Born in Iowa in 1914, she moved to Arizona as a child and has lived there since, working as a public school teacher and raising a family through nearly a century’s worth of new governors and new presidents. There, she dedicated her life, fiercely and fashionably, to promoting the democratic process. In Arizona, Jerry Emmett is known.
Thanks to the Democratic National Convention, where this week she is serving as an honorary delegate, the whole nation now knows Jerry Emmett, too.
Donning earrings accentuated with a golden donkey and the word “VOTE,” puffed white hair and her signature bright pink lipstick, the 102-year-old steadied herself on the shoulder of a delegate with her left hand and took hold of the microphone with her right.
“And 51 votes for the next president of the United States of America,” Emmett said, her voice building along with the crowd’s cheers, “Hillary … Rodham … Clinton!”
A wide smile spread across her worn face.
“I’m crying, and I never cry,” Emmett told The Post afterward. “She deserves it so much. She has been so good and such an example that we can do anything.”
Not only was Emmett there to witness Clinton make history, but the old woman’s crackled voice and childlike glee became an emotional, symbolic display of just how far women in America have come.
“My whole life, I keep asking God, let me have one more chance — if you let me go to the convention [to see the first woman to be nominated for president], I’ll go home to heaven without making a little fuss,” Emmett told the Clinton campaign. “And when I called one of my former students and I told them that, she said, ‘oh no you won’t— I’ve already ordered your dress to go to the inauguration.'”
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"I'm 102. My whole life, I keep asking God, let me have one more chance—if you let me go to the convention [to see the first woman be nominated for president], I'll go home to heaven without making a little fuss. And when I called one of my former students and I told them that, she said, 'oh no you won't—I've already ordered your dress to go to the inauguration.'" —Jerry, 102, Arizona, Hillary's oldest delegate at the Democratic National Convention #DemsInPhilly
In Emmett, Hillary Clinton has had a fan since the 1990s. When Bill Clinton was occupying the White House, Emmett founded a Hillary Clinton fan club in Arizona.
“I knew even then she was the backbone of that outfit,” Emmett told the Arizona Republic. “I knew she would eventually be somebody on her own.”
In interviews over the years, Emmett has compared Hillary Clinton to Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the first president for whom Emmett ever voted.
“I’m strictly joined at the hip to Hillary Clinton,” Emmett told the Phoenix New Times, “and I’ve admired her all of her life.”
Much like Hillary Clinton, Emmett spent her life working with children. She taught in public schools for 43 years, her first job taking her to the Navajo Reservation during her senior year at Arizona State Teachers College where she instructed children with physical disabilities and long-term illnesses, some of which were fatal.
“Here I saw my first death and my first birth,” Emmett told Northern Arizona University, her alma mater, in a biography celebrating the teacher as a distinguished alumna. “All of these things made me realize what it meant to be a human being and help others.”
In the 102-year-old’s home, described by the New Times as “quaint” and on a suburban street in Prescott, Ariz., there is a spare bedroom called the “Hillary Room,” dedicated almost entirely to Clinton campaign paraphernalia.
“Mugs, campaign buttons, signs, photos, letters — you name it, it’s here,” described the New Times. “There’s even a framed piece of an American flag sitting on a dresser, behind which sits a framed handwritten note from Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., explaining that the flag is part of one that flew ‘over our nation’s Capitol during the historic first six months of leadership under President Barack Obama.'”
Emmett has met President Obama, Jimmy Carter and, earlier this year, Hillary Clinton — all thanks to her best friend of 60 years, Carolyn Warner, a Democratic superdelegate from Arizona who accompanied Emmett to the convention in Philadelphia this week. The women worked together during Warner’s multiple campaigns for public office in Arizona, reported the Arizona Republic, including her three victories as superintendent of public instruction and a defeat during her bid for governor in 1986
“It’s one of the most exciting times of my life: to see this woman, who has been a closet women’s libber all her life, have a chance to see the woman she loves and admires become nominee for the office of president of the United States,” Warner told the Arizona Republic.
In March, at a Clinton campaign rally in Phoenix, Warner arranged for Emmett to meet the candidate. Emmett dressed for the occasion, wearing a full white pant suit, a bedazzled American flag pin and another silver pin tacked to her blue and white polka dotted turtle neck that read, boldly, “HILLARY.”
When it was time to get a photo with Clinton, Emmett brought along two signs, Warner told the Arizona Republic, even though the rules warned against it. On one, Emmett and her family had written “Centenarian for Hillary.” On another, they scribbled “101 and for Hillary.”
“Hillary saw us coming and said, ‘Jerry, how did you get in here with all those posters?’” Warner said. “An AP photographer took Jerry’s photo and it ran in papers all over the United States. It was a great day in her life.”
Emmett brought her “Centenarian for Hillary” sign to the Democratic convention this week, a week of long days and raucous celebration. The 102-year-old told the Arizona Republic she would fare just fine. Activists spoke of her ability, despite her age, to knock back multiple beers in one sitting. Though she has served as a voting delegate before, she’s an honorary delegate this year.
“I’m honorary something,” Emmett told the Arizona Republic this week. “It means you can’t see and you can’t hear and you can’t vote, but you’re going to get your picture taken and a whole bunch of people are going to ask you all about Arizona because I’ve been here almost since the state was.”
At Monday’s Arizona delegation breakfast, Emmett was the focus of much fanfare, the newspaper reported, even earning an invitation from fellow Democrat Fred DuVal, who ran for governor of Arizona in 2014, to Clinton’s inaugural celebration should she win the presidency.
“We’re going to dance at the Kennedy Center,” DuVal said. “I am so proud of you — you just continue to marvel. You’re going to have more name ID than Tim Kaine by the time this thing’s over.”