Pelosi donates Speaker's gavel to Smithsonian

Pelosi donates Speaker's gavel to Smithsonian
© Greg Nash
Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats should rise above and unify against Trump's tweets 10 questions for Robert Mueller Ocasio-Cortez tears into Trump's immigration agenda: 'It's about ethnicity and racism' MORE (D-Calif.) on Wednesday donated her Speaker’s gavel to the Smithsonian Institution, officially joining the ranks of the country’s most celebrated female trailblazers.
 
Pelosi, the first and only female Speaker in the nation’s history, eulogized the giants of the women’s rights movement and cheered the country’s march toward gender equality while standing before the Star Spangled Banner exhibit at the National Museum of American History.
 
She also stressed that plenty of work remains to be done, encouraging more women to jump into leadership roles in government, law, business and beyond.
 
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“Nothing is more wholesome to our democracy than the increased participation in politics and government of our nation," Pelosi told those gathered.
 
“It’s all about the future,” she said. “To build that future, we need more women engaged in every area of our democracy. On the campus and in the Congress; on school boards and in community groups; in board rooms and court rooms; at the voting booth and the marches on the Mall.
 
“Women, you have marched; now you must run. And they are.”
 
The gavel will be a part of the Smithsonian's permanent collection, but won't go on immediate display, an official said Wednesday. Due to space limitations, many of the institute's objects are stored out of the public eye. 
 
Pelosi, who will turn 78 this month, is an institution on Capitol Hill, having led House Democrats since 2003, the longest stretch since the legendary Rep. Sam Rayburn (Texas), who died in office in 1961. Following the wave election of 2006, Pelosi ascended to the Speaker’s chair — a position she held for four years — becoming the highest-ranking elected female in the country’s history, a distinction that still holds.
 
David Skorton, secretary of the Smithsonian, said Wednesday that Pelosi’s gavel is “more than an artifact of America’s political history.”
 
“It is also testament to Nancy Pelosi’s tireless leadership over the course of her career and her determination to defy the odds," he said.
 
The gavel will join other memorabilia in the Smithsonian’s collection honoring the role of women in the nation’s history, including the space suit of Sally Ride, the first American woman in space; the robe of Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman on the Supreme Court; and an outfit worn by Marian Anderson, the first African-American, male or female, to perform at New York’s Metropolitan Opera.
 
The shift toward gender equality on Capitol Hill has progressed slowly in Pelosi’s tenure in Congress. When she was first elected in 1987, women constituted less than 5 percent of House members. This year, the figure approaches 20 percent.
 
Inspired by the recent outcry over a rash of sexual harassment cases — incidents that have toppled leading figures in Hollywood, the media and Congress — Pelosi is hoping to build on those numbers in this year’s midterm elections. 
 
“We stand now at another watershed moment in history,” Pelosi said. “Brave women from every corner of the country, every industry, every walk of life, are showing their power. … They’re standing up to demand respect, and for their rights and dignity. They’re proudly claiming the full inheritance, their rightful place, in our democracy.”
 
– This story was updated with additional information at 1:41 p.m.