WASHINGTON – Wherever Nancy Pelosi went Tuesday, the words "first woman" and a standing ovation, or several, followed.
The San Francisco Democrat formally became her party's leader in the House, the first woman to lead a party caucus in either house of Congress.
"There are times and days we will never forget, where we feel we are part of history," Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., the man Pelosi replaced as leader, said at Pelosi's ceremonial swearing in. "This time, this day, is one of those days."
The first woman to be nominated for House speaker, Pelosi garnered 201 votes against Republican Dennis Hastert, who received 228 votes. The vote was a formality since the Republicans hold the majority and the party in power always chooses the speaker.
Pelosi, 62, and a product of a political family from Baltimore, emphasized her abilities over her gender; still, she could not help but bask in the history she was making.
"We will need to test our imaginations," Pelosi said. "We need to govern in new ways beyond the simplistic labels of left and right."
She pledged that Democrats would stand with Republicans on national security issues. On other issues, she said Democrats "will find common ground when we can and stand our ground when we must."
She pressed the Democrats' alternative to President Bush's economic stimulus package as more generous to working families.
Hastert also praised Pelosi for being the first woman leader. "Now that this glass ceiling has been broken, I trust she won't be the last," Hastert said.
The only mild note of discord in her first day on the job came during the vote for speaker. Four conservative Democrats, all white Southerners, did not vote for Pelosi because they consider her too liberal. Reps. Ralph Hall of Texas, Ken Lucas of Kentucky and Charles Stenholm of Texas voted present. Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi voted for Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha.
"I voted my constituency," Hall said. "I went to her and told her I couldn't vote for her."
Pelosi and her supporters made clear they hope her job as minority leader is only temporary.
After she handed Hastert the speaker's gavel after his election, a House custom, Pelosi said, "I hope that in the next Congress you will have the wonderful privilege I have today of giving you the gavel."
Pelosi began her day at a congressional prayer service, then swore in the members of the Congressional Black Caucus and praised the group's new leader, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings as "my brother from Baltimore." Pelosi's father and brother served as mayor of Baltimore.
She was ending her day with a fund-raising reception.
Pelosi's husband, five children and five grandchildren joined her for the day.