Obstacles Nancy Pelosi Had To Overcome To Get Where She Is

Sometimes referred to as one of the most powerful women in congress, Nancy Pelosi is no stranger to the political spotlight. As a longtime Californian representative and re-elected Speaker of the House, the congresswoman has come a long way from her beginnings as one of seven children in a political family (per BBC).

Her father, Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr., was a New Deal Democrat and the mayor of Baltimore, Maryland, according to Britannica, giving Pelosi strong roots in Democratic politics. After studying political science at Georgetown University in Washington, Pelosi married financier Paul Pelosi. Although the couple initially moved to New York City, they settled in San Francisco, California in 1969 (via Insider). During this time, the future politician was a housewife, taking care of five children, while her husband worked as a banker. Her interest in politics was well-established before she first became a Californian congresswoman, as she started a Democratic Party club during her time as a housewife and then worked for the presidential campaign of California Governor Jerry Brown in 1976 as Insider reported. Then, Pelosi became the Decromatic Party chair for California in 1981.

Since then, the congresswoman has made a significant impact on American politics, receiving both acclaim and criticism along the way. Wherever you fall on the political map, it is hard to deny that Pelosi has overcome many obstacles to obtain the successes she carries today.

Nancy Pelosi has made history as a woman in politics

One of the biggest obstacles that Nancy Pelosi has faced in her career is infiltrating the overwhelmingly male-centric world of politics. When she first began working in politics, it was a field even more skewed towards white men than it currently is.

In 1975, only 19 of America's 435 House of Representative members were women (per Center for American Women and Politics). Although men of color had been voted into congress before this period, only in 1969 did the total current number of Black Americans in the House of Representatives reach its highest membership, according to Every CRS Report.

Despite the odds working against her, Pelosi won a seat in the House of Representatives in 1987, as Iowa State University noted. Her accomplishments extend to her becoming the first woman to lead a major democratic party and to serve as a democratic whip. In 2007, Pelosi became the first woman, and the first Italian-American (via National Italian American Foundation), to serve as Speaker of the House, demonstrating her defiance of political gender expectations.

Nancy Pelosi continues to face obstacles as Speaker of the House

Throughout her time as a congresswoman, Nancy Pelosi has faced backlash specifically related to her being a woman, a common obstacle faced by women in politics. Sometimes these criticisms are inherently sexist, such as the focus on a woman's look, and other times they stem from a general aversion to women in power.

As mentioned by Harper's Bazaar, mistakes made by or the perceived flaws of female politicians are often looked at with more scrutiny than similar offenses by male politicians. Because society is conditioned to view women as nurturing and kind, women who have achieved political or business success are often considered to contradict these perceived female qualities.

One example of backlash received by Pelosi followed a political visit to Taiwan in August of 2022 (per Washington Examiner). Despite the fact that male politicians had previously made similar trips without backlash, only the congresswoman received headline-making criticisms for her choice.

As the Washington Examiner reported, in response to the disapproval she received, Pelosi commented, "They made a big fuss because I'm speaker, I guess. I don't know if that was a reason or an excuse because they didn't say anything when the men came."