By Roxanne Roberts
If you’re the first women anything, the honors and commendations quickly pile up. Nancy Pelosi has dozens of them — but it wasn’t until this year that she was voted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
We’re talking about the one in Seneca Falls, New York, site of the first Women’s Rights Convention in 1848. A century or so later, the town established a permanent tribute to women’s achievements. Pelosi, Betty Ford and seven other women were named last week, bringing the total to 256 women.
A quick scan of political names on the list shows more Democrats than Republicans, but “politics is a zero factor,” the hall’s co-president Beth Quillen Thomas told us. “You have to be a pioneer in your field.”
Jeannette Rankin is in the hall: The Montana Republican was the first woman elected to Congress in 1916. Margaret Chase Smith, the Maine Republican was named for being the first to serve in both houses. Madeleine Albright got in as the first female Secretary of State; Sandra Day O’Connor as the first in the Supreme Court; Geraldine Ferraro as the first vice-presidential candidate and Hillary Clinton as the first first lady to be elected to the Senate. Barbara Mikulski got in two years ago when she became the longest-serving female senator in history.
So first female Speaker of the House seems like a no brainer, yes? But it still took more than six years for Pelosi to make the cut because of the complex admission process: Every two years, judges winnow public nominations from women in the arts, business, science, athletics and other fields. Living honorees must agree to attend the autumn induction ceremony, so sometimes scheduling delays an induction.
“All I have achieved has been possible because of the work of our forebears,” Pelosi told us in an email. She’ll be inducted this fall with writer Kate Millett, midwife Ina May Gaskin, jockey Julie Krone, economist Anna Schwartz, educators Emma Willard and Bernice Sandler, Mother Mary Joseph Rogers, and Ford, who was cited for using the first lady’s office to advocate for issues like addiction and breast cancer.