Ms. Malhotra, who has been following Judge Barrett’s career for several years, said she saw in Judge Barrett the attributes of women she admired in different spheres of her own life, but had not seen displayed on such a big stage before. “She represented the women I go church with, while also representing the professors I had in graduate school,” she said. “She seemed to be the whole package.”
Although Mr. Trump is notably more popular with men than women, conservative women are a critical voting bloc for the president as he faces a challenging election in November. The president’s advisers hope the selection of Judge Barrett will energize his base; while it is unclear yet how much difference the nomination will make to voters who are already inclined to vote for him, it has added a jolt of energy in some circles.
Several women reported participating in enthusiastic group text chains about Ms. Barrett, who they sometimes refer to as “ACB”; her name comes up in video calls with friends, in the preschool pick-up line, and in their own prayers. And some reported a feeling of protectiveness as the judge and her family enter what will probably be a bruising confirmation battle and sprawling culture-war skirmish.
To Judge Barrett’s fans, she is proof that women can be as ambitious maternally as they are professionally. “She’s someone who is challenging a mainstream consensus that there’s a certain way that women need to live their lives in order to succeed,” said Gabrielle Girgis, 30, who recently completed a Ph.D in politics at Princeton University, is Catholic and has two young daughters. “She represents the fact that not all women need to think the same way about the raising of children and family planning.”
Ms. Girgis, who has a hearing disability, said she had a special fondness for professional women like Judge Barrett who “make space in their lives for children with disabilities.”
Ms. Girgis watched the nomination announcement on Saturday with Mary, her three-year-old daughter, on her lap. Mary met Justice Ginsburg when Ms. Girgis’s husband served as a clerk for Justice Samuel Alito, and it was a profound moment for Ms. Girgis to talk with her daughter about Judge Barrett and ruminate on how Justice Ginsburg helped create the path to her nomination. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment,” she said in a text message on Sunday.
Judge Barrett first came to national attention in 2017, when Mr. Trump nominated her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Several senators directly questioned her in her confirmation hearing about whether her Catholic faith would influence her decisions from the bench. “The dogma lives loudly within you,” Senator Dianne Feinstein told her.