Madam Speaker

Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power


By Susan Page

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The definitive biography of Nancy Pelosi, the most powerful woman in American political history, written by New York Times bestselling author and USA Today Washington bureau chief Susan Page.

Featuring more than 150 exclusive interviews with those who know her best—and a series of in-depth, news-making interviews with Pelosi herself—MADAM SPEAKER is unprecedented in the scope of its exploration of Nancy Pelosi’s remarkable life and of her indelible impact on American politics.
Before she was Nancy Pelosi, she was Nancy D’Alesandro. Her father was a big-city mayor and her mother his political organizer; when she encour­aged her young daughter to become a nun, Nancy told her mother that being a priest sounded more appealing. She didn’t begin running for office until she was forty-six years old, her five children mostly out of the nest. With that, she found her calling.
Nancy Pelosi has lived on the cutting edge of the revolution in both women’s roles and in the nation’s movement to a fiercer and more polarized politics. She has established herself as a crucial friend or for­midable foe to U.S. presidents, a master legislator, and an indefatigable political warrior. She took on the Democratic establishment to become the first female Speaker of the House, then battled rivals on the left and right to consolidate her power. She has soared in the sharp-edged inside game of politics, though she has struggled in the outside game—demonized by conservatives, second-guessed by progressives, and routinely underestimated by nearly everyone.
All of this was preparation for the most historic challenge she would ever face, at a time she had been privately planning her retirement. When Donald Trump was elected to the White House, Nancy Pelosi became the Democratic counterpart best able to stand up to the disruptive president and to get under his skin. The battle between Trump and Pelosi, chronicled in this book with behind-the-scenes details and revelations, stands to be the titanic political struggle of our time.




1916—St. Leo’s School, Baltimore

Thomas Ludwig John D’Alesandro Jr., who in time would become the father of Nancy D’Alesandro Pelosi, was thirteen years old when Sister Pauline informed him that St. Leo’s School would not be the place for him to complete his education.

It had begun, as some catastrophes do, with what seemed like good news.

Weeks before his eighth-grade graduation ceremony was planned at Little Italy’s parochial school, Tommy D’Alesandro won a spelling bee and was awarded a medal of the Blessed Virgin, which the nun pinned to his shirt. “At recess time one of the boys in my class gave me the razzberry as a sissy for wearing the medal,” Tommy would recall toward the end of his long and eventful life. What’s a boy to do? “I picked up a rock and threw it at him, cutting his head.”

That started a downward spiral. Sister Pauline, both the teacher of his class of five students and the head of the school, told him she wanted to see his father the next morning. Wary of a whipping, Tommy was reluctant to tell his dad about the day’s developments. When he returned to school the next morning, no parent in sight, he told her that his father couldn’t be there because he was suffering from pleurisy, a painful inflammation of the chest and an ailment so particular that surely no child would have made it up. A day later, Sister Pauline saw Tommy’s mother at morning Mass—Mrs. D’Alesandro attended every day—and told her that she was praying for her husband in his (imaginary) battle with pleurisy.

With that, the jig was up, the lie revealed. It was not the first mischief by Tommy, and it was the last straw for Sister Pauline. He was expelled. For good measure, so were the three other boys in his class. The sole eighth grader who managed to graduate from St. Leo’s that spring was the only girl in the class, Catherine Clark. (In that small-world way of things, she would become the matriarch of one of Baltimore’s most prominent political families.)

To be clear, Tommy D’Alesandro wasn’t exactly devastated by the abrupt end of his formal education. He was smart but not serious about his studies, ambitious but not persuaded that the classroom was going to provide the essential skills for the adventurous if ill-defined life he saw ahead for himself. Barely a teenager, he already was remarkably self-confident, a master storyteller in the making who could charm just about anyone—a notable exception being Sister Pauline, who warned him that he would never amount to much in life. While he was no longer welcome at St. Leo’s School, he could have enrolled in the local public school, of course, although the families in his neighborhood favored St. Leo’s. In Baltimore, St. Leo the Great Roman Catholic Church was the place where the babies of Little Italy were baptized, the children educated, the couples married, the dead mourned.

Tommy’s sprawling family sat squarely in the middle of it all.

He was born at the start of an optimistic new American century, on August 1, 1903, the son of Tommaso D’Alesandro Sr. and Marie Antoinette Foppiano. He was one of thirteen children. His mother could not have been happy about the news of her son’s expulsion from her alma mater, though the demands of rearing her brood and keeping boarders in the basement—among them the occasional organ grinder and his monkey—meant that she had no shortage of other things to worry about as well.

Years later, after he had been elected mayor of Baltimore, Tommy D’Alesandro Jr. kept in an office drawer a formal photograph of himself as a young man, standing behind his parents; they are seated on small chairs set up on a sidewalk. Father and son are wearing three-piece suits, starched white shirts, four-in-hand ties. White handkerchiefs peek from the pockets of their jackets. A watch chain loops across the front of the elder man’s vest; his shoes are polished to a shine. Tommy’s mother, a sturdy woman in a simple dark dress, has pulled up her hair into a frazzled bun, her lined face betraying just a hint of bemusement.

Their errant son would go far, although he never went far. He grew up in a crowded row house at 235 Albemarle Street; he would die eighty-four years later while living in another small row house down the block, at 245 Albemarle Street. He never moved out of the neighborhood, not even after he had the money and stature to choose fancier precincts. “I’m a paisano,” he would explain—a peasant, a countryman. “These are my people. This is where I belong.” He would be elected to Congress and to City Hall. He would drink bourbon with Harry Truman and call Franklin D. Roosevelt “boss.” He would live to see one son inaugurated as mayor and his only daughter launch an unexpected career that would make her the most powerful woman in American history.

All that was down the road, though. At the moment, Tommy needed a toehold. He had been earning pocket change by selling newspapers on the street and peddling chewing gum to the prostitutes who leaned out the windows of the brothels along Caroline Street. He was paid seven or eight cents a week—“enough to go to the movies and buy an apple on the stick”—for serving as a Shabbos goy, performing small household tasks for Orthodox Jews during the Sabbath. He got a job at the Union Box Factory for $6.60 a week, building ammunition boxes for French and British troops fighting in World War I. He worked briefly, and unhappily, at the McCormick & Company spice plant, then an institution in downtown Baltimore, assigned to the powdered mustard department.

Finally, he landed a job as an office boy for the Harry T. Poor Insurance Agency, even though he was on the lam from the city’s truant officers and working in violation of the state’s child labor laws. When he turned fourteen years old, he demanded a raise. His boss offered him $5 a week. “No, I got to have $7,” Tommy said. Why? “A dollar a day for working and a dollar for Sunday,” he replied. Fine, his boss agreed, giving him an early lesson in the rewards of asserting himself, of chutzpah.

Finally, Tommy had found an education he saw as valuable. Sent out to collect fees from insurance clients, he learned to speak Italian dialects other than his father’s Abruzzese. He ventured beyond Little Italy’s boundaries into other ethnic enclaves, making friends and connections with the Irish and the Poles and the Jews. He spoke a little Yiddish and picked up a bit of Chinese. When he turned twenty-one, Tommy was old enough to get a license to sell insurance policies for the firm, by then called Poor and Alexander. The insurance business proved to be an apt and lucrative fit for his powers of persuasion, and a lifetime vocation. For a time, he attended Calvert Business College at night, though he never received a degree. That seemed an unnecessary formality.

He had settled on a new course: politics.

Even Sister Pauline eventually came around. “Many years later, when I was a congressman, the good sisters of St. Leo’s set up a ceremony in the school yard,” Tommy D’Alesandro recalled, “and presented me with my diploma, at last.”

Eight years old and perched on his mother’s shoulders, Tommy D’Alesandro was introduced to the drama of politics courtesy of William Jennings Bryan and Woodrow Wilson.

Baltimore was hosting the 1912 Democratic National Convention, gaveled to order in the Fifth Regiment Armory, an imposing brick fortress in midtown. A small temporary stage and rows of folding chairs had been set up in the cavernous main hall and draped with red-white-and-blue bunting. “The way I’ve heard the story is that when he was a little boy, his mother took him to the convention that was held in Baltimore,” Nancy Pelosi said of her father years later. “She carried him on her shoulders, and he felt the spark and then it just continued.”

There were plenty of sparks in the armory; choosing the nominee would require the most ballots cast at any convention since the Civil War. As it happened, the Speaker of the House, Champ Clark of Missouri, was the early front-runner. On the ninth ballot, he seemed poised to prevail when Tammany Hall threw its support behind him. But William Jennings Bryan, the Nebraska populist, roared in objection. His voice carried: Democrats had nominated Bryan for president three times in the past, though he had lost the general election each time. He had stayed neutral in the 1912 nomination battle until then.

Denouncing New York’s political machine as corrupt and Clark as the candidate of Wall Street, Bryan endorsed New Jersey governor Woodrow Wilson, a former president of Princeton University who had been elected to office just two years earlier. Bryan revived Wilson’s presidential prospects, by then so faded that he was preparing a concession statement. Not until the forty-sixth ballot was the nomination settled, and in Wilson’s favor. That fall, he would become the first Democratic president to win the White House in two decades. He was helped by the divisions in the GOP between incumbent William Howard Taft and Teddy Roosevelt, a former Republican president running as the Progressive Party nominee.

Soon after he was old enough to vote, at twenty-one, Tommy D’Alesandro was ready to run for office himself. He was a popular young man, active in church carnivals and neighborhood dramatic productions, a natty dresser and a ballroom dancer so dexterous that he entered regional competitions. He groomed a pencil mustache that would become his signature. He already had been ringing doorbells and passing out flyers for local candidates. He wanted to run for the Maryland House of Delegates, so he sought the blessing of the Third Ward Democratic Club, which included Little Italy. The local bosses could be found playing pinochle and smoking cigars in the grand Rennert Hotel, famed for its oysters and the watering hole for journalist H. L. Mencken, among others.

They told the cocky young man to come back when he had a petition of support signed by five hundred local voters.

That was no problem. He had been working the neighborhood since Sister Pauline expelled him from the eighth grade. He returned with a petition signed by five hundred people and a few extra. A half century later, long retired from politics, he could still recite the petition, word by word, from memory: “We the undersigned registered Democratic voters of the Third Ward of the First Legislative District recommend for your favorable consideration the candidacy of Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr. for the House of Delegates. He was born and raised in the District, knows the people and their needs and would be a credit to both City and State if elected.”

Not everyone was charmed. Vincent Palmisano, a Democratic leader in the Third Ward, took an immediate dislike to D’Alesandro, starting a feud that would end years later with Palmisano’s political demise.

“He always saw my father as an irritant,” one of Tommy D’Alesandro’s sons said. “Didn’t like his style.” Palmisano, a generation older than Tommy, offered to make him “president” of the Third Ward Democratic Club, a move to sideline him. Then he tried to block D’Alesandro from making a speech to the club seeking support. Joining the club required paying three dollars in dues, not a negligible amount for Tommy. He scraped it together with the help of friends, then argued that his membership gave him the right to speak. He delivered remarks he had been practicing in private.

On the night of the primary, D’Alesandro didn’t have a radio to listen to the results, but Palmisano, who happened to live around the corner, did. D’Alesandro and some friends sat on the stoop outside his house, eavesdropping on the news and sometimes breaking into cheers. “The first thing you know, the radio was thrown out in the middle of the street,” D’Alesandro said. With his friends, he headed uptown, to the office of the Baltimore Sun; the newspaper posted vote totals on the side of its building on Election Night. He and Palmisano crossed paths, and the two engaged in some trash talk. “Everyone won but you,” mocked Palmisano, who was running for the Democratic nomination for Congress. D’Alesandro asked, “Did you win?” Yes, he said. D’Alesandro replied, “If you won, I ran away with it because everybody was clobbering you.”

It was 2 a.m. when the Sun reported the results from the First District for the Maryland House of Delegates: Thomas D’Alesandro Jr. came in fourth in a field of a dozen Democrats who were vying for six legislative seats from the district. In the overwhelmingly Democratic neighborhood, winning the party’s nomination was tantamount to election.

In the general election in November, Tommy D’Alesandro would brag that he got more votes in his district than anyone else on the ballot, including Palmisano. It was the first of twenty-two consecutive elections that Tommy D’Alesandro Jr. would win, and for increasingly powerful posts.

On January 5, 1927, he took the train to Annapolis to report for his first legislative session. He dressed as a statesman, sporting an Oxford gray suit, polka-dot tie, and leather slippers, with a derby perched on his head. He was hailed as the youngest member of the state legislature. “I walked upstairs and I looked for Henry Clay, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln,” he recalled. “All I saw was a bunch of drunks.”

He wouldn’t stay in the state legislature for long. He had bigger plans.

Though Tommy D’Alesandro and Nancy Lombardi grew up on the same street, just a block apart, they didn’t really know each other. He was six years older than she was, a big gap when children are small. When he was expelled from St. Leo’s to make his way in the world, she was only seven.

But by the time she graduated from high school, from the Institute of Notre Dame, he was considered a catch.

As a newly elected member of the Maryland House of Delegates in 1927, he was invited to an annual reception for state legislators hosted by Governor Albert C. Ritchie. When the Baltimore Evening Sun noted that he didn’t have a wife to take with him, D’Alesandro was besieged by letters from women across the state who were “perfectly willing to terminate his bachelor days.” The newspaper story described him as a “dark-eyed young man” who was “regarded as attractive.”

Nancy Lombardi had grown up by the time he noticed her, “a beautiful nineteen-year-old woman leaving St. Leo’s church one Sunday morning,” Nancy Pelosi said, retelling one of her family’s favorite stories. “He followed her down the street and, when she stopped at a corner, went up to her and asked for a date.” Unlike the women who had propositioned him by mail a year earlier, she did not swoon. “My mother’s response was to tell the dapper legislator that she didn’t know who he was and that she would not go out on a date unless her grandmother approved. Hence Daddy’s courtship of Mommy’s grandmother.”

In short order, an engagement followed. “T.L.J. D’Alesandro to Wed Schoolmate,” read the local newspaper headline. “Miss Annunciata Lombardi to Become Bride of Assemblyman September 30.”

Their wedding—at St. Leo’s, of course—was “a traffic-stopping event,” Pelosi said. After all, Tommy was a gregarious pol on the rise who seemed to know everyone, in Baltimore and Annapolis. Every member of the Baltimore police and fire departments was invited. So were Governor Ritchie and the entire Maryland House of Delegates. On the morning of the big day, Tommy dispatched the St. Gabriel’s Society Band, eighteen musicians strong, to serenade his bride as she got ready at home. (She demanded that he send them away.) After the ceremony, thousands of guests celebrated in the streets. By the time the groom cut the cake in the reception at Lehmann Hall, it was approaching midnight.

For their honeymoon, the newlyweds boarded a train to go to Montreal, but D’Alesandro had such serious stomach pains that he debarked at Grand Central Station. A doctor in New York diagnosed appendicitis and recommended an immediate operation. “After a conference with his bride,” the Baltimore Evening Sun reported, the couple instead returned home, where his own doctor diagnosed indigestion.

They moved into a newly built house at 245 Albemarle Street. They would live there for the rest of their lives.

He was twenty-five years old and on his way to winning a second term in the Maryland legislature. After his son and namesake arrived the next year, just about everybody would call the father Tommy the Elder. His wife was nineteen years old and formidable in her own right. After her daughter and namesake was born a dozen years later, just about everybody would call the mother Big Nancy, a nickname that fit her personality and, over time, her power. Her daughter would be known as Little Nancy.

Annunziata Lombardi had been born in Fornelli, Italy, in 1909, the second of five children. Her parents chose her name because she was born on March 30, five days after the Feast of the Annunciation. Her family immigrated to Baltimore when she was an infant, moved back to Italy for a few years, then returned to Baltimore for good. The family had more money and higher social status than the D’Alesandros. “Her grandmother had the first box at the Baltimore Civic Opera, and when she was a little girl, she gave Toscanini a bouquet when he came to Baltimore,” Nancy Pelosi told me years later. The famed Italian conductor was a figure of veneration. “Then, when my father was mayor, Toscanini came back to Baltimore, like, twenty-some years later, and she gave Toscanini a bouquet of flowers—so as a little girl and as first lady.”

Nancy Lombardi was a striking beauty, always perfectly groomed and elegantly dressed. In her wedding portrait, taken at Markiewicz Photos of Distinction on South Broadway in Baltimore, she displays the steady gaze and straight-backed posture demanded by the nuns who had educated her. Her dark curls are covered by a lace cap; a cluster of pearls on each side of her face holds back an enormous train of voile that cascades down her back and winds into a puddle in front of her feet. Her white dress has a modest V-shaped neckline, trimmed in lace, but the asymmetrical hem of the skirt is short enough in front to show a little leg. She is wearing white satin heels with bows tied at the ankles, and she holds an oversized bouquet of white roses and baby’s breath, white ribbons trailing from their stems.

Unlike her husband, Big Nancy had a high school diploma, and not from St. Leo’s but from the more exclusive Institute of Notre Dame across town, where she eventually would insist on sending her daughter. Again and again, she would challenge the conventions of the day when it came to her gender. At the time, women in this neighborhood generally were given the choice of being a homemaker or a nun, or perhaps a nurse or a teacher. Instead, she went to work as a clerk for a local auctioneering firm, A. J. Billig & Co. She proved to be so talented as an auctioneer that her employer suggested she go to New York to earn official certification.

She didn’t go to New York to become a certified auctioneer, though, and she never realized her lifelong dream of becoming a lawyer. Two years after she graduated from high school, she married D’Alesandro, then ten months later gave birth to Thomas Ludwig John D’Alesandro III. He was born on July 24, 1929, three months before the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. The next year, in 1930, Nicholas arrived. Then, in 1933, they were joined by Franklin Delano Roosevelt D’Alesandro, named in honor of the president who had been inaugurated for the first time just three days before the baby’s birth. The president sent his namesake a handkerchief with “Franklin Roosevelt” stitched on it, a keepsake the D’Alesandros framed.

Over eleven years, the D’Alesandros would have seven children, the first six of them boys—Tommy the Younger and Nicholas and Roosie, then another Nicholas and Hector and Joseph—and finally, a girl.

Nancy Patricia D’Alesandro was born on March 26, 1940, a day after her mother’s thirty-first birthday.

Big Nancy was organized and disciplined, the enforcer for her family and, at times, for her husband’s political life. She was self-confident and comfortable with power, traits she would pass on to her daughter. She was a risk-taker. Indeed, she played the ponies, a regular presence at Pimlico Race Course, host of the Preakness Stakes, part of horse racing’s Triple Crown. The gambling debts she later ran up with bookies who operated from Sabatino’s and other restaurants in Little Italy would become the source of neighborhood gossip.

Tragedy struck the young family’s life. When their second son, Nicholas, was three years old, in 1934, he fell ill with lobar pneumonia. Two days later, he died. Penicillin had been discovered a decade earlier, but the groundbreaking antibiotic wouldn’t be readily available until the 1940s. Tommy D’Alesandro, who had briefly taken a patronage job with the Internal Revenue Service in New York, hurried back to Baltimore to see his son before he passed away.

Four days later, the priests at St. Leo’s celebrated a Mass of Angels, conducted for children too young to have made confession and received Communion. Nicholas was laid to rest at New Cathedral Cemetery in Baltimore; later his mother and father and two of his brothers would be buried nearby. The child’s body was placed alongside a previous generation of his father’s family, John and Jaccintha Forppiano, his name etched below theirs on the simple granite gravestone.

His birth had been a happy occasion considered so newsworthy, given his father’s office, that the newspapers covered it. “New Son in Family of Assemblyman,” the Evening Sun reported. Less than four years later, so was his death. In the Baltimore Sun: “D’Alesandro’s Child to Be Buried Monday.”

More than a decade later, Big Nancy said the scars of her son’s death still felt fresh. “That is the kind of sorrow that cuts into your bones and leaves you so numb you feel nothing,” she said. “You think you will not live through it, but you do, and it leaves you with an immunity to lesser troubles.” She had survived this heartbreak. Now she could ignore “criticism, or snubs, or disappointment,” she said, as long as her children and husband were well and reasonably happy.

For the rest of her life, she said, not a single day went by when she didn’t think of little Nicky. When Nicholas died, his mother was five months pregnant. When the baby was born that summer, they would christen him with the same name, Nicholas. But in the years that followed, Big Nancy would always say that she had six sons, and seven children, making the point that the Nicholas they had lost had not been forgotten.

Big Nancy would always be ambitious and creative, an entrepreneur by nature. She was constrained not by a lack of imagination but by the limits of opportunity for women in her day. “I often think she was born fifty years too soon,” Nancy Pelosi said of her mother. “The truth is that my father and the times held her back.” If not for that, she predicted that her mother’s political career could have exceeded that of her father, or her own. “If she were starting out now,” Pelosi declared, “I’m sure she would be president of the United States.”

In 1936, Nancy D’Alesandro bought the copyright to a waltz called “I’m Dreaming,” the reason unclear. She composed a prose poem to motherhood, one her daughter would later send to friends when their mothers had passed away. (“Motherhood cannot be understood,” it said. “It has its overtones in all languages; like magic it weaves a pattern full of joys, tears, patience, love—each exalting like music of golden bells.”)

She was an inventor, proposing some ideas that seemed ridiculous at the time but now sound prescient. “She used to say to me when I was a little girl, ‘I know that this telephone can do more things,’” Nancy Pelosi told me. The daughter found that notion disconcerting, worrying about the repercussions of adding video—think FaceTime—to the telephones they had at home. “I was so afraid that she was going to be, like, ‘You have to get dressed to answer the phone.’”

In 1942, when her husband was serving in Congress, Big Nancy founded the Velvex Beauty Company, devoted to products that promised smoother, fresher, younger-looking skin by using special oils and an electrical device that gave steam facials. Later she registered her company and patented her inventions.

The patent submissions show black-and-white drawings from various angles of the “Beautifier Vaporizer for Treatment of the Skin.” The aluminum urn has a coil at its base, which heats water and oil when plugged in with an electrical cord. A small funnel at the top directs steam to the face of the user. (In 2018, the author’s son bought a used Velvex “Beauty by Vapor” machine on eBay for $33.74, a metal tag at the bottom crediting “Nancy D’Alesandro Inc.” It was still operational.)

She rented space on the ground floor of the building next to their home for a shop that offered her machines and creams and oils; she would describe them as “an old family beauty secret.” The enterprise was featured in articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Baltimore Sun. “Taxpayers whose faces are becoming lined with worry over politics may be comforted by the news that the Mayor’s wife, Nancy D’Alesandro, has completed research on a process to refresh and beautify worn complexions,” the Sun reported in 1949. She is “smooth-skinned and radiant,” the reporter observed, and her device “enables her to face the public for about eight hours without even having to think about a powder puff.”

What Big Nancy yearned to do was to practice law, a career in which women were then seen as an oddity at best. She had hoped to study law after she graduated from the Institute of Notre Dame. More than a decade later, just months after Little Nancy was born, she enrolled at the University of Baltimore School of Law.

“When my children grow up, I’ll need another interest to keep me busy,” she explained to Sara Wilson, who wrote a column called “The Woman’s Angle” in Baltimore’s Evening Sun that featured chatty discursions on fashion, food, and family. “Even now the house seems empty because three of the children are in school. Tommy is in the seventh grade; Roosie is in the second; Nickie started in the first grade this week. That leaves me only Hector and Jo-Jo and Nancy during the daytime.”


  • “Long considered one of America’s finest journalists, Susan Page’s newest book cements her reputation as one of our foremost political biographers. In exploring the remarkable life of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Susan has painted a compelling portrait of determination, resilience, and patriotism that is the essence of American democracy.”

    Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
  • "Impressive in scope, elegant in style, and extremely judicious in its use of evidence, Susan Page's MADAM SPEAKER is a must-read biographical portrait of the indomitable Nancy Pelosi. Page, one of America's most admired journalists, has a gift for delivering fresh behind-the-scenes anecdotes and recapturing watershed historical moments in colorful prose. Every page sparkles with revelations. Pelosi is the true power broker of our time. Highly recommended!"—Douglas Brinkley, bestselling author of AMERICAN MOONSHOT: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race
  • "In this story of power, resolve and intrigue, Susan Page has a subject equal to her inordinate talents. She takes us behind the scenes with the Speaker of the House—the most powerful woman in American history—and shows us how Nancy Pelosi conquered a world of guys."—John A. Farrell, New York Times bestselling author of RICHARD NIXON: THE LIFE
  • “Nancy Pelosi is a tough, ruthless, and energetic practitioner of the acquisition and use of political power. Anyone seeking to understand the House of Representatives and the House Democratic Party has to start with Speaker Pelosi. Susan Page has written that lesson plan for all to read.”—Newt Gingrich
  • "With her biography of First Lady Barbara Bush and her new book about Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Susan Page has distinguished herself as a chronicler of women public figures who defied odds, raised eyebrows, and ultimately found that being true to themselves and not worrying about what others thought or said about them was the key to success and happiness as they defined it. As with her first biography, MADAM SPEAKER will be a resource to historians and anyone who wants to understand the influence this powerful, sometimes controversial, occasionally ruthless, and fiercely determined woman has had on our national life."—Dana Perino, New York Times bestselling author of AND THE GOOD NEWS IS...
  • "Scoopy and insightful."—The New York Times
  • “[MADAM SPEAKER provides] a much deeper understanding of, and appreciation for, the work it takes for a woman to harness, maintain and wield authority that was once reserved exclusively for men."—Washington Post
  • "Even longtime watchers of House Speaker Nancy Nancy Pelosi will learn something new about the most powerful woman in the country—and how she got that way—from...MADAM SPEAKER."—Los Angeles Times
  • "Page delivers a worthwhile and documented read...MADAM SPEAKER makes clear that the speakership was not a job Pelosi spent a lifetime craving but it is definitely a role she wanted and, more importantly, mastered."—The Guardian
  • "MADAM SPEAKER traces Pelosi’s life and work in a readable, engaging biography that takes us from Pelosi’s Baltimore upbringing through her current term as speaker in the Biden administration. [A] valuable overview of a singular American politician. The definitive biography of the House Speaker."

    USA Today
  • “Insightful book on a consequential woman in Washington. It’s a terrific read.”—Peter Baker, The New York Times
  • “I can’t imagine what a pleasure it must have been to be working on this.”—Mika Brzezinski, MSNBC
  • “Great biography...[Page’s] new book is excellent.”—Jake Tapper, CNN
  • “...great book.”—Andrea Mitchell, MSNBC
  • “... very interesting, definitive biography... go out and buy it.”—Jonathan Karl, ABC News
  • “A fascinating read...I think we all thought we knew a lot about Nancy Pelosi, but [Page] managed to find out a lot more."—Judy Woodruff, PBS NewsHour
  • “A balanced, informative biography."—Kirkuss

On Sale
Apr 20, 2021
Page Count
432 pages

Susan Page

About the Author

Susan Page is the award-winning Washington Bureau chief of USA Today, where she writes about politics and the White House. Susan has covered seven White House administrations and eleven presidential elections. She has interviewed the past ten presidents and reported from six continents and dozens of foreign countries. In 2020, she moderated the vice presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris. Her first book, The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty, was an instant New York Times bestseller. She lives in Washington, D.C.

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