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Nancy Pelosi Donates Gavel

A gavel on a white background

Image Credit: Jaclyn Nash. Courtesy Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

When Nancy Pelosi sat behind President George W. Bush during his 2007 State of the Union address—just weeks after becoming the nation's first woman Speaker of the House—the significance of her new position sank in: Bush noted he was the first President to open the State of the Union message with the words, "Madam Speaker."

Pelosi, today the Democratic leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, recalled the moment recently at a National Museum of American History ceremony recognizing her donation of several objects related to her historic role. The event was held on the eve of International Women's Day and during Women's History Month in the United States.

Pelosi's donations--her wooden Speaker's gavel, the burgundy suit she wore at her swearing-in, and the original copy of the speech she gave that morning--will join the Smithsonian's growing collection of artifacts highlighting the role of women in American history.

The collection includes iconic objects representing other important women's "firsts"—Sally Ride's space suit, from the National Air and Space Museum; Marian Anderson's ensemble worn for her 1939 concert at the Lincoln Memorial, from the National Museum of African American History and Culture; and Sandra Day O'Connor's Supreme Court robe and a uniform worn by Brig. Gen. Anna Mae Hays, chief of the Army Nurse Corps, both from the National Museum of American History.

"It is a great privilege ... to stand before the Star-Spangled Banner to affirm this vital truth: that women's history is American history," Pelosi said during the ceremony in the museum's Flag Hall. "We need more women engaged in every area of our democracy. Nothing is more wholesome to our democracy than the increased participation of women in the politics and government of our nation."

House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), who attended the ceremony along with several Congresswomen, said, "We have so much to learn from our history of women empowering other women to seize opportunities and to live their dreams."

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