For Hillary Clinton’s supporters, election night played out like a horror movie.

They’d gathered to celebrate. All the polls, all the predictions said this would be the year America elected its first female president.

As of midnight, those polls were looking more wrong by the minute.

“I seriously find it incomprehensible,” said Monica Foote, sitting shellshocked at a gathering of Wellesley College alumnae in Edina. “He’s a moron and a con man.”

For the women of Wellesley, Clinton will always be the clear-eyed girl in the cap and gown who brought an entire campus to its feet when she derided leaders who “viewed politics as the art of the possible.”

“The challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible possible,” young Hillary Rodham told the crowd at her 1969 commencement speech.

But on election night, they watched the possibility of America’s first female president slip away, state by state.

Her fellow alumnae, who had gathered for what was supposed to be a Minnesota victory celebration, watched in horror as state after state was called for Donald Trump.

Ohio. North Carolina. Florida.

“I’m crushed. I’m absolutely crushed,” said a flabbergasted Alissa Lyon.

Still, she said, it just means that the day after the election “we roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

“We have to come together and find a way to move forward,” she said. That would have been equally true if Clinton had won after the bitter and bruising campaign, during which Clinton’s critics questioned her honesty, morals, appearance and stamina.

Katie Clark Sieben, former commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, took to Twitter to issue a call to arms.

“No matter the outcome, this is our wake up call,” she wrote. “We need to battle the strong undercurrent of racism and sexism entrenched in our society.”

Sisters Jaya and Asha Stenquist stood side by side, shooting pained glances at the television and its increasingly red map.

A disheartening moment

“Obviously, this is a very disheartening moment,” Jaya said. But she’ll never forget the moment she cast her first vote in a presidential election, for the first woman to win a major party’s nomination. “I cried in the voting booth.”

Women waited 132 years between the first presidential election and their first chance to vote. They waited another 96 years to see a woman’s name at the top of the ballot. This year, of all years, Clinton’s supporters thought, would be the year a woman finally won the White House.

Koryne Horbal toted around an oxygen tank and a small bottle of champagne after she cast her vote.

The co-founder of the state’s DFL feminist caucus and longtime political organizer spent her life breaking into traditionally male arenas and befriending leaders like Gloria Steinem and Betty Folliard. She had been campaigning for Clinton since 2008.

“I can’t believe the strength, and the dedication, and the stamina that she’s had,” said Horbal, 79. “Not only physical, but also mentally.”

As the election results rolled in and Trump’s lead grew, spotlights glowed around the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial on the grounds of the State Capitol in St. Paul.

A sample ballot, inked in for Hillary, fluttered on the memorial, weighted down with rocks.

Bright “I Voted” stickers speckled a nearby plaque that featured the image of a woman, weary and overworked, staring up at a ladder — each rung marking women’s progress, from “house drudgery” to “public office” to “positions of trust.”

At the top of the ladder, a final rung: President.

On this election night, it still seemed out of reach.


Sharyn Jackson, Natalie Daher and Liz Sawyer contributed to this report.