College-educated white women are Hillary Clinton's most solid voting bloc, but they may not be her most passionate supporters. While much has been said about women voters holding the power in this election, it's not just young and middle-age women who are preparing to turn out in droves for Clinton. This election is for the centenarians — the women who were born before women's suffrage, and have waited 100 years or more to cast their vote for the first female president.
Women received the right to vote in America less than 100 years ago. Women's suffrage was finally achieved in 1920, through the ratification of the 19th Amendment. But even after the amendment passed, not all American women were able to vote freely and legally. Women of color — particularly black women — faced numerous voting obstacles in the South and other parts of the United States through the 1960s.
Younger women today may take their right to vote for granted, unaware of (or incapable of imagining) how the country might be if women couldn't vote for their choice of president. Some women may still feel ambivalent about voting for Clinton, while others may feel like Susan Sarandon and balk at the idea of "voting with their vaginas."
For the centenarians who were born before the ratification of the 19th Amendment, this election is everything. It's not just symbolic: Imagine being a woman born in the 1910s and living through the last century, witnessing everything that has transpired. For the 100-year-old women in the voting booths on Tuesday, it will be the ultimate culmination of women's suffrage and an affirmation of women's equality.
"I have lived for this day, to vote for her and to live to see her, the next president of the United States of America," 102-year-old Jerry Emmett told azcentral.com after casting her vote for Clinton last week.
"This is the first time I've ever voted for a woman for president, because I never thought that it would ever happen — as much as I never thought I'd live to be 100," 100-year-old Eleanor Gatman recently told Minnesota Public Radio. She voted for Clinton by absentee ballot and said she loved seeing a woman's name on the presidential ballot. "I love the thought that she feels capable. And I love the thought that she wants to be president."
"It's about time we have a woman president," 100-year-old Florida resident Lee Feldman added to The Sun-Sentinel. "It's the first time getting a chance to vote for a woman and [Clinton] happens to be brilliant."
Although it's 96 years since women's suffrage, voting still isn't easy or accessible for a number of women — including centenarians. In North Carolina, 100-year-old African-American woman Grace Bell Hardison was nearly denied her right to vote after her county's Board of Elections challenged her voter registration. The county eventually dismissed the challenge, but The Nation pointed out that Hardison's fight to retain her right to vote is just one of many tales of voter disenfranchisement that still occurs against women of color.
It's been a long 96 years, and as some of these centenarians have shown, there's still so much work to be done.