Older Women Share What Voting for a Woman President in 2016 Means to Them

A band of ‘news girls’ of the Women’s Suffrage Movement prepare to invade New York’s Wall Street, armed with leaflets and slogans demanding votes for women. All images via Getty.

Women have only been legally guaranteed the right to vote for 96 years. And on Tuesday, millions of women across the country—some of whom were alive when women’s suffrage was still a pipe dream—will finally have the opportunity to vote a woman into the United States’ highest office.

We spoke with a few of our older relatives and friends about what this election means to them, and what it’s like to vote for a woman for the first time (or not).


Carol Rothkopf, 87, writer and editor in Summit, New Jersey

I voted for Hillary Clinton by absentee ballot. There was never a moment’s hesitation as she is indisputably the best qualified candidate for the presidency in this race (not to mention previous ones). She has worked for the public good all her life and served with distinction as First Lady, two-term senator from New York, and Secretary of State. Her experience and intelligence put her in another class, indeed almost on another planet, compared to the Male Chauvinist Pig, or MCP as [we] used to call his type, whose political experience is nil. A draft dodger, tax evader, six-time abuser of the bankruptcy laws, and pretend philanthropist whose only apparent skill is putting his name on buildings and denying access to African-Americans who wanted to rent space in them. There is not space enough to enumerate the three thousand plus suits he has brought against any one who seems to disagree with him in private or in public. He has kept many lawyers, including the disgraceful McCarthy associate, Roy Cohn, in lucrative business with him.

An American suffragette with an umbrella stands next to a baby carriage and wears a sign proclaiming ‘Women! Use your vote,’ circa 1920.

He has co-opted the Republican party and, I believe, destroyed any credibility it had in the process. (Vide, for example, Paul Ryan announcing that he would vote for DJT but not campaign for him—thus sayeth the party’s putative chief.)


His hateful utterances about women, Mexicans, Muslims, and slyly, Jews, have NO place in our political discourse and, in fact, disgrace it. The thought of Trump having the right to name the next several Supreme Court nominees is sick- making (as is the congressional Republicans’ obstructionism and seeming obliviousness to their Constitutional duty). It is even more seriously frightening to think of Trump in charge of the nuclear code. Reason enough to vote for Clinton (who has never played TV footsie with Putin, Assad, and others of that ilk).

I trust that I am preaching to the choir when I say it is imperative to vote for Hillary Clinton for president. The fact that she is a woman is a plus because we are long past much of the rest of the world in making this decision without considering the candidate’s sex. Clearly, I am disturbed and angry at what Trump has been doing in his egocentric run for the highest office in the United States.


I hope to be happier a week from today. My mother voted in the first presidential election open to women and I am proud to have taken this a step further by voting (as my mother would have done) for HRC.

Am proud my eldest grand daughter is Features Editor of Jezebel and grateful for the opportunity to share my views as an octogenarian and resident of New Jersey (which will soon see its opportunistic Trump-supporting governor found guilty of yet another crime!) Aside from a long career as a political junkie, I continue as a freelance writer and editor

A polling station at Holloway County School, Camden Road, London, where a woman is voting by proxy for her husband stationed overseas in the 1945 election.

Kappy Vorona, 85, retired nurse in Virginia

It took me a long time to wake up to the frustration so many women felt (including my mother), but I finally did intellectually, though not really emotionally. It’s a good thing that we have HRC on the ballot, and that there were and are women fighting to be fully accepted. But I don’t know who HRC really is, and I wish I could be more certain of her authenticity. I will, however, be voting for her.


Lois Derry, 87, real estate agent in Southern California

The first [election I voted in] was in ’52 and I voted for Stevenson and he lost and I’ve voted in every one since.


I’ve always voted for a Democratic president. There’s been an occasion that I may have voted for someone that wasn’t a Democrat, but seldom, on the down ballot. I remember one time we had a Republican, we were in a district that’s gerrymandered, that’s very republican. And we had this horrible person that I knew personally that was a part of the John Birch Society, and I actually changed my registration to republican and campaigned for the republican that was against him. And then I swiftly changed it back after the election.

I think Hillary’s great. I’m excited about a woman but I’m also excited about Hillary. It’s a two-way thing.


[Even though I’ve liked Obama] I’m sure I was [disappointed when Clinton didn’t get the nomination in 2008], but I’ve sort of forgotten about that. Even at that time I just thought she was—you know, I’m sure you read everything, but when The Atlantic endorsed Hillary, the article they wrote about her I thought was the best thing. I mean she’s one of the best qualified people that’s run for president period in years.

This election has been hard. It’s been ugly. I want it to be over with. I’ve watched all the debates. I haven’t campaigned but I can’t imagine anyone voting for Trump, he just scares me to death. Plus he’s such a jerk...the combination. And all this stuff with the Wikileaks—I’m sure Hillary comes with some baggage but she’s so great compared to what else we have out there.


Trump’s comments about women are so horrible, they’re so base. When you think of Mitt Romney, who I certainly did not vote for and did not want to win, he was a gentleman. And if he had won the election, well, we would have managed. But this person is so crude. It’s not presidential. Can you imagine him overseas talking to leaders of other countries? He’ll say almost anything.

I’ll just be so glad when it’s over with. I’ll tell you what worries me a bit is the ugliness of Trump and his ilk. (Well mostly it’s Trump.) I’m afraid of the ugliness that’s going to come out after the election, like we’re going to investigate more of Hillary and all this kind of stuff. I just hope that he can be like other losers and let it be. But I’m worried about him and I’m worried about his constituents, that he’ll cause trouble after the election. I’m sure Hillary’s going to win, I have no doubt. But I’m a little worried about what’s going to happen after the election.

Bella Abzug, one of the chief organisers of the Women’s Liberation Day parade in New York, on the 50th anniversary of women winning the vote in the United States. She is carrying an anti-motherhood sign reading ‘Free the female body from pain and inequality. Put motherhood in a test-tube’.

Judy Flores, 59, retired executive CEO assistant in Atlanta, Georgia

This election means everything to me because these three little girls mean everything to me and they deserve to live in a world where they are treated equally and respectfully. I’m a smart person so why would I vote for a fucking lunatic?


Meredith Stout, 80, photographer and writer in Berkeley, California

I was raised by a mother who, as a passionate and progressive Democrat, believed that whatever was wrong with the country was “the Republicans’ fault.” As a result, at the now startling age of 80, I continue to find all presidential elections, to be highly emotional and anxiety-making events, filled with either heady elation (Barack Obama) or wrenching despair (George W. Bush).


The forces involved in the current election, however, are more intense than any I have encountered. Donald Trump’s racism, xenophobia and misogyny are being overlooked or accepted by half the electorate made up largely of a suffering working class. On the other side, the Democrats have a chance to elect a woman president, but must overlook or accept a candidate who has either made some bad decisions or has actually knowingly engaged in activity beyond the law.

The acute political split in our country, inflamed by the social media, is as stark as the economic division.

Two smiling women stand outdoors and hold signs reading ‘Vote Baby Vote’ and ‘Voting is People Power,’ c. 1970.

It won’t surprise you that I am a Hillary Clinton supporter. I believe that much of the hatred of Secretary Clinton is manufactured by the right wing and has detracted from the excitement of electing a woman for the first time. In spite of whatever charges there are against her, I believe that with her experience and intellect, she could be a strong leader for this country. However, if she is elected without a democratic Congress, I don’t see how she can avoid the same impasse that confronted President Obama. I am frightened that these divisions cannot be healed enough to give us any kind of functioning government in the future.


Stacy Tobin Carmichael, 87, retired in Northampton, Massachusetts

Lots of firsts in my lifetime—Sandra Day O’Connor, Sally Ride, Carol Moseley Braun, Tina Brown, Janet Reno. And I was already around (1932) when Hattie Caraway was sworn in as our first U.S. Senator. As a child I assumed the President was a He. Three cheers for Hillary and what she has accomplished.


Paula Escobedo, 79, Off-Track Betting Clerk in Cheyenne, Wyoming

I early vote every year. I’ll tell you what. I vote Republican, I’m very loyal. I could not vote Republican for President. And I couldn’t vote for Hillary, because I don’t trust her. So, I voted for Gary Johnson. It’s a wasted vote, but at least I voted. Trump is so low-class, I just couldn’t—God, how embarrassing to have him in the White House. To think that’s the best we can do? He’s just a low-life. In spite of his money, I mean you can have billions and still be low class. I never think of myself better than anybody. I think of myself as good as. But I’ll tell you what, I think I’m better than he is.


I never have voted for a woman president. I would always have voted for the best person who I felt would do at least an average job in the White House. For Hillary, the Foundation information is what I—everything I hear, they built that Foundation for them and used it to their best advantage, and I really resent that. If I find out that isn’t true, I’ll change my opinion, and when she runs again in four years, I’ll vote for her. I think she’s gonna win. I’m not worried about Donald Trump. We need to have a primary for all the stupid people that voted for him, vote them out.

Dorothy Blackwell, 65, artist in Lexington, Virginia

I am voting for Hillary Clinton. For many reasons, this is the most important election of my lifetime. During the Democratic Convention, I watched with emotions and pride that a major party was about to nominate a woman for president. I kept calling and texting my granddaughter and daughter asking if they were watching the convention. I kept telling them with tears in my eyes that they had to watch—it was history and such a prideful moment for women.


Shortly after the convention, a friend told me I shouldn’t vote for Hillary just because she was a woman. I thought about it, watched all the debates, all the cable television news channels, read the papers and magazines. Well now, I’m not voting for Hillary because she is a woman, but because she is the only choice. She has intelligence, experience, aptitude, temperament and loyalty to be President of the United States of America. But as I say this, I still have tears in my eyes with the hope that yes, a woman may be president.

Victoria Olds and Aileen Spree voice their negative opinions of Florida’s presidential election process November 9, 2000 in front of the West Palm Beach office of elections, in Palm Beach County, Florida.

Ada Becker, 100, retired, Brooklyn, NY

[On voting]

I was always gung-ho to vote, it was always very important to me...

[On whether she voted for Franklin D. Roosevelt]

Yes! I thought there was no one else that would ever run! He was very important.


[On voting in 2016]

I’m very much in favor of Hillary and I hope that she will get in, and a woman should get in just as well as a man. A woman can do the job just as well as a man. [When I voted for the first time,] you didn’t even think about a woman running. Absolutely not. Even for governor or anything like that—the House of Representatives or the Senate, you didn’t think about that, of course not. But a woman for president? It didn’t even enter your mind. I [feel proud to vote for a woman,] and I do hope Hillary gets in. I really do.

Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama greet supporters during a campaign event at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

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