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Nancy Pelosi: A Woman Making History

March 23, 2010

In recognition of the 30th anniversary of Women’s History Month, Women’s Media Center is profiling 30 extraordinary women making history. Our goal is to raise $10,000 to support WMC Exclusives — every dollar raised will go directly toward hiring women writers to comment on major news stories and report topics often neglected by the mainstream media. Will you contribute $30? Click here to donate: or text WOMEN to 50555 to make a $10 donation. PelosiNancy Pelosi: A Woman Making History by Jehmu Greene In the wake of today's historic legislation, I can't think of any woman more appropriate to honor than Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. After all, it's not every day that The Economist declares someone "arguably the most powerful woman in American history." In reaction to this now oft-quoted assertion, and a Brown University professor who argued that she is "the most powerful Speaker in 100 years," Pelosi cracked, in an interview with Diane Sawyer, "That sounds good!" before saying, "I don't take it personally, except I take it as a compliment for all women." Remembering advice from her parents, Pelosi said, "You may have a great vision, you may have the best idea, but you must have the votes." And that's Pelosi's unique and influential strength. President Obama has expressed the need for reform since he started campaigning for President in 2007.  But as Steve Kornacki outlines in Salon, "Pelosi, we have learned in recent days, was instrumental in prodding the White House to press ahead with its push for large-scale reform after January’s special Senate election in Massachusetts – even as Rahm Emanuel urged the president to radically pare back his vision...she’s adeptly mixed her idealism with the deft touch of a seasoned congressional insider. Who else could have pulled off what Pelosi just did?" Representative Steny Hoyer, Pelosi's rival for Speaker back in 2001, hailed her just minutes after the final vote as "the single most responsible person for this night’s success." But as WMC co-founder Gloria Steinem wrote today, today's success is not without dear payment on the part of women's reproductive rights. Although Pelosi was the central leader in a political fight that many believed was hopeless, she is also forever connected with a legislative battle that used reproductive rights as a bargaining chip for votes which, as we stated yesterday, is entirely unacceptable. The need for greater respect and protection for women's health is only underscored by the fact that even "the most powerful woman in American history" has not pushed back the tide of anti-choice legislation. "Many presidents since Teddy Roosevelt have tried to pass health care reform for Americans, and many speakers of the house have tried to do it as well..." said Pelosi yesterday. "I told [President Obama] that it wouldn't have happened without his vision, his unwavering commitment to making comprehensive health insurance reform the law of the land." Pelosi's grace and gratitude to the President in her finest hour is only admirable, but in light of her unrivaled work, and the daily impact it will make on Americans, I'd like to end with some words from another one of history's most powerful women, Margaret Thatcher: "If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman."