a letter to my future daughters, by mollie bowman
A letter to my future daughters:
“Where were you when the first woman president was elected?”
I wanted last night to be the day you would ask me about in 20 years. I wanted to tell you how 60 of my classmates crammed in my little living room in the apartment I lived in with your Aunt Lindsay, how we streamed election coverage on the TV we couldn’t afford cable on, how we sprinted the three blocks from our building to the White House where we danced and cheered and cried on the same pavement that Alice Paul and Lucy Burns stood with signs that said, “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?”
I thought you’d never know an America that pays you less than your brothers, one that says your body isn’t your own, or your voice not worth hearing. When your teachers asked what you wanted to be when you grow up, I was so sure you’d be able to say “president,” and do so without ever thinking it couldn’t be possible.
I was four years old when I started telling people I wanted to be the first girl president when I grew up. One day I’ll take you to the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. to show you what used to be my favorite exhibit: an homage to past presidents’ policy accomplishments, with their wives’ inaugural gowns and china patterns displayed in the adjoining showroom. I couldn’t wait to take you through time until we approached President Hillary Clinton’s inaugural cocktail suit, where you’d see with your own eyes our first president who ever looked like you. I was so sure you’d never experience the manufactured role-modeling that stifled my aspirations as a four-year-old presidential hopeful.
Last night our heads were to be anointed with shards of shattered glass as we welcomed an era of progressivism pioneered by the woman who dedicated her entire career to cracking glass ceilings so one day you can shatter another. Last night, I was going to take a picture with my “I Voted” sticker and my Clinton/Kaine pin, and one day we’d bring it to Susan B. Anthony’s grave as together we’d glorify the woman who made it possible. This victory would’ve belonged as much to her as it would to you.
Instead of a glass ceiling raining down, the floor was ripped out from under us, rocking the foundation in which we had so firmly planted our soles, our souls, grounded in the progress paved by the suffragettes and the civil rights activists, the Lucretia Motts and the Ruth Bader Ginsburgs, the Rosa Parks and the Madeline Albrights. By Michelle and Barack Obama.
I will not tell you the story of how we flooded the White House last night. Many of the guests in my apartment I hadn’t met before, but not one was a stranger. Not one didn’t see me cry. Not one didn’t feel the palpable vulnerability that overcame the room. No one sat in solitude — we stood in solidarity.
Aunt Lindsay and I restocked on tissues that morning. I had spent the three days before the election bursting into tears at any given moment, just knowing I’d get to tell you about how Hillary Clinton changed the world that day. The Saturday before, I cried on the phone with an elderly, disabled voter in New Hampshire who was petrified to tell her grandchildren she was part of the reason if we lost the election, because she couldn’t leave her home to get to polls. She cried after I put her on hold and connected her with an organizer who could find her a ride. We shared tears and the blessing we were in it together.
I cried when I when I woke up on Election Day and realized that was the day we were going to change the world — to change the world for you.
I cried when Aunt Lindsay and I knocked on our second-to-last door in Virginia on election day, and were welcomed with open arms by a woman who squealed that we were finally going to “have a PRESIDENT with a vagina!”
But when 60 of my newfound allies and I watched CNN call Ohio, then Georgia, then Florida in Trump’s favor, my tears went from those filled with excitement and hope to those of absolute heartbreak and terror. I hit the ground at North Carolina. At one point, I hid in my bed heaving sobs of complete failure that we were going to have to concede, before sneaking back into the living room and encouraging guests we still had Virginia. And Wisconsin. And Michigan. That not every poll could be wrong, not every forecast so egregiously and dangerously mistaken.
We were supposed to have our first woman president by 11:30 p.m. At 2:37 a.m., puffy-eyed partygoers trickled out our front door, some home to mourn in private, some to the White House as they had planned to — but now in dissent and fear and grief, not celebration.
I went to bed. I asked a friend to join me because I couldn’t be alone with my thoughts. We cried ourselves to sleep. When she left for work four hours later, Aunt Lindsay took her place and hugged me as I continued to sob. This morning we couldn’t talk, couldn’t believe it was real. We cried on the couch. I never got dressed. As a woman in America, I took a sick day.
I’m scared to wake up everyday for four years and feel like I did today. I didn’t want you to grow up with a shadow of a doubt that any man who touched you without your consent could be exalted with the presidency for his abhorrent behavior. Your great grandmother didn’t survive Auschwitz for America to elect a president who touts policies of interning our Muslim brothers and deporting our Mexican sisters. They said this election gave the silent majority a voice, but that couldn’t be more backwards; the Trump majority always had a voice, they just never chose to be heard until the true voiceless — Americans who have been shouting for decades while we haven’t been listening — finally broke the sound barrier.
My dear future daughters, Eleanor and Hillary: one day you’ll play dress-up in pantsuits and the “H” logo tee I ordered for Hillary Clinton’s Inauguration Day. One day you won’t just play house — you’ll play White House.
Yesterday was supposed to be the day that changed your world for the better. I can’t wait to tell you about what happens in four.