Nancy Pelosi’s career reveals much about what has changed and the challenges that remain for women who would aspire to the highest levels of governing. At strategic points in her public career, she avoided talking about how being a woman shaped her rise to power. For a long time, she eschewed political candidacy in favor of the obligations and joys of motherhood. Later, as a party operative, she became the relentless organizer. Today, she wields unprecedented political power as a member of Congress. Her story illustrates many of the twists and turns confronting every woman pursuing a path into politics; but because of the magnitude of her ultimate success, hers is (so far) a unique narrative. This chapter analyzes the paradoxes of gender power that have played into the career of the first woman Speaker in an attempt to understand the transformation of American politics.
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