Paula Simon and Deanna Stewart were both deep in hostile territory two weekends ago while campaigning for their preferred presidential candidate.
Simon, who lives in Potomac, was on a bus trip to help Democrat John F. Kerry in York County, Pa., a county that has not supported a Democrat for president since 1964.
"A lot of people yelled 'Bush, Bush, get out of town. This is a Republican town,' " said Simon, 43, adding she felt safe only because she was with a large group.
Stewart, of Takoma Park, was facing her own jeers while campaigning for President Bush at the Takoma Park Folk Festival, where liberal causes are routinely embraced.
"One guy came by screaming that 9/11 was all Bush's fault," said Stewart, 43, who said someone else spit on a Bush volunteer.
Stewart and Simon represent hundreds of women across Montgomery County who are volunteering their time, energy and money to boost their choice for president. Although women have long been the backbone of precinct-level campaign work, political observers say they sense an increase in enthusiasm this year.
"This is an election about values," said Matthew A. Crenson, chairman of the Johns Hopkins University Political Science Department. "Women for better or worse, even before female suffrage, were cast into the role of defenders of morality and defenders of values, and that is what is motivating a lot of them this year. "
Crenson said Democratic women are being driven by their opposition to Bush's decision to invade Iraq. Other women, he said, are mobilizing in support of Bush because of their opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.
The Bush-Cheney Montgomery County committee has signed up 2,000 potential volunteers, far more than local Republicans say have expressed an interest in past elections, said Silvia Darrow, a co-chairman of the local effort.
"Usually, you think men are the ones that take the initiative and really come out, but in this case, it's women," Darrow said. "It's both working women, young parents and single women."
Kerry, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, also has hordes of volunteers from Montgomery County, and anti-Bush organizations are finding the county is fertile ground for support.
"Montgomery County has some of our largest sister cities and some of our most active members," said Lee Caudle, national coordinator of Mothers Opposing Bush (MOB), a group of 17,000 women nationwide working to unseat the president. MOB, which includes many members involved in politics for the first time, was started last year in Annapolis. Since then another organization, Women in Support of the President (WISP), formed in Annapolis in July; WISP has about 350 members.
With registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans 2 to 1 in Montgomery County, which last voted for a Republican for president 20 years ago, supporters of Bush and Kerry are employing different tactics.
Both sides concede that Kerry should easily win Montgomery County and probably Maryland's 10 electoral votes. Hence, local Bush supporters say they are using this election to build the county's Republican Party.
Many county Democrats are not only working locally but taking their energy on the road, hoping to boost Kerry in neighboring battleground states such as Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Simon, a former nurse, said dozens of women from Montgomery County joined 100 other Democratic supporters two weeks ago for their trip to York County.
"When we went into a family restaurant, you should have seen the faces of these people seeing all of our Kerry stuff," said Simon, who is a member of MOB and contributor to MoveOn.org, an organization spending millions of dollars on television ads attacking Bush. "They were just shocked, but some of the older people were giving us thumbs up, saying they have not seen that kind of Democratic activism around there in years."
Last weekend, another caravan of cars traveled to Montgomery County, Pa., near Philadelphia to work on Kerry's behalf.
David Paulson, a spokesman for the Maryland Democratic Coordinated Campaign, said the outreach to neighboring states comes "from a tremendous amount of confidence Kerry will win Maryland."
Other Montgomery County women are staying closer to home but working just as hard in the outreach effort.
Felicia Kimmel, founder of the Olney chapter of MOB, which has 54 members, organized a fundraiser last week at the Norbeck Country Club in Rockville to raise money so her group can run television ads against Bush in battleground states.
Kimmel, 35, said the members of her chapter also plan to begin writing hundreds of personal letters to Pennsylvania voters asking them to support Kerry.
"We are trying to make it easy for people," Kimmel said. "People do not have to give that much time; if they could do a little time here and there, it's going to make a difference."
Kimmel's activism is paying off. A few weeks ago she convinced her mother-in-law, a Republican who voted for Bush in 2000, that she should support Kerry and attend the MOB fundraiser.
"I am not happy with the war in Iraq, and I just feel [Bush] lost his focus," said her mother-in-law, Harriet Kimmel, 56, of Bethesda. "I am just not into Bush like I was before. He puts a little too much religion in there."
Although many of the Montgomery women supporting Kerry appear driven by their dislike for Bush, the women supporting the president say they are doing so because they admire him and his views.
"I'm conservative. I'm pro-life and conservative, and I just feel very passionate about Bush being president," said Anna Crow, 57, who is Bush's precinct leader in Germantown.
Crow and other Republicans are hoping to use that enthusiasm for Bush to counter Democrats' advantage in the county. In 2000, Bush won only 33 percent of the vote in Montgomery County, which contributed to his 13-point loss in Maryland to Democrat Al Gore.
Montgomery Republicans are hoping to deliver 40 percent of the vote for Bush this year to make Maryland more competitive and lay the groundwork for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) to win reelection in 2006. Ehrlich won 38 percent of the vote in Montgomery in 2002.
"We're not just working for this election, we're working to get more names and more people so that we have a better election base for 2006," said Catherine Sundwall, events chairman of Bush's Montgomery campaign.
Being the underdogs, Montgomery County Republicans say they do not have time to travel outside the county.
"When I was precinct chair to help Bush in 2000, I did not get my assignment or know what was going on until September. This year we have been organized since the end of February," Darrow said.
Darrow and one to two dozen other Bush supporters meet every Saturday in a Rockville restaurant to plot the week's strategy and decide what parades or community events they will attend.
But it takes a thick skin to be a Bush volunteer in Montgomery County.
When Stewart was handing out Bush bumper stickers at the Rockville Arts and Music Festival last weekend, she got more than a few glares.
"I don't see how any intelligent person can vote for Bush," yelled a man who identified himself as George Lopez, 65, of Rockville, when asked whether he wanted a Bush sticker. "He's insane. He is leading the country the same way Hitler led Germany, through lies."
"That's clearly your opinion, sir," Stewart replied.
"No, that's the truth," Lopez retorted before walking away.
Yet, dozens of people accepted the stickers and started wearing them. Many others were wearing Kerry stickers.
"The best experience is when people say, 'Thanks for doing this, thanks for being here,' " said Sundwall, 60, whose husband, David N. Sundwall, worked in the Reagan administration. "Because Republicans are a minority in this county, people need to see we have a presence."
Kerry and Bush supporters say they expect their passion to grow even stronger between now and Election Day.
"Everyone feels good about doing something," said Kimmel, a Kerry supporter. "And if we lose, at least I will feel like I have done my part."