On Thursday, Senator Tammy Duckworth made history, becoming the first sitting senator to ever bring her newborn infant to the Senate floor. But if you watched the footage of Duckworth casting a vote with her baby daughter, you might have found yourself wondering: how do you pronounce Maile?
In case you hadn't heard already, Duckworth gave birth to Maile Pearl Bowlsbey just 10 days ago, her second child with husband Bryan Bowlsbey. She made history simply by having a baby while in office; she was the first sitting senator to ever give birth, a fact which speaks to the Senate's long history as a heavily male-dominated institution.
Duckworth and Bowlsbey were reportedly aided in Maile's naming by former Hawaii Senator Daniel Akaka, a close friend of Duckworth who also weighed in on the naming of their first child, Abigail. Akaka died on April 6, 2018, mere days before Maile was born, and Duckworth has said that his role in helping name her children means "he will always be with us."
But the question remains: How is her name pronounced? Although you might not have gotten it right the first time you read it aloud, there's an easy way to remember it ― her name is pronounced "Miley," as in Miley Cyrus.
It wasn't a foregone conclusion that Duckworth would be able to bring Maile to the Senate floor when she was first born last week. To the contrary, the Senate's preexisting rules ― which many observers criticized as being outdated and archaic ― disallowed parents from bringing their babies onto the floor.
The rule rarely caused issue, since no senator had ever before given birth while in office, and longstanding patriarchal societal norms in the United States have viewed women as the primary child care providers within families. But with Maile's birth, Duckworth ― assisted in a big way by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar ― advanced a resolution to change the rules, allowing her to bring her newborn onto the Senate floor.
In addition to being a no-brainer from the perspective of women's rights and parental rights in 2018, it was a change of necessity, owing to the fact that Senate rules require senators to actually be present in the chamber to cast votes. Duckworth has taken a maternity leave following Maile's birth, but she's committed to showing up for important votes. Therefore, if her daughter is with her, casting those votes would require her to bring her to the floor.
Some senators reportedly voiced concerns and reservations about allowing babies on the Senate floor when Klobuchar was working to build consensus for the resolution. According to the Minnesota senator, the majority of the complaints came from older male senators, and included whether Duckworth would be changing Maile's diapers in the Senate, or nursing her.
According to Quartz, Klobuchar told the skeptical senators that Duckworth has no intention of doing either, although the new rules do allow her to breastfeed her baby. Some senators reportedly suggested that Duckworth vote from the Senate cloakroom instead, which is allowed, but she's a double-amputee due to injuries suffered while serving in the Iraq war, and the cloakroom is not wheelchair accessible.
In short, the new rules will enable both male and female senators alike to bring their newborns to the floor while they cast votes, and that's a big win for equality in the U.S. Senate. This isn't the first time Duckworth has brought one of her children to the floor, to be clear, as she's previously brought along her young daughter, Abigail. But this is the first time infants will be allowed, and that's a piece of Senate history that Duckworth, her advocacy, and Maile herself helped secure.