Speaker Pelosi on Being the First Woman Speaker

In celebration of the 87th anniversary of Women’s Equality Day, Speak Out California did a series of blogs commemorating the occasion. We conclude that series with a contribution from the first female speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, who took the reins of power in an historic celebration in January, 2007. (See our blog entry of January, 2007.)
Speaker Pelosi represents the first of what we hope is a long and celebrated ascension of women to the key leadership roles in our halls of power, justice and boardrooms. It has been, and continues to be an enormous struggle to break the barriers of sexism that have kept so many competent and qualified people from realizing the promises of our nation and our world.
In celebration of breaking down one of the most significant institutional barriers, we asked the Speaker to share with our readers her thoughts on her momentous achievment in light of the accomplishments past and yet to come, as we reflect once more on Women’s Equality Day.
Here are her comments:

(photo credit yahoo/AP)

On Women’s Equality Day on Sunday, we remembered those who worked so hard to gain women the right to vote. Throughout history, women have been the ones who have worked to keep our communities strong, keep our families healthy and safe, and put a stop to the violence and destruction of war. It is work that must continue until equality is not just a goal, but a reality.
We must work to protect the basic right to health care, which unfortunately too many women and their children lack. The House recently passed the Children’s Health and Medicare Protection Act, to reauthorize the State Children’s Insurance Program and extend critically needed health care coverage to 6 million children. Yet at a time when 8.7 million children lack health coverage, the President has threatened to veto this critical legislation for low-income women and their families.
We must work to ensure that our children and grandchildren grow up in a healthy and safe environment that allows them to reach their full potential. The New Direction Congress has taken crucial steps that protect our children and our planet with an energy package that promotes energy independence and combats global warming.
We must work to ensure the right to equal pay for equal work is a fundamental value, yet women still earn 77 cents for every dollar men make, and the Supreme Court ruled to deny a woman redress after the fact in a case of pay discrimination. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act passed by the House last month will ensure that women will have all resources available, especially the protections of civil rights law, to ensure their right to fair pay.
There is still significant work to be done to achieve true equality for women here and around the world. In Congress, equality in representation of elected officials is still a goal to which we aspire, as women make up only 16 percent of Congress. We must remain vigilant in the fight for equality. Those who came before us would expect no less. We are honoring our history and their sacrifice by continuing to support our sisters in working for true equality. It is an honor for me to be part of this tradition that is paving the way for young women of generations to come.
Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House