Lisa Lindstrom, 47, a nurse practitioner and registered Democrat in D.C., picked out her Election Day outfit carefully: a pantsuit (the only one she owns) to signal her support for Hillary Clinton; a white ruffled blouse to evoke the suffragettes; a jacket she'd worn to the White House last year when she met President Obama; and a pearl necklace that had belonged to her grandmother, Harriett, who passed away in 1996.
“She would have killed to vote for Hillary today,” Lindstrom said. “I’m a lot more overcome with emotion than I expected to be. I didn’t think this election was going to mean as much to me as it has.”
“Pantsuit Nation” was out in force Tuesday. Women supporting Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, posted photos on social media, often with their young daughters in tow. Some wore “Nasty Woman” T-shirts, in reference to Donald Trump's growling insult during the third presidential debate.
In Rochester, N.Y., women covered the gravestone of Susan B. Anthony with “I voted” stickers. Many wore white in honor of Anthony, who fought for women's suffrage, an effort that culminated with the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. Women have been on the national ballot before, but never as the presidential nominee for one of the two major parties.
“I never cried when I filled out my ballot before. But I realized my daughters — and I have three of them — have the right to vote for a woman. It made me cry,” a woman named Jodi Atkin told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
Even though Clinton would be the first woman to serve as president after 43 men preceded her, the groundbreaking — or ceiling-shattering — nature of her candidacy was never the most dominant feature of the 2016 campaign. Clinton and her surrogates in recent weeks more eagerly embraced gender politics after her GOP rival became entangled in sexual assault allegations. On the eve of the election, at her rally in Philadelphia, Clinton repeated one of her favorite lines, saying that if Trump accused her of playing the woman card by advocating for equal pay for women, “Deal me in!”
But for much of the past year, Trump's polarizing message and unpredictable campaign style soaked up most of the media attention. Clinton is such a familiar figure — a former first lady, senator and secretary of state — that the novelty of her White House bid may have been lost in the chaos of the campaign.
On Election Day, though, many women pondered what a big deal this is for a country that's never had a female Chief Executive. In interviews, women who support Clinton described being caught off guard by the emotional resonance of their vote.
Twitter users deployed the hashtag #DedicateYourVoteToAWoman to do just that, paying tribute to women who inspired them to vote for Clinton. Many women shared stories and photos of their mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters and feminist icons.
One website called IWaited96Years features women born before the 19th Amendment was ratified. The site began when family members posted online a photo 98-year-old Estelle L. Schultz casting an absentee ballot for Clinton, and now features photos and stories of 162 other women ranging from age 96 to 104.
“I had tears in my eyes as I was sitting there in our local community center filling out the ballot,” said Bethany Usher, 46, a university administrator who lives in Springfield, Va. and is the mother of two teenage daughters.
“It is overdue,” she said. “She was bullied and degraded in public by a less qualified man. The fact that she was able to overcome that, and maintain her poise and her confidence. . . . Watching this has made it more inspiring, watching one more barrier get broken.”
Half a continent away, in Austin, Gloria A. Rodriguez, 53, a paralegal, wore all-white, including a white hat, to cast her vote for Clinton at a grocery store.
“This is pretty exciting,” she said, showing off an “I voted” sticker on the lapel of her button-down white shirt. “It’s historic and it means a lot to me to vote for a woman, and as a woman.” She added that Trump “brought the Hispanics out to vote against him.”
In Atlanta, Lonna Young, 47, an accountant, said she voted for Clinton not because she's a woman but because she was the most qualified candidate. But she recalled a day six years ago when she sat down with her 7-year-old daughter to talk about the history of the American presidency. Her daughter asked: “Where are the women?”
“I was like, 'You really don't even know how deep that question is'," Young said. She said of her daughter, now 13, “I'm hoping she can see the significance of this, if not at this moment then in a few years when she can vote.”
In southern California, Elizabeth Fitzsimons, 43, a vice president with the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, took her 12-year-old daughter Natalie with her to the polling precinct at an elementary school. She said she told Natalie: “It wasn’t very long ago that women weren’t even allowed to vote. It hasn’t been that long. This is amazing that we’re voting for a woman to be president.”
Fitzsimons then wrote a note to Natalie's first-period history teacher, asking forgiveness for being late to school, writing, “I felt it was important for her to see me vote for our first woman president on this historic day.”
Camille Pendley in Atlanta, Eva Ruth in Austin and Michelle Ye Hee Lee in Washington contributed to this report.