Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the first female elected to House speaker, helped celebrate Women’s History Month by donating her suit and gavel to the Smithsonian on Wednesday.
The California Democrat handed over her historic items to the National Museum of American History during a ceremony with fellow congresspeople and other officials. Pelosi commemorated her momentous 2007 election by donating the lacquered-maple gavel given to her, as well as the Burgundy suit she wore and the original speech she gave during her swearing-in on Jan. 4, 2007.
The gavel and suit — a single-breasted jacket, skirt and shell — will not immediately go on display, a museum spokeswoman said.
“As a young girl, I was drawn to the Smithsonian as a source of creativity, discovery and innovation. Little did I know that I would be returning here to share moments from my time as Speaker of the House of Representatives,” Pelosi tweeted after the ceremony.
"The firsts we celebrate are often chosen because they, in some way, change the trajectory of American history," the museum said in a statement. "They create diversity, add new experiences and viewpoints, and create new possibilities. ... A women’s first, an American first, and a part of a position that can trace its roots to the earliest days of our country."
An ivory gavel used by suffragette Susan B. Anthony also joined the museum's Political History collection, as well as the judicial robe worn by Sandra Day O'Conner when she was sworn in as the first woman associate justice of the Supreme Court in 1981 and an in-flight suit worn by Sally Ride, the first women in space.
Fifty-one men had held the role of House speaker since the office was created in 1789. Upon her election, Pelosi recognized what she called a “historic moment” for not only the country’s Congress but for its women as well.
“It is a moment for which we have waited over 200 years,” Pelosi told the House in 2007. “Never losing faith, we waited through the many years of struggle to achieve our rights. But women weren't just waiting; women were working. Never losing faith, we worked to redeem the promise of America, that all men and women are created equal. For our daughters and granddaughters, today we have broken the marble ceiling. For our daughters and our granddaughters, the sky is the limit, anything is possible for them.”
Pelosi served as speaker until 2011, when John Boehner took over. Now as House minority leader, she recently broke the record for the longest House speech when she addressed her colleagues for eight straight hours in February and recounted stories of so-called Dreamers to argue for the protection of young immigrants and DACA recipients.
During the donation ceremony, the museum also announced the launch of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.