clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

At Center City DNC watch party, women savor a landmark moment

"I just wanted to be where it was," said a retired teacher who traveled from San Francisco.

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Adrienne Sciutto, a retired history teacher from San Francisco, didn’t have credentials to get into the Wells Fargo Center, where Hillary Clinton made history Thursday night as the first woman to accept the nomination of a major party for president of the United States.

But Sciutto, 74, came to Philadelphia anyway, wanting be as close as possible to the room where it happened.

She found a good alternative: a Democratic National Convention Watch Party hosted by the New Century Trust and the Alice Paul Institute, two organizations with long histories of supporting women and girls.

With about 80 other people, she watched on a jumbo TV screen and savored the moment. Many of the women came dressed in the colors of the suffrage movement – white, gold, and purple – and wore sashes like those that came to symbolize the resolve of the women who, a century ago, fought for and won their universal right to vote.

“My partner here is 82, and thank God we lived long enough to see this day,” Sciutto said.

The people who came were mostly women, but some men attended, too. They were young and old and from near and far, but all had the common desire to mark the moment.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime moment, and we needed to do something,” said Terri O’Connell, a board member with the Alice Paul Institute.

The Institute is based on the Moorestown farm where Paul, the ardent suffragist and master strategist for passage of the 19th Amendment, grew up. The New Century Trust, on Locust Street, started in the late 1800s to advocate for women’s rights and serve as a support center. The two organizations continue to offer educational programming and leadership training aimed at empowering girls.

They are iconic stops on any women’s history tour, at least in this region.

O’Connell said that this history came full circle last night.

All eyes were focused on the screen as Hillary Clinton walked to the lectern, and as she accepted the nomination, cheers broke out.

Sciutto was rapt. “I just wanted to be where it was,” she said.

She said that spending the historic moment with the Alice Paul Institute was especially meaningful to her because she has been working on a children’s book about Paul.

“Now whether I finish the book is another question.”

“She’s a very good writer,” said her partner, Irene.

Scuitto smiled. “So says my partner of 47 years.”

Clinton’s nomination is “the culmination of everything that started with Seneca Falls – and before, actually,” Sciutto said. “It’s been a long road.”

The 1848 conference in Seneca Falls, New York, was the first women’s rights convention in the United States. It resulted in a “Declaration of Sentiments” signed by 100 attendees, male and female, in which women presented their grievances regarding their treatment by men. The first was: “He has not ever permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise.”

But rather than describe Clinton’s nomination as the culmination of a long struggle, others at the watch party were looking to the future.

Grace Tonicich brought her daughter, Sophia, to the event because it is a moment that could influence the rest of her life. Sophia is a 2nd grader at Moorestown Friends School, which Alice Paul attended before going on to Swarthmore College.

“It’s important for her to realize that she can be whatever she wants to be when she grows up,” said Tonicich.

Susan Switlik also brought her daughter and two granddaughters, each wearing a homemade sash. She said that she had been following the trajectory of Clinton’s career since she was the first lady of Arkansas and that she is excited now that she is the Democratic nominee.

But Switlik said that even though this moment is historic, it will not change everything overnight.

“It won’t change minds, but it will change perceptions,” she said.

She said that Clinton may still face resistance as a female candidate, but that this moment is a good starting point for change.

Emily McMaster of Sicklerville, a senior at Rutgers studying English and communications, said that Clinton is carrying an even bigger burden than usual for a presidential candidate.

“I feel like it means a great deal just because of what’s on the other side of the political spectrum,” she said “ Usually, there’s been rational debate on the other side, but as you can see with Donald Trump, that’s not gonna happen.”

This year, she said, “It’s important to go out and do more than you would usually do in an election year.”

The COVID-19 outbreak is changing our daily reality

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to providing the information families and educators need, but this kind of work isn't possible without your help.

Connect with your community

Find upcoming Philadelphia events