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Women Look to Future After Historic Election


Meryem Bencheikh’s daughter turns 6 today. Every day since she started school, she’s had one thing to say.

“She tells me, Wednesday Hillary is going to be president,’” Bencheikh says. The Muslim woman who grew up in Morocco couldn’t bear to tell her child that Hillary Clinton lost.

What’s a mother to say?

It’s a dilemma many moms face after Tuesday’s U.S. election. Just a day prior, mothers held the hands of their daughters as they led them into a voting booth.

“It’s life changing,” says one Tribeca woman who voted at a New York City precinct, her 5- and 6-year-old daughters beaming as they walked out from behind the voting machine. “My girls will always know a girl can be president so nobody needs to tell them that they can’t do anything.”

Hillary Clinton acknowledged the symbol she had become for many women, from those elementary school children to college co-eds and beyond. She addressed them in her concession speech.

“Never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams,” Clinton said.

The electorate did give women a different kind of historic first. Voters insured that 21 women — the largest number ever — will serve in the U.S. Senate. But the presidential race was another story.

White women for Trump

Exit polls suggest more white women chose Republican Donald Trump over Clinton by 10 percent, white men preferred Trump by 12 percent. Some political science analysts, including Hamline University’s David Schultz, suggest women candidates face gender discrimination from voters who will not admit their choice to pollsters.

“There is, I think, still a large percentage of our population that won’t vote for a woman for president of the United States,” Schultz said. He said he believes that is why polls, especially in the recent election, incorrectly predicted Clinton would win.

It would be easy to blame those so-called shadow votes on male voters. But, Linda Crozier, a Trump voter from Pennsylvania, says women don’t “have any right” to be president.

Crozier blames it on emotions: “I don’t want anybody with their finger on the red button, she could be having a bad day, like we do,” she said.

Looking ahead

That was far from the sentiment at the Clinton watch party Tuesday night at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City.

Coline Jenkins shows the picture of her great grandmother, women's rights leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton, that she carried with her Nov. 9, 2016. Jenkins said that faced with the latest loss for feminism, Stanton would look to the future.

Coline Jenkins shows the picture of her great grandmother, women's rights leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton, that she carried with her Nov. 9, 2016. Jenkins said that faced with the latest loss for feminism, Stanton would look to the future.

Thousands who voted for a woman president looked stunned, some sobbing, as they filed out of the building.

Coline Jenkins meandered around the huge hall, drawing attention because of the notebook-sized black-and-white photo of her great-grandmother she carried next to her face.

Women’s Suffrage leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton was her great-grandmother. It’s symbolic because Stanton fought to get women the right to vote. After her death, the 19th amendment passed in 1919, prohibiting voting discrimination by gender.

Jenkins knows her ancestor’s history well and says she stayed optimistic despite many obstacles. When faced with the latest loss for feminism, Jenkins predicts Stanton would look to the future.

“She would ask, ‘What’s the next step?’” Jenkins said.

Motivation from loss

It is a dreary rainy morning in New York City when hundreds of Clinton supporters line the side doors of The Wyndham New Yorker Hotel. Hillary Clinton is inside, delivering a delayed concession speech. The crowd is mainly women, here to see the woman who won their vote.

Other women are motivated after standing in the crowd for an hour to see Clinton walk outside and into her car. Patricia Meonopiciade could barely see over the dense crowd. She said she came to take action.

“It’s time to get out and be active again. In politics,” she said.

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    Carolyn Presutti

    Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters. She has also won numerous Associated Press TV, Radio, and Multimedia awards, as well as a Clarion for her TV coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, Google Glass & Other Wearables, and the 9/11 Anniversary.

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