Cheering for the first female president, until they weren't - The Buffalo News

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Cheering for the first female president, until they weren't

By JODI KANTOR

New York Times News Service

They had already iced Champagne and inflated pink “It’s a Girl” balloons. To cast their ballots, they had worn their grandmothers’ brooches, white in honor of the suffragists or pantsuits bought for the occasion.

They were gathering at Susan B. Anthony’s grave in Rochester, New York, and at the corner of President and Clinton streets in Brooklyn. Women with terminal diseases cast their votes with hope, saying that at least they would live to see the election of a female president.

Throughout the day Tuesday, many women supporting Hillary Clinton said they could already hear the sound of glass shattering.

Instead, Donald Trump won the presidency, defeating the only woman to ever come close to the Oval Office. The success of the Republican real estate mogul left many U.S. women in a state of shock over a victory they had counted on belonging to them, their sisters, their aunts and their girlfriends. Late into the night, mothers said they were not sure how they were going to break the news to their sleeping daughters in the morning.

At what was supposed to be the Pennsylvania Democratic Party’s celebration in Philadelphia, several devastated women were lying on the carpeted ballroom floor, tears welling. A few said they could barely speak.

“I pretty much have a broken heart,” said Lisa Graham, 45, a life coach from Troy, New York, dressed in a red pantsuit. She had left her job to spend the past six weeks of the campaign working in Philadelphia for Clinton – “the most qualified presidential candidate in history,” she said.

Clinton’s support among women was always far from complete, of course. Throughout the campaign, plenty of Democratic-leaning women said they never felt much enthusiasm for her candidacy. On Tuesday night, many female Trump supporters began to rejoice with the gusto that Clinton supporters thought they would feel.

But as the campaign drew to a close, many women had allowed themselves to imagine what a first female president would look and feel like. Generals saluting a female boss. An empty spot at the first lady’s inaugural gown exhibit at the Smithsonian. A resonant handoff in January, with the first African-American president passing the baton to the first female one. In the days before the election, a private Facebook group of Clinton supporters, called Pantsuit Nation, grew to 3 million members, an online hotbed of anticipation and premature triumph.

As Trump pulled ahead in the Electoral College count, many female Clinton supporters said they were experiencing a depth of loss and frustration that some of the women, especially the young ones, had never felt before.

“Was excited and ready for history to move forward tonight, not 100 years back,” Maggie Kyle, a 19-year-old student at Emory University in Atlanta, said in an email. She said she had cherished voting for a female presidential candidate in her very first election.

Jessica Reilly, 22, had waited in a two-hour line Tuesday to give thanks at the grave of Susan B. Anthony, who helped women win the right to vote.

“The enthusiasm and hope in that line was amazing,” Reilly said. “I never imagined, while waiting in line, that the race would be this close or I would be this terrified of a potential president.”

“Feeling like I might not ever see a female President,” Rachel Monday, a teacher in Knoxville, Tennessee, said on Twitter. “And I’m 34.”

As the election turned in Trump’s favor, women (and men) turned to their televisions and social media accounts and friends to ask the same question: What did being a woman have to do with the sudden collapse of Clinton’s political fortunes? What were they to make of the election of a man many considered an open misogynist, who had bragged of groping women and made disparaging comments about their bodies?

“The world not ready for a woman, since the most qualified among us was disrespected and defeated in degrading way,” Katie Scullion, a marketing consultant in the Chicago area, said on Twitter.

“Soul-crushing and gut-wrenching to accept misogyny of USA,” Cheri Heflin Callaghan, a 50-year-old real estate broker in Charleston, West Virginia, said on Twitter.

Standing at what was supposed to be the Philadelphia celebration, Tanisha Humphrey, 26, looked stricken.

“I’m a gay woman, I’m a black woman, I’m a woman. I just wonder what kind of future there is for me,” she said.

She volunteered at age 15 for Barack Obama, then a state senator in Illinois, and later moved to Washington to work for his Labor Department and came to Philadelphia to canvass. To see Obama replaced with Hillary Clinton would have been one thing, she said; to see him replaced with Trump is quite another.

Late Tuesday, the mood in the Pantsuit Nation Facebook group swung quickly from celebration to pained examination. “What’s the plan? Who will we be for the next four years?” someone asked. When one woman said she would never vote again, the others rallied with reassurances. They would organize and resist, they said. They would become an effective opposition.

Amy Rosenberg, a 51-year-old communications consultant in Palo Alto, California, was trying to comfort her sobbing daughter, Jessie. Many other Clinton-voting parents across the country said they were trying to do the same for their own children.

Rosenberg tried to think of something uplifting to say. “The good news is, you now have a chance to be the first woman president,” she told her 10-year-old daughter.

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