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Valley women react to Clinton’s presumed nomination

  • Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton greets supporters after speaking during a presidential primary election night rally Tuesday in New York. AP PHOTO

  • Francie Borden, 75, of Haydenville, shares her reaction to the presumed nomination of Hillary Clinton for president Wednesday at the public library in Williamsburg. —DAN LITTLE

  • Francie Borden, 75, of Haydenville, shares her reaction to the presumed nomination of Hillary Clinton for president Wednesday at the public library in Williamsburg. DAN LITTLE

  • Daisy Mathias, 75, of Holyoke, shares her reaction to the presumed nomination of Hillary Clinton for president Wednesday at Forbes Library in Northampton. DAN LITTLE

  • Francie Borden, 75, of Haydenville, shares her reaction to the presumed nomination of Hillary Clinton for president Wednesday at the public library in Williamsburg. —DAN LITTLE

  • Daisy Mathias, 75, of Holyoke, shares her reaction to the presumed nomination of Hillary Clinton for president Wednesday at Forbes Library in Northampton. —DAN LITTLE



@StephMurr_Jour
Wednesday, June 08, 2016

NORTHAMPTON — When Francie Borden graduated from Wellesley College in 1962, her classmates were more focused on securing an engagement ring than a presidential nomination.

“I was before the change years,” Borden said. “It was so different then … It was a time just on the cusp of change.”

Seven years after Borden graduated, Hillary Clinton was the first student to deliver a commencement address to her graduating class in 1969.

Almost a half-century later, Clinton made history again when she declared victory Tuesday night, securing the 2,383 delegates needed to become the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and the first woman to lead a major American political party.

Clinton supporters from across the region rejoiced Wednesday, calling her competent and experienced. And they reflected on the evolving role of women in society in light of a victory they say is historic.

But with history comes backlash, warned Daisy Mathias, 75, a Holyoke resident who was working on her laptop at the Forbes Library in Northampton on Wednesday morning. She suspects the popularity of Donald Trump results from those who respond to change with fear and anger.

“It is hard to describe how stunning a revolution this is for someone who is younger than I am,” said Mathias, referring to the 68-year-old Clinton. “I grew up in an era where women could be discriminated against because they were women …

“But I don’t think the tide has completely turned for women yet. There are still people on the conservative end that feel women should shut their mouths and be in the kitchen,” she added.

Mathias compared the cultural shift to a pendulum, leading to overreaction on both sides of the aisle.

“That’s the way change happens, it swings, and it swings,” Mathias said. “I just hope we can hang on until things even out a bit.”

Mathias was careful to note that until the Democratic National Convention, July 25-28 in Philadelphia, Clinton’s nomination is not official. And beyond that the consequences could be more serious if Democratic voters stay home on Election Day, Nov. 8.

“If Democrats stay home because they’re not happy, there’s a chance Trump could win. That would be a real shame,” Mathias said.

Women can do anything

Borden, 75, of Haydenville, said Clinton’s presumed nomination is not just an indication that times have changed, but a confirmation of something she was taught her entire life — women can do anything.

“I was brought up that way,” said Borden, “Hillary Clinton has been working for women always. She is bright and experienced, so I’m happy she clinched the nomination.”

Borden said she is a Clinton voter but a Bernie Sanders supporter, explaining that for generations her family has supported socialism. Her grandfather Norman Thomas was a six-time Socialist Party of America presidential candidate.

“Socialism is in my blood, it’s in my heart,” Borden said. “My support of Hillary as a politician is practical, not ideological.”

Sanders has been “distracted by his vision” throughout his campaign, Borden said, making Clinton a more realistic choice.

‘Triumph for our country’

University of Massachusetts Amherst history professor Joyce Berkman, 78, echoed Borden’s concerns about Sanders, and called Clinton’s victory a “triumph for our country.”

“Bernie Sanders was up in the clouds. He was too broad, too vague,” Berkman said. “Hillary is politically skilled, she’s a veteran. She was able to wed idealism and pragmatism in an effective way because she has seen it firsthand from executive positions.”

Berkman said Clinton’s declaration of victory is a landmark that “represents the culmination of struggles of women for many years.”

“Hillary Clinton represents the strongest features of American feminism,” Berkman added.

Berkman said she first identified as a feminist while working her way through graduate school at Yale University. Before she enrolled at Yale in 1959, she had never entertained the notion that a woman could be president.

“It wasn’t impossible to me, but I didn’t even think about it,” Berkman said.

During her years at Yale, which remained an all-male undergraduate school until 1969, Berkman noticed that women were not called on as often in graduate-level classes. Their ideas were scoffed at, and sections of the library remained closed off to them, she said, adding that the experience opened her eyes and ignited her feminist values.

A little more than a decade after Berkman enrolled, Clinton received a law degree from Yale in 1973.

Reasons for support

To see Clinton step up to lead a major political party is thrilling, Berkman said, but she emphasized that not just any woman would get her vote. Berkman is drawn to Clinton because she addresses the challenges of people of color, poor working-class people, children, immigrants and refugees.

France Tishman, 67, of Southampton, agreed that Clinton deserves the nomination.

“It is terrific to see, finally, in my lifetime, someone as capable as Clinton,” said Tishman. “It was always very puzzling to me that other countries had women in leadership roles and we didn’t.”

Tishman said Clinton has a unique leadership style, and she believes Clinton brings the best people together to make a decision rather than just relying on her own judgment. Tishman added that she supports Clinton not because of her gender, but because she is the best candidate for the job.

And Barbara Weiner Dubeck, 70, of Northampton, said questions about Clinton’s likability are a sexist way to hold her back from reaching her full potential.

“Seeing someone like Hillary, who is the most qualified person to have ever run for this office, have to pay for her competency by being called unlikable, hurts women. It hurts us from being able to fulfill our potential,” Dubeck said.

Dubeck, who has met Clinton in person, described her as “incredibly warm and likable.” She said Clinton is a symbol for many women of her generation, proving that women can hold leadership positions.

Regardless of political party, Dubeck said women across the country are “feeling the movement” as Clinton moves closer to the nomination.

No matter the outcome of the presidential election in November, Clinton has already made history, Dubeck said.