Girl power: Locals proud to stand with her

Nancy Damon took her mother-in-law, 102- year-old Grace Damon, to vote early. The registrar brought her ballot out to the car. Photo courtesy of Nancy Damon Nancy Damon took her mother-in-law, 102- year-old Grace Damon, to vote early. The registrar brought her ballot out to the car. Photo courtesy of Nancy Damon

Born in 1914, Grace Damon was 6 years old when women were given the right to vote.

And while few can say they’ve been politically active for nearly a century, this 102-year-old Democrat was chauffeured to the polls October 12 to cast her ballot early for the person she hopes will become the first female president of the United States. 

“Usually, she canceled out her husband, who was a very conservative Republican,” says Nancy Damon about her mother-in-law. She says the elderly voter has had her doubts that a woman would run the White House in her lifetime.

“She wasn’t opposed to Hillary [Clinton],” her daughter-in-law says, recalling a conversation the two shared before Grace recently became ill. “She just didn’t think a woman could become president because of the barriers.”

But, reminded that Clinton’s opponent is Donald Trump, Nancy says her mother-in-law “made a very bad face” and indicated there could be hope for Clinton, after all.

Though the elder Damon leans left, she’s no stranger to The Donald—a year ago, she dressed as the yellow-haired, orange-hued presidential hopeful for a Halloween party at her retirement community.

Nancy has been politically active since the 1972 presidential election, in which she cast her first-ever vote for Democratic nominee George McGovern, who ran an anti-war campaign and was eventually defeated by Richard Nixon.

Nowadays, you can find this former director of the Virginia Festival of the Book canvassing for Clinton.

“I’m impressed with her record,” she says. “Because she’s been a senator, [lived] in the White House and Secretary of State, she’s probably had a wider range of experience than just about anybody who’s ever run for office.”

She adds, “I would say the opposite is true of Mr. Trump.”

The Damon political spirit runs in the family—Kate Damon, Nancy’s daughter, lives in Washington, D.C., and created the Democratic National Convention’s logo this year.

A legion of other local female voters share the same spirit.

Nancy O’Brien, Charlottesville’s first female mayor, elected in 1976, has long organized women’s groups—most recently helping to form Women For Perriello during the 2008 election, in which Democrat Tom Perriello won the 5th District congressional race, though the gerrymandered district has voted to elect Republican nominees for most of this century.

Not only is O’Brien surprised a woman could soon become president, she says she is amazed that one is even running.

“Our last hope had been Geraldine Ferraro,” she says about the 1984 vice presidential candidate. “I never really envisioned this possibility. …I’m delighted as a woman. I think [Clinton is] a woman of accomplishment and she can get things done when she’s elected.”

“I do think she’s had to prove a lot by being a woman and I think that’s what a lot of us feel,” says Kay Slaughter, a former mayor, city councilor and political activist who attended the 1984 Democratic Convention as a delegate. Ferraro and other women in the political arena became role models to her, she says.

She adds that the three most important issues to many women voters are pay equity, pro-choice advocacy and adequate child care, “and Hillary Clinton gets it.”

Though this election is one for the books, she’s no longer shocked that a woman’s name is appearing at the top of the ticket.

“Behind every election that I’ve worked in since the ’60s,” Slaughter says, “women have been the backbone.”

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