As Pelosi Pushes to Become Speaker, Gender Debate Becomes Charged

“What I don’t appreciate is putting a lot of our new candidates who happen to be women in the position where they are forced to break a caucus rule and then be accused of being anti-woman,” she said. “These are all strong, intelligent women who got into a race who had never been in politics before and won really difficult races, and they should not be disrespected that way.”

Over all, the number of women in leadership may grow after Democrats elect their leadership on Nov. 28. Other women running for leadership spots include Representative Cheri Bustos of Illinois, who is seeking to lead the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. She noted in an interview that Democrats needed to win 23 Republican-held seats to take the majority; so far, 24 Democratic women are in the new freshman class.

“I hope that our caucus values our leadership team reflecting what happened on Election Day,” she said.

The divide over Ms. Pelosi is generational as well as ideological, and it mirrors a similar generational divide that surfaced among women when Hillary Clinton ran for president. Ms. Pelosi has the deep loyalty of older women in the House Democratic Caucus, while her support among younger women is more fragmented.

“I think to older baby boomer women she represents change,” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who advises many female candidates, including some incoming freshmen. “To younger members she represents the status quo.”

Ms. Lake said a number of her clients, including some progressives, were wrestling with what to do about Ms. Pelosi and whether to come out against her. “They’ll say, ‘We want a liberal, we want change,’ and I’ll say, ‘You’ve got one — Nancy.’”

Two newcomers from Southern California, Katie Hill and Mike Levin, urged their fellow freshmen on Thursday to support Ms. Pelosi, saying in a joint announcement, “We don’t have time for internal squabbling — we have to get things done.”