This wasn’t your average dry-cleaning drop-off: On Wednesday morning, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi handed over a burgundy skirt-suit to the Smithsonian Institution — not for a steam-and-press but to become, along with the gavel she wielded as the first female speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, part of the collection of artifacts documenting women in U.S. history.
There was plenty of pomp and circumstance to go along with her donation — and plenty of boldfaced Friends of Pelosi (FOPs?) to mark the occasion, including former House majority leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.), AOL founder and Smithsonian regent Steve Case, former senator Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), PBS anchor Judy Woodruff and what seemed like half the Democratic caucus, including assistant Democratic leader Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.) and Reps. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), Debbie Dingell (Mich.), Frederica Wilson (Fla.) and Maxine Waters (Calif.).
Speakers lauded Pelosi’s historic career, with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), currently the highest-ranking GOP woman in Congress, adding a bipartisan note. “When girls like my daughter walk into this museum, it is my wish that they are inspired,” she said. And for mothers and other women, “may we never forget to support them and to keep dreaming, too,” she added.
Pelosi told the crowd that she was at first “embarrassed” by the Smithsonian’s request for the gavel and the suit, which she wore for her historic swearing-in in 2007, items that will be displayed alongside other mementos, such as Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s robe, astronaut Sally Ride’s spacesuit and the outfit that Marian Anderson wore for her historic 1939 concert at the Lincoln Memorial. But the California Democrat eventually relented and fished the suit out of the back of her closet. “On behalf of women in Congress, I accepted the honor,” Pelosi said.
“It is my hope that my participation in this special initiative will inspire our daughters to fight for more change, more progress and more access to their seat at the table — at the head of the table.”