(Bloomberg) — Back in 2019, Nancy Pelosi left a highly contentious White House meeting with President Donald Trump about the prolonged government shutdown and offered a brief account of how the negotiations went.
Most Read by Bloomberg
“I’m a mother of five, grandmother of nine, I know a temper tantrum when I see one,” Pelosi said of the president, describing how she walked out of the meeting.
Pelosi, 82, has never shied away from topics like parenting, even as she rose through a notoriously male-dominated Congress. And so on Thursday, when Pelosi announced she would not run again for Democratic leader, she donned the white suffragette and highlighted the first item on her resume.
“I never would have thought that one day I would go from being a housewife to being the speaker of the House,” she said to a standing ovation on the House floor.
Pelosi paved the way for a generation of female lawmakers, many of whom now hold positions of power. When she entered the House in 1987, there were 12 Democratic women. “Now it’s 90 and we want more,” he said Thursday.
Representative Annie Kuster, D-New Hampshire, said Pelosi has changed the dynamic around being a working mother. When she was a young lawyer, Kuster said she had to hide the fact that she had children. That made Pelosi’s oft-repeated motto “For the kids” empowering.
“It’s broadened the picture of who can lead, it’s disrupted the picture of who can lead, and it’s opened the door for all kinds of people to come through and get into those positions,” added Debbie Walsh, director of the American Center Women’s. and Politics at Rutgers University.
Pelosi’s leadership has not been without friction, both within her own party and with other female lawmakers. Clashes between her and the original “Team,” a group of lawmakers elected in 2018 that includes Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, regularly made headlines. Others admitted there can be tense moments.
“I’ve been on Nancy Pelosi’s good side and the bad side, and it’s much more gratifying to be on the good side,” said Representative Debbie Dingell, D-Michigan.
In the end, Walsh notes, Pelosi was able to hold divergent wings of the caucus together on several key votes.
Pelosi used her gender as a tool, often noting that she gave birth to five children in six years as a reminder of the full extent of her potential.
“We’ve seen her use toddler management skills at times,” said Pennsylvania Democratic Representative Mary Gay Scanlon, a mother of three. “You don’t let someone get away with anything, because then they’ll do it again.”
Before Pelosi first took the speakership in 2007, women had served as Supreme Court justices and in top cabinet roles — but none in command of their party.
In an interview with Bloomberg News days before the 2006 election — where Democrats won control of the House, paving her way to speak — she said her ascension would show that women “can breathe in this the rarefied atmosphere’ at the highest peaks of power.
Her rise helped set the stage for other women to push higher in politics, including Hillary Clinton, whose 2016 Democratic presidential bid made her the first woman to lead a major party ticket, and Kamala Harris, the nation’s first female vice president.
The daughter of Thomas D’Alesandro, a former Baltimore mayor and congressman, Pelosi moved to San Francisco after college and her marriage to Paul Pelosi, an investment banker. She volunteered for her party, gained early attention as a prolific fundraiser, and eventually became chairman of the California Democratic Party.
She didn’t run for a House seat until she was 47, and her youngest of five children was in high school.
By 2001, he won the race for the Democratic whip, the No. 2 job. When Dick Gephardt resigned in 2002, Pelosi quickly secured the votes to replace him as minority leader.
She has worked to put her own spin on some of the House’s traditions, often to the chagrin of her male colleagues.
Days after he first took the floor, he banned smoking in the speaker’s ornate lobby just off the House floor, ending a perk beloved by then-Republican leader John Boehner and others. In 2011, she created a women’s bathroom just off the floor, an addition long overdue to be applauded by her female colleagues and staff.
Pelosi launched a “Greening the Capitol” plan to make the House campus more socially progressive and environmentally sound, including revamped House cafeteria menus that replaced fatty processed foods with healthier gourmet options.
Mostly, though, she’s shown she can be a tough leader in the House, at times threatening Democrats who defied her with the loss of their top committee jobs or forcing them to engage in all-night negotiations in her office to arm-twist tough votes. .
In one of her first acts as speaker, she created six-year term limits for panel chairs — surprising a group of senior presidents called “Old Bulls” who thought they could rival her influence.
Republicans found a speaker they dismissed as a “San Francisco liberal” could rule with an iron fist, giving them little chance to amend bills. It was also a fierce counterweight to the policies of former presidents George W. Bush and Trump.
Democratic unity against Bush’s proposal to create private Social Security accounts helped Bush eventually abandon the idea and was seen as setting the stage for Democrats to take the House and Senate in 2007. provides a narrative for the House takeover of Democrats in 2018.
Her conflicts with Trump were particularly intense. He called the 35-day government shutdown in 2018 and 2019 a “hostage” of public servants and refused to let him use the House chamber to deliver his State of the Union address while it was underway. A year later, when he gave his next speech, he tore up a copy of it as television viewers watched, later calling it “such a dirty speech”.
He advised Obama not to abandon his sweeping health care push in favor of smaller initiatives that could be more easily implemented, calling the watered-down proposal “child care.” He successfully rallied Obama and Democrats behind a broader bill that was cleared just two months later.
Pelosi’s tenure coincided with a broader understanding of fashion as a political tool. Her trousers – ranging in shades from royal purple at her first inauguration as speaker to suffragette white at Trump’s 2020 State of the Union address – regularly made headlines.
Pelosi doesn’t know how to be the only woman in a room, Pelosi showed women that they need to stand out in a sea of dark men in suits and, most importantly, project strength not despite being a woman but because they are women .
Representative Madeleine Dean, D-Pennsylvania, brought her granddaughter to the floor of the House when she was sworn in so she could see a woman lead the chamber.
“We shouldn’t be saying, ‘Can a woman do it?’ anymore,” Dean said. “Talk about glass ceilings, he breaks them every time.”
Most Read by Bloomberg Businessweek
©2022 Bloomberg LP