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100 Years since the 19th Amendment, A Conversation with Nancy Pelosi

By Kerry-Ann Forbes-Barber, Staff Reporter

Photo courtesy of @McCourtSchool on Twitter.

In celebration of 100 years since the passing of the 19th Amendment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined in a discussion with SiriusXM’s Julie Mason at Georgetown University in Gaston Hall on Tuesday, March 5, to discuss the impact of the 19th amendment on women and the U.S. as well as the women who have influenced Pelosi’s life and career. At the end of the discussion, Mo Elleithee moderated a Q&A session.

The 19th amendment was ratified in 1920 and it authorized women in the U.S. to vote.

Nancy Pelosi was first elected to Congress in 1987 and became the first female Democratic leader of the House of Representatives. In 2007 she became the first female speaker of the House of  Representatives under the Democratic party, where she still holds office. 

Impact of 19th Amendment on Women and the United States

Pelosi thanks Frederick Douglass and other abolitionists for inspiring a movement that awakened women to their oppression. 

She recalls seeing an article that was headlined, “Women Given the Right to Vote,” and she claims, “there is no such thing.” Women were not “given” the right to vote, rather they “marched and fought” to be recognized by the law that they should have the right to vote as well. Pelosi added, “without their sacrifice and determination, it would not have happened.”

Pelosi highlights the first woman in Congress Jeannette Pickering Rankin, a Republican congresswoman from Montana, as someone who was a fierce women’s rights advocate and helped to pave the way for women in leadership before the passing of the 19th amendment. 

Now, 127 women are serving in Congress, 106 under the democratic party and  21 under the Republican party, for the first time in U.S. history. Pelosi recalls that there were not this many women in office when she first came to Congress. 

Speaker Pelosi strongly believes that there will be a female president of the United States soon, and she credits Hillary Clinton for being a trailblazer for other female presidential candidates who ran in the 2020 Democratic Primary. 

Women who have Influenced Pelosi’s Life and Career

Speaker Nancy Pelosi credits women such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Sojourner Truth, who are included into the Women’s Hall of Fame in New York, as women who have influenced her life and career because of their fight for women’s rights. 

When Pelosi first got into Congress, she notes that she could hear the voices of these feminists saying to her as she sat in office: “At last we have a seat at the table.” 

Pelosi believes that women do not need an equal rights amendment, but it is necessary since they are not included. Moreover, the forces that will help to propel women’s leadership are outside mobilization and public sentiment about women’s rights. 

The main messages that Pelosi wants women and girls to know about leadership and their position in society are:

  1. Be confident: “you have to believe that you are the one who can do the job.”
  2. “Advocating for women to be at the table does not mean women are better than men, it just means it is a more balanced table.”
  3. Women should have standing on security issues in order to be an effective leader: “we don’t agonize, we organize.”
  4. “Kow that nobody can do it the way you can.”
  5. “The worst thing for someone to say is vote for her because she is a woman; no, vote for her because she demonstrates that she can actualize her goals.”
  6. Take stock of what you have to offer