Who Is Joanna McClinton? 6 Facts About the First Woman to Ever be Pennsylvania House Speaker

Joanna McClinton


Joanna McClinton is Pennsylvania’s first elected female Speaker of the House and the state’s second Black Speaker. She was elected Speaker in a historic vote when Democrat Mark Rozzi stepped down.

“It was approximately 250 years before a woman could stand at this desk, not just to say a prayer, but to get the gavel. “That’s pretty fantastic,” McClinton said after being sworn in, according to the Associated Press (AP).

McClinton has been a state legislator in Philadelphia for seven years, and she has created a name for herself as an advocate for women’s health concerns and criminal justice reforms.

Here are six things you should know about her. 

1. She was raised by a single mother

McClinton was reared by a single mother, with whom she still lives, along with her grandmother. Her mother worked at a nearby college while also running a catering business. Her only sibling is a brother.


2. She wanted to be a lawyer

Because of the impact of the TV show “Matlock,” McClinton grew up wanting to be a lawyer. She aspired to be a hairdresser, a preacher, and an actor, among other things. She has attempted all four, despite the fact that her sole formal training in any of the four has been law school.


3. Lawmaker since 2015

McClinton, 40, has served as a state legislator since 2015. She grew up in southwest Philadelphia and still resides there. She attended La Salle University and then Villanova Law School. She worked as a public defender and a state Senate attorney after graduation.


4. Breaking glass ceilings

She is the first of several women to serve in the Pennsylvania House. She was the first woman to represent Pennsylvania’s 191st State House District, the first female elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and the first Black woman to serve as a floor leader.


5. She was inspired by Georgia politician Stacey Abrams

McClinton was encouraged to enter politics by Stacey Abrams, the Democratic Party’s first black female governor nominee.

Abrams is a Yale class of 1999 lawyer, a writer under the pen name Selena Montgomery, a business consultant, and the co-founder of an infant and toddler beverage firm. She recently told Glamour that she had left her employer to focus on her ads.


6. Very religious 

McClinton was raised in the Pentecostal religion and is now a priest. She has worked on youth initiatives at West Philadelphia’s Open Door Outreach True Light Church.

During the pandemic, she assisted in the shift of Sunday school to the digital realm.

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