Kamala Harris As 1st Female Vice President-Elect Evokes Mixed Feelings For Some For some women, the election of the nation's first female and first woman of color to be vice president is a move in the right direction. Others say it's a reminder of how much more lies ahead.
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Elation, Frustration: For Women, Kamala Harris' Win Is A Big Step, But Long Overdue

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Elation, Frustration: For Women, Kamala Harris' Win Is A Big Step, But Long Overdue

Elation, Frustration: For Women, Kamala Harris' Win Is A Big Step, But Long Overdue

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The election of the nation's first female vice president and first woman of color is historic, but it is especially sweet to many, coming four years after Hillary Clinton lost her bid to become America's first female president. Back then, NPR's Tovia Smith spoke with Clinton supporters who were devastated. This week, she caught up with them again as they celebrated - some triumphantly and others more tempered.

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: After months of anxiety, New York marketing executive Wendy Salz was so overjoyed when the race was finally called for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, she could barely speak.

WENDY SALZ: She won the election. Yay.

SMITH: She left that voicemail for her daughter, Moira Johnston, who was celebrating at work.

SALZ: We were jumping around and turned the music up very loudly and high-fiving each other.

SMITH: Seeing a female vice president elected was wonderous and, as Salz put it, empowering.

SALZ: Kamala Harris. My God, how fabulous is that? She is reinforcing the ability to dream and to achieve in the next coming generations.

SMITH: Their tears of joy following this election were a far cry from four years ago.

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SALZ: It's really awful and breaking my heart.

SMITH: They had come on election night to what was supposed to be a celebration at Wellesley College, their alma mater and Hillary Clinton's too. Cupcakes were topped with shards of sugar glass for what they thought was the imminent shattering of the ultimate glass ceiling. But by the end of the night, the only thing shattered was their hopes.

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KATHLEEN ZOO: (Crying).

I remember all of that.

SMITH: Twenty-seven-year-old Kathleen Zoo, another Wellesley alum there that night, says she was relieved this year to see the nation elect its first female vice president, who's also Black and South Asian. But Zoo, who's of Asian descent, says she's not quite rejoicing in how far women have come.

ZOO: Oh, my God, no, not at all. Like, look at how close the vote was. Like, this was not a sweeping victory. And I don't know, I guess people are like, OK, you - so you can accept a woman as vice president but not as president.

SMITH: Zoo says she's become far more jaded in the past four years as she's encountered little challenges, like constantly being presumed a nurse while training to be a doctor, and big ones, like when she brought a complaint of sexual assault but says no one believed her.

ZOO: I was definitely naive. But now I just recognize, like, how difficult it is, right? That's made me grow up a lot.

SMITH: Another Wellesley grad, 24-year-old investment analyst Sydney Robertson, who's Black, says she, too, felt more somber than celebratory when Kamala Harris became vice president-elect. Her focus has also been on the glass not yet full ever since election night four years ago, watching how many people were voting for a man known for his racist and sexist comments.

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SYDNEY ROBERTSON: They look at a country that doesn't see a place for me when, quite honestly, my ancestors built it.

SMITH: Four years later, Robertson says she doesn't expect the election of a woman vice president to make sexism or misogyny disappear any more than eight years of a Black president eradicated racism.

ROBERTSON: I think that this past four years just put a flashlight on something that was always there. And Trump is just a reflection of the country and not the opposite. So it's clear that we're not as far away from that ugly truth of America as I think a lot of people thought we were.

SMITH: Wendy Salz shares those concerns, but at 59, she says her generation is more inclined to fete how much of the glass is full.

SALZ: It's much more ingrained in who we are that this is a major, major, major accomplishment. Every step forward, it's not only - it is, thank God we made it this far.

SMITH: The weight to the work left to be done doesn't temper her celebration, she says. It fuels her. As she put it, our sleeves are rolled up and we're ready to keep going. Tovia Smith, NPR News.

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