Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi is the first woman in American history to lead a political party in Congress. She has served the U.S. House of Representatives since 1987, when voters in San Francisco chose her to represent them in Washington. In 2002 her fellow Democratic Party lawmakers voted to make her House minority leader. She is the first woman ever to hold such a post. Republicans sometimes call Pelosi a “latte liberal” for her politically progressive views on the environment, women’s reproductive rights, labor unions, and other issues. Pelosi has been outspoken in her criticism of President George W. Bush (1946–).

Nancy Pelosi began her career in politics at a young age. Her father, Thomas “Tommy” J. D’Alesandro Jr., was a popular local politician from the Little Italy section of Baltimore, Maryland. Just a year before Pelosi was born, her father won election to the same U.S. House of Representatives in which she would serve many years later.

Pelosi was born Nancy Patricia D’Alesandro on March 26, 1940, in Baltimore. She was the last of six children, and the first daughter. The family lived on Albemarle Street in Little Italy. Their neighborhood was a loyal Democratic Party stronghold in Maryland politics. Little Italy was a working class and largely Roman Catholic neighborhood, located near the city’s main harbor. The local church, St. Leo’s, and the nearby Democratic Party office were the centers of social and economic life for Italian-American families.

Pelosi’s father was well-known in Little Italy, and went on to become a Baltimore legend. When she was seven years old, he became the city’s first Italian-American mayor. He served three terms, and so Pelosi was known as the mayor’s daughter for most of her childhood and teens. She often worked on his campaigns, as did her five brothers. In 1952, when Pelosi was just twelve years old, she was allowed to attend her first Democratic National Convention, where delegates choose their party’s presidential candidate.

Pelosi’s family were dedicated Democrats, and her parents were strict Roman Catholics as well. For a son or daughter to enter one of the Church’s religious orders was considered a great honor for the family. Not surprisingly, her mother hoped that her daughter might do so, but Pelosi was not interested. “I didn’t think I wanted to be a nun, but I thought I might want to be a priest because there seemed to be a little more power there,” she said years later in an interview with Joe Feuerherd of the National Catholic Reporter.