A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Nancy Pelosi began serving as Speaker of the House in January 2007, becoming the first woman to hold the position in House history. She vacated the position after the Republicans took over the House in January 2011.
Pelosi received her AB degree from Trinity College in Washington, DC, in 1962.
Pelosi hails from a political family. Her father, Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr., was a Congressman from Maryland and a mayor of Baltimore. After moving to San Francisco, Pelosi worked her way up in Democratic politics and was elected party chair for Northern California in January 1977. During this time she became close to Congressman Phillip Burton (D-CA), one of the most powerful Democrats in California and the House.
In 1981, Pelosi was elected the chair of the California State Democratic Party, serving until 1983. From 1985 to 1986, she served as finance chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Pelosi was first elected to Congress in 1987 by special election to fill the vacancy left by the death of Rep. Sala Burton. Pelosi has been reelected 10 times since.
Before becoming House Speaker, Pelosi served as minority whip and minority leader.
Shortly after becoming Speaker, Pelosi was criticized by House Republicans for using a larger military plane than the previous Speaker, Dennis Hastert (R-IL), when flying home to her district in San Francisco. Pelosi said the change was recommended by the House sergeant-at-arms, who oversees security for House members. The White House saw nothing wrong in the decision. “This is a silly story, and I think it’s been unfair to the speaker,” White House spokesman Tony Snow said.
In April 2007, Pelosi was again derided by Republicans for visiting Syria, not only because the trip was opposed by President George W. Bush but because of her decision to wear a head scarf and abaya while visiting a mosque.
And following the failed vote on September 29, 2008, to pass a $700 billion bailout plan, Republicans again took aim at Pelosi, saying she had been too partisan in a floor speech prior to the vote.