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Mar. 10, 2013, 9:00 AM

Pelosi JFK

Despite first running for office at age 47, House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has managed to become the most powerful woman in Washington.

It's been a long road, but with staggering fundraising skills and a political sixth-sense, Pelosi has managed to break gender barriers and force her way into the notorious Old Boys Club on Capitol Hill.

Here's how a San Francisco housewife became part of the Washington elite.

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Pelosi grew up in Baltimore, the daughter of the Democratic Mayor Thomas D'Alesandro. As a young girl, she manager her father's book of who owed him political favors.

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She attended her first Democratic National Convention at age 12. Here she is at age 20 with JFK at his inaugural ball.

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Pelosi met her husband Paul at Georgetown. She was a mother of five by 1969, when the family moved to San Francisco. Paul worked as a banker, while Nancy raised their children and started a Democratic Party club at her home.

AP

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She defeated a San Francisco supervisor in the special election, winning one of the most solidly-Democratic seats in the country. In June 1978, she was sworn in with her wheelchair-bound father by her side.

AP

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With innate political acumen, Pelosi rose fast in the Democratic caucus. Here she is with then-California Congressman Leon Panetta, who would go on to serve as Secretary of Defense and Director of the CIA.

AP

Source: AP

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One of Pelosi's earliest and most prominent financial backers is E & J Gallo Winery, which produces 25 percent of the wine in America. The Pelosis own two vineyards in California.

AP

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Pelosi was also one of the House architects behind the 1994 assault weapons ban along with Feinstein and then-Rep. Chuck Schumer.

AP

Source: AP

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Pelosi was also put on the powerful House Appropriations and Intelligence committees, and was the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Operations committee. Here she is with a young Barney Frank at a 1995 news conference.

AP

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In 2006, she teamed up with Schumer, Harry Reid, and Rahm Emanuel and hatched a plan to take back Congress...

AP

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...and it totally worked! Democrats won the majority in both chambers, and Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the House.

Rahm Emanuel, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer. AP

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During the divisive 2008 Democratic presidential primary, Pelosi managed to stay neutral without losing friends.

AP

Source: AP

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And she ran the show at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

AP

Source: AP

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Pelosi steered the passage of the TARP bank bailout in a last ditch bid to stop the 2008 financial collapse.

AP

Source: AP

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Pelosi convinced Obama to move forward with health care reform when all seemed lost in 2009. It worked.

AP

Source: AP

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But Democrats lost control of the House, and Pelosi handed over the gavel to Republican John Boehner in 2010.

AP

Source: AP

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Despite her diminished role, Pelosi is still a major power player in D.C., having spent a decade as the top House Democrat.

AP

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But Pelosi's not the only lady wheeling and dealing in Washington...

AP

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