As the first time in U.S. history that Americans will have the opportunity to vote for a woman for president representing one of the two major parties, Tuesday will go down as one of the most memorable Election Days. But for some Americans, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton's great-great-granddaughter, Coline Jenkins, the day is especially moving. Jenkins, who is a direct matrilineal descendant of the revered American suffragist, watched as Hillary Clinton went to the polling station in Chappaqua, New York to cast her ballot.
"I started crying. I went to Chappaqua today to witness her voting," Jenkins tells Bustle. "For the past 15 years, I've said on my gravestone, I'll have carved 'I saw the first female president.' And that was so important to me. I hoped before I die I would see the first female president."
In case you had any doubts, Jenkins is proudly voting for Clinton, saying, "It's just so moving to think that she's such a confident person. She's articulate. She has incredible stamina. She's methodical." And Jenkins says she knows from firsthand experience: "I've worked with her. I've testified with her in front of the Senate on building a nation-wide women's rights history trail. She's just incredible. I think she'll do a lot for that nation."
In fact, Jenkins describes speaking with Clinton after, she says, the-then New York senator was making one of her first appearances on Capitol Hill after losing the Democratic nomination in 2008. Jenkins says Clinton was musing about why she lost the primary. "There is no answer to why," Jenkins says. "But I drew a lot of strength from the suffrage movement, and one of the things is you just never give up."
Jenkins' sees in Clinton's second stab at the White House a strong parallel to the spirit of the suffrage movement. "If she [Clinton] had given up after the first try, it would have been an entirely different day. But she did not give up. That's what the suffragists were so good about. Of course, there were defeats, incredible amounts of defeats, even the Supreme Court ruled that a woman did not have the right to vote. That must have been devastating," Jenkins explains. "They had a lot of defeats, but they never gave up. Susan B. Anthony said 'Failure is impossible.' And I think the stick-to-it-ness of Hillary Clinton is an example of never giving up."
Stanton herself ran for Congress in 1866, a full 54 years before women were granted the right to vote throughout the country. "Elizabeth Cady Stanton was always about 50 to100 years ahead of her time," Jenkins tells me. As a result, Jenkins doesn't think her great-great-grandmother would have been surprised by a woman being at the top of the major party ticket in this day and age. "I think she expected it and now it happened," Jenkins says.
Jenkins wishes that her great-great-grandmother had the opportunity not just to see Clinton's White House run, but actually get to talk politics with her. "I think what would be fabulous is that if she and Hillary Clinton could have tea together and discuss the next four years, the strategies and the policies and the goals," Jenkins says. "I think that would be a fabulous tea party that everyone should partake in."
Images: Coline Jenkins (2)