In a different political season, Lou Ann Zelenik would be too much an outsider to run for a congressional seat in Tennessee. A single mother, she owned a heavy construction company until she retired in 2007. She likes to remind people that she's a "licensed blaster," which refers both to her technical skills and her Rosie the Riveter attitude. "She's bucked every trend, and if there's ever an obstacle put in her way she breaks right through it," says her spokesman, Jay Heine.
Rosin points out that more women than men belong to the tea party, according to one poll.
And while no movement that uses Michelle Malkin as a poster girl could fairly be described as feminist, the party has become an insta-network for ambitious women like Zelenik. Some are aspiring candidates who could never get traction within the tight, local Republican Party networks. Some are angry-mom-activist types who, like their heroine Sarah Palin, outgrew the PTA. But some would surprise you with their straightforward feminist rage.