In Pelosi, Women Admire a Leader with Calm, Cool Confidence
As they watched House Speaker Nancy Pelosi step forward to wrangle an unruly Congress over the years or stare down a bombastic president, many women across the country saw a version of the calm, confident leader they hoped to be themselves.
Pelosi, in rooms full of powerful men, was tenacious, tactical, tough. All while being a devoted mother and grandmother at home. And rarely finding the need to raise her voice.
“The image of her coming out in the red coat was just always amusing to me because it just kind of personified how badass she is,” said Gina Lind, 61, of Phoenix, a marketing director for an airline. “It completely represented a woman in quiet control.”
After her announcement this week that she would step down from Democratic leadership after two decades, many people reposted that meme of Pelosi confidently striding out of the Trump White House in sunglasses and a long red coat following a tense meeting. The moment was a reminder of how Pelosi, the first woman to become House speaker, redefined outdated expectations about the role of women in the highest levels of government.
Fans of Pelosi, a California Democrat, have taped the image to their refrigerator, downloaded it as a screensaver or emblazoned it on coffee mugs. They likewise savor the photos of her confronting then-President Donald Trump in the White House Cabinet Room or ripping up his final State of the Union speech.
“When I look at that (Cabinet Room) picture, I think, ‘Okay, stand up and say what you have to say,’” said Kelly Haggerty, 49, an engineer for the city of Syracuse, New York, who works on construction projects and often finds herself, like Pelosi, squaring off in a room full of men.
“I mean, these guys across the table from me are not the president of the United States, but it’s not fun to always be the only woman in the room,” said Haggerty, who called the photo inspiring. “I did put it on my refrigerator because I have two teenage girls, and I want them to be the same way. I don’t want them to ever stand down,” she said.
Like many other women of her generation, Pelosi did not formally start her career until she was in her late 40s and her five children were mostly grown. But her father had been in politics, serving first as the mayor of Baltimore and then in Congress. And Pelosi, in her leadership farewell speech from the House floor on Thursday, recalled being awed by the sight of the Capitol building at the age of 6.