay rights and the AIDS crisis back when those were unpopular topics nationally.
Pelosi was also one of the House architects behind the 1994 assault weapons ban along with Feinstein and then-Rep. Chuck Schumer.
Pelosi was also put on the powerful House Appropriations and Intelligence committees, and was the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Operations committee. Here she is with a young Barney Frank at a 1995 news conference.
Paul Pelosi has managed to avoid the spotlight, focusing on his real estate and venture capital business Financial Leasing Services Inc. He also owns the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League.
Pelosi got a big promotion in 2001, when she was named the House Democratic Whip, the No. 2 job in the party.
After raising $1.8 million for Democrats through her leadership PAC in 2002, Pelosi got the top job when Minority Leader Dick Gephardt. She was the first woman to ever lead a party in Congress.
In 2006, she teamed up with Schumer, Harry Reid, and Rahm Emanuel and hatched a plan to take back Congress...
...and it totally worked! Democrats won the majority in both chambers, and Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the House.
In the first 100 hours of being Speaker in 2006, Pelosi raised the minimum wage, enacted the 9/11 commission report, ended many tax subsidies to oil companies, and made new rules about lobbying.
Her work ethic is legendary. She barely sleeps, doesn't drink coffee — she prefers hot water with lemon — does the New York Times crossword daily, and often eats New York Super Fudge Chunk ice cream for breakfast.
During the divisive 2008 Democratic presidential primary, Pelosi managed to stay neutral without losing friends.
Pelosi steered the passage of the TARP bank bailout in a last ditch bid to stop the 2008 financial collapse.
After Barack Obama won, Democrats controlled Congress and the White House for the first time in 14 years.
Pelosi convinced Obama to move forward with health care reform when all seemed lost in 2009. It worked.
But Democrats lost control of the House, and Pelosi handed over the gavel to Republican John Boehner in 2010.
Despite her diminished role, Pelosi is still a major power player in D.C., having spent a decade as the top House Democrat.
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