Florence McGraw only slept a few hours on Tuesday night.
It was an emotional, exciting, nervous evening for this 85-year-old from Sharonville because she knew that on Wednesday morning she would be able to do something she'd been wanting to do her entire life: Cast a vote for a woman as president.
“It’s an emotional day for me; it really is,” McGraw said as she waited in line outside the Hamilton County Board of Elections at 6:45 a.m. on the first day of early voting in Ohio. “I think about my mother, and my grandmother, and all the women who came before me.”
McGraw stood on the sidewalk with other members of the “Hillary’s coffees” group as reporters took turns interviewing them. These die-hard Hillary Clinton supporters have achieved celebrity status among local Democrats since WCPO first wrote about them in 2015.
Once a week, every single week, for more than eight years, these six women have met at College Hill Coffee Company and Casual Gourmet to talk about Clinton.
The women, who range in age from 65 to 89, met at a Wyoming phone bank while working for Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid and became great friends.
“When she lost in 2008, we grieved, “said Michele Mueller of Harrison. “There were moments when we wondered if she would run again.”
After Clinton suspended her campaign and endorsed Barack Obama as the Democratic nominee, the disappointed women promised not to lose touch with each other or their dream of Clinton someday winning the White House.
That was 428 weekly coffees ago.
“This is like Christmas morning,” said Mueller, who was wearing a well-coordinated red, white and blue outfit on Wednesday morning. “I prayed last night to let us all be well enough to get out of bed to come down here this morning.”
One member of the group, Christine Zevron of White Oaks, was traveling in Africa, but she texted the others in the early morning hours to bemoan missing the first day of early voting.
Their commitment to Clinton has been nothing short of extraordinary.
After years in the volunteer trenches, these women are now campaign leaders in their neighborhoods. They are the ones who find volunteers and then train them how to effectively knock on doors and phone bank for Clinton.
They drop off campaign signs and absentee ballots, throw debate watch parties and get-out-to-vote rallies in their garages. Some host out-of-town Clinton campaign staffers, and even loan them their cars.
Ena Wilson, who was 81 when Clinton dropped her first bid in 2008, didn’t think she would live long enough to see a woman president.
“I’m just thrilled to have a second chance at it,” said Wilson, who is now 89. “This was unexpected for me.”
Joyce Shrimplin of Lebanon remembers as a child reading history books with her father and noticing that all presidents and primary winners were men. It bothered her, even then.
“From now on, life is different for me,” Shrimplin said.
Francie Pepper didn’t grow up in a political household as a child. She met Clinton when she was first lady and came to dedicate the YWCA of Greater Cincinnati Battered Women Shelter in 1997.
“She was so real and so compassionate,” Pepper said. “She completely understood these women in jeopardy.”
While the group still has four weekly coffee meetings to go until Election Day, they are feeling pretty optimistic.
A few weeks ago many made hotel reservations for the inauguration. They don’t want to miss what they have waited eight years, and in theory, their whole lives for.
“It’s been such a long time that we have been fighting for women’s issues. It seems we take two steps forward and then one back,” said Wilson, who was born in 1927. “It just seems as if we never make the final step…. This would be the last crack in the glass ceiling.”
Will the weekly coffees continue after the election?
"Oh my gosh! We will absolutely be having coffee together and more," Shrimplin said.