Teen Vogue:
The Women of Hillary Clinton's Campaign

On November 9, 2016, the day after the elec­tion, the world watched Hillary Clinton deliver a con­ces­sion speech that spoke of the deeply divided” nation the pres­i­den­tial race had left in its wake. Observing from the side­lines, eyes filled with tears, were her heart­bro­ken cam­paign staffers, who had spent the pre­vi­ous year imag­in­ing a very dif­fer­ent out­come.

On Election Day, I was in charge of all of the hotel logis­tics,” says Opal Vadhan, a former member of Hillary’s national advance team and cur­rently the exec­u­tive assis­tant to both Hillary and her chief of staff, Huma Abedin. I was with her all Election Day and had a team of three. So at 2 or 3 in the morn­ing, when the results came in, I had to tell these phe­nom­e­nal women, We can’t cry; we cannot be upset. We need to make this as easy as pos­si­ble for this woman on what is pos­si­bly the tough­est day of her life.’”

This is just one exam­ple of the over­whelm­ing resilience, strength, and pro­fes­sion­al­ism exhib­ited by Opal, 24; Iran Campana, 27; Mariam Ehrari, 25; Tylah Gantt, 23; Kate Offerdahl Guy, 25; Lauren Collins Peterson, 30;Paola Ramos, 30; Ella Serrano, 26; and Lisa Vedernikova, 23 — a hand­ful of the many women (and men) who ded­i­cated them­selves to help­ing get the first female pres­i­dent elected. While we didn’t see the glass ceil­ing shat­tered, these women all agree that the long days, late nights, and love shared cre­ated a bond that will last a life­time. The way we would decom­press is just by being friends with each other,” says Kate, who assisted cam­paign man­ager Robby Mook and is now the policy pro­gram man­ager at the Truman National Security Project. We were never catty. We loved each other deeply — [from] the most senior staff to the once-a-week vol­un­teer. We all got to know each other. And with­out that bond, I think it would have been hell.”

Hillary has always known the value and power of a female-cen­tric team. There is even a name for it. The term Hillaryland,” which dates back to 1992, orig­i­nally referred to the mem­bers of Hillary’s inner circle who acted as her advi­sory team when she was First Lady. They included Capricia Marshall, Maggie Williams, and Patti Solis Doyle. Now the term has expanded to encom­pass a new gen­er­a­tion of young women who will go on to define the polit­i­cal land­scape — inspired by Hillary to get out there and make a dif­fer­ence, no matter what.

I remem­ber the moment Hillary announced she was going to run. I was in the library, as I was get­ting my master’s, and I gasped and dis­rupted the silence in the room,” says Paola, who was the campaign’s deputy national direc­tor of Hispanic media and is now con­sult­ing for var­i­ous pro­gres­sive causes, par­tic­u­larly in com­mu­ni­ca­tions and immi­gra­tion. And I told myself I would do every­thing I could to help elect the first female pres­i­dent of the U.S. My heart ached [after the loss] — not only for HRC and our team — but mostly for all of the fam­i­lies, chil­dren, women, and com­mu­ni­ties our cam­paign had fought for.”

In the days imme­di­ately fol­low­ing the vote, feel­ings shifted from anguish to action. It was my job — for the three days after the elec­tion that we had to work — to make sure that every­one was fed, which required a lot of amaz­ing food to cry into,” remem­bers Lisa, who was the assis­tant to Beth Jones, the COO of Hillary’s cam­paign, and is now a spe­cial projects man­ager at The New York Times. Her inter­est in pol­i­tics started at 16, when she was the speaker of the house at a polit­i­cal con­fer­ence she attended. When this life­long Clinton fan (she was a sched­ul­ing intern for President Clinton in 2015) found out Hillary would be run­ning, she knew she had to have a role. After intern­ing for eight months, she was hired full time.

Based at the campaign’s Brooklyn Heights head­quar­ters, Lisa and her col­leagues spent so much time together that obvi­ously we would get sick of each other, but we still loved each other, and we were lit­er­ally a family. We would go to karaoke once a week. We went rollerblad­ing once. We had out­door movie fes­ti­vals. There was a birth­day every single day of the cam­paign, so we went hard in the paint for the birth­days!”

You were just sur­rounded by the smartest, most badass women and men you could pos­si­bly find,” says Lauren, who joined Team Hillary after stints work­ing on President Obama’s reelec­tion cam­paign and for Planned Parenthood pres­i­dent Cecile Richards. Having come on board as the direc­tor of dig­i­tal con­tent and cre­ative, she tran­si­tioned to the role of speech­writer after the pri­maries. In my first meet­ing [with Hillary], I cracked a joke. I had for­got­ten who I was with and said it before I could stop myself. I thought, Oh, my God, what have I done? I just made some smart com­ment in front of Hillary Clinton. And she burst out laugh­ing — she has a great laugh — and she slapped me on the back and said, That’s my kind of girl!’ ”

And that’s just how Secretary Clinton is,” Lauren con­tin­ues. She’s some­one who will, if you tell her one week that your grand­mother is sick, the next time she sees you, she’s gonna ask how your grandmother’s doing. If you are in a room with her, she will bend over back­ward and go out of her way to make you feel com­fort­able. She was not warm and fuzzy, but that never both­ered me, because I want my pres­i­dent to be tougher and smarter than I am. ” Mariam, the campaign’s intern­ship-pro­gram man­ager, had pre­vi­ously interned for the Obama admin­is­tra­tion. Reflecting on her time spent on Team Hillary, she says, One of the biggest things I learned is that we are so behind where we need to be and where I thought we were as a coun­try. The sexism on the cam­paign trail, the xeno­pho­bia, and all that were not enough for people [to not vote for Trump].”

I don’t think young women in America should be afraid to be out­spo­ken,” says Iran, a member of the campaign’s com­pli­ance team, who now works for the American Civil Liberties Union. If you’re pas­sion­ate about some­thing or have an idea, do not be afraid. Raise your hand and say some­thing!” Although Hillaryland 2.0 has dis­banded, these young women have deployed them­selves into dif­fer­ent areas of pol­i­tics and public ser­vice that join their per­sonal pas­sions to their work, ensur­ing that oppor­tu­ni­ties for females in posi­tions of power con­tinue to grow and the gender imbal­ance is chal­lenged.
People don’t like to politi­cize things,” says Ella, who went from vol­un­teer to her cur­rent role as cor­re­spon­dence man­ager (ensur­ing that the more than 100,000 let­ters Hillary has received since the cam­paign ended get responses). But the truth is every­thing is polit­i­cal, and the more women we have in pol­i­tics, the more lives we can change and make better.”

Donald Trump didn’t win the pop­u­lar vote, so rest assured more of the coun­try is in our favor than is not,” says Tylah, who served as a finan­cial- report­ing ana­lyst on the cam­paign and now works in account­ing at Time Inc. So many amaz­ing things are hap­pen­ing now despite the pres­i­dency. There are so many new artists and writ­ers, so many sto­ries being told that oth­er­wise wouldn’t have been. So you matter. You didn’t stop mat­ter­ing because of this elec­tion. We need women in Congress; we need women in the Senate; we need women in school-board elec­tions We need women every­where.