When Jeanne Hauck was in the fifth grade, she wrote a letter of protest to her school newspaper.
Girls were only allowed to wear dresses at Hauck’s school. She thought that was unfair. So she wrote a letter demanding the right to wear pants. The school relented.
Today, some four decades later, Hauck and her sister-in-law, Robin Harvey, traveled to the Javits Center from their New York City homes, hoping to see history happen.
“We’ve been waiting for this a long time,” Hauck said.
For Hauck, Harvey, and other women gathered outside Hillary Clinton’s election night event on Tuesday night, it was a moment vibrating with emotional resonance.
“My heart was broken when the [Equal Rights Amendment] didn’t pass” in 1979, Hauck said, referring to the failed effort to enshrine equal rights for women in the United States Constitution.
The sisters-in-law also recalled the hope that Geraldine Ferraro’s 1984 vice presidential run would lead to more women on major party national tickets — a hope that went unanswered for three decades.
Tonight, the women are remembering, and hoping for change. “It’s been very emotional, looking back on the past,” Hauck said.
On the lengthy line for the empanada truck in the pen outside the Javits Center, Rabbi Marisa James, a senior organizer at the social justice group T’ruah, remembered the lack of female role models she’d had growing up. “I had no models as a child for women being in leadership [in] any of the ways that I am,” she said. “Seeing that happening is amazing.”
James’s wife, Barbara Shmetzler, said that she had been worried sick about the election. Shmetzler, who was born in Germany, said that she had always wondered as a child how the Nazis could have come to power. “I think I can understand more easily how it can happen in a country that is kind of democratic,” she said.
Samatha Eckhart had brought her 5-year-old daughter, Alyssa, to the election-night event, at her daughter’s request.
“She wanted to see Hillary because she wants to be president,” Eckhart said.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.