Nancy Pelosi

by Cecile Richards
Luisa Dörr for TIME

At a time when women are shaking the foundation of this country—challenging cultural norms, asserting our role in the economy and working for equity in political representation—it’s important to recognize the women who have brought us to this point, and continue to carry us forward. Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has done more than anyone else in office to advance women’s equity and opportunity, and to build a stronger future for generations to come.

Whether she’s fighting for reproductive rights, paid family leave or affordable health care, Nancy looks out for women from every walk of life. She worked tirelessly to ensure that when the Affordable Care Act passed, women weren’t left behind. Due to her leadership, women can no longer be charged more for insurance because of gender or be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions, and 62 million women are benefiting from preventive services including birth control.

Nancy came from Baltimore, raised in a family of public servants. Like many women in politics, she worked behind the scenes, helping other candidates, before running herself. She went on to become the first woman to lead a political party in Congress and, later, the first to serve as Speaker of the House. She understands it’s not enough to be “the first” if you’re also “the only.” No one deserves more credit than Nancy for the fact that the number of women running for Congress today is almost double what it was two years ago, and still growing. She knows it’s more important to do what’s right than what’s popular, and never lets anything stand in the way of doing what she came to Congress to do: be a voice for the people who are counting on government to be there for them.

Richards, the outgoing president of Planned Parenthood and a former Pelosi staffer, is the author of Make Trouble

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