House Speaker Nancy Pelosi celebrated with the House Democratic women members of the 116th Congress and held a photo opportunity with them Friday outside the Capitol. (Jan. 4)
WASHINGTON – The choice of earrings. The book that was used to swear them in. A flag outside their office.
Congress’ newly sworn in lawmakers have taken bold stances in seemingly subtle ways to raise awareness and show off what makes the 116th Congress so diverse.
Here’s a rundown of some of the sometimes subtle or hidden messages lawmakers have used during their swearing-in and first few days in Washington that you may have missed.
She’s already the youngest person elected to Congress and doesn’t shy away from taking bold stances.
New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez offered an array of subtle messages in her clothing choice during her swearing in this week to honor women’s suffrage and embolden young women who will come after her.
Wearing an all-white suit, gold hoops earrings and bold red lipstick, Ocasio-Cortez said her outfit was to “honor the women who paved the path before me, and for all the women yet to come.”
White is one of the official colors of the suffragist movement and a similar effort was done in 2017 with dozens of Democratic women wearing all white to protest President Donald Trump.
“I wore all-white today to honor the women who paved the path before me, and for all the women yet to come,” Ocasio-Cortez posted on Twitter. “From suffragettes to Shirley Chisholm, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the mothers of the movement.”
She added in another tweet that her lipstick and gold hoop earrings were inspired by Sonia Sotomayor. Ocasio-Cortez said in the tweet that Sotomayor “was advised to wear neutral-colored nail polish to her confirmation hearings to avoid scrutiny.”
“She kept her red. Next time someone tells Bronx girls to take off their hoops, they can just say they’re dressing like a Congresswoman,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote.
Rep. Deb Haaland made history as being one of the first of two Native American women sworn into Congress this week. She paid homage to those roots and her heritage with wearing traditional pueblo garb during her swearing in.
Haaland, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna tribe, donned moccasins, turquoise jewelry and a tunic with bright turquoise sleeves.
Her family, including her mother who was in a wheelchair, similarly wore pueblo attire with intricate patterns and hues of red, brown and bright turquoise colors.
After she was sworn in, Haaland shared a moment with fellow Democrat Sharice Davids of Kansas. The pair, who were the first Native American women to ever be elected in Congress, shared a hug.
Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar became the first Muslim woman in Congress, along with Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib.
But Omar also became Minnesota’s first Somali-American legislator, the first woman of color elected to Congress from the state and the first woman in Congress to wear a hijab, a Muslim head covering.
She celebrated that during her swearing-in on Thursday with wearing a traditional red hijab. She also placed her hand on the Quran of her late grandfather when she was sworn in.
“As a kid, I acted as my grandfather’s translator at our caucuses and he was the one who first sparked my interest in politics,” Omar wrote on Twitter. “I wish he could be here to witness this historic moment, but he was here in spirit as I placed my hand on his Quran for the ceremonial swearing-in.”
Military and state flags are common sights throughout the office buildings that surround the U.S. Capitol but outside Rep. Jennifer Wexton’s office sits something different.
Wexton, the newly sworn-in Congresswoman representing Virginia’s 10th district, hung up a transgender flag outside her new office in the Longworth House office building.
Wexton, who is an aunt to a transgender child, told the Washingtonian that the white, pink and blue striped flag was a showing of solidarity with the LGBT community.
“The trans community has been under attack,” Wexton told the Washingtonian. “I wanted to show my solidarity because we are talking about my friends and family.”
Rashida Tlaib, who along with Omar became the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, also paid homage to her heritage during her first act in Congress.
Tlaib wore a Palestinian thobe, an ankle-length Arab garment, when she was sworn in. Tlaib, a Democrat representing Michigan’s 13th district, also was sworn in with a Quran.
In an opinion piece for Elle magazine, Tlaib wrote about the importance of the garment and watching her mother stitch similar dresses when she was young. She wrote that her mother had to drop out of school in 8th grade and work for a tailor to help support her family in Palestine.
“Throughout my career in public service, the residents I have had the privilege of fighting for have embraced who I am, especially my Palestinian roots,” she wrote. “This is what I want to bring to the United States Congress, an unapologetic display of the fabric of the people in this country. This is why I decided to wear a thobe when I am sworn into the 116th Congress.”
Kyrsten Sinema made history Thursday when she and Martha McSally became the first two women from Arizona sworn into the U.S. Senate. Sinema, a Democrat, made even more history than that, becoming the first openly bisexual person in the Senate.
But her outfit during her swearing-in and first day in Congress got a lot of attention and many saw a deeper meaning.
Sinema’s wore a pink coat during her first day as a U.S. Senator and during the campaign, Sinema was attacked for protesting the Iraq war while wearing a pink tutu. Some online saw the choice of a pink coat as a hidden dig to those who attacked her.
Andrew Kaczynski, a reporter for CNN, tweeted, “One of attacks from Republicans on Sinema during the campaign was she worn a pink tutu while protesting Iraq — which Republicans attempted to label as denigrating service members. I can’t help but thinking this is an elaborate troll.”
Contributing: Ronald J. Hansen and Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic
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