Four years ago, some women were mad as hell — and quite a few men, too — at the election of a president who was caught on tape saying he could “grab women by the pussy.”
It was a line that launched a movement. One day after Donald Trump was inaugurated, the Women’s March attracted nearly 500,000 people to the nation’s capital, and spawned smaller, but no less exuberant demonstrations across the country, including at Five Corners in Vineyard Haven.
Four years later, The Times checked in with some of the people we talked to then to find out how they’re feeling as President Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, the first woman elected as vice president, take office.
On Wednesday, Trump moved out of the White House, and Biden was sworn in as the 46th president.
“My whole soul is in it. Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this, bringing America together. Uniting our people. Uniting our nation,” Biden said during his inaugural speech. “And I ask all Americans to join me in this cause. Uniting to fight the foes we face — anger, resentment and hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness, and hopelessness. With unity we can do great things, important things. We can right wrongs. We can put people to work in good jobs. We can teach our kids in safe schools. We can overcome the deadly virus. We can reward work and rebuild the middle class, and make healthcare secure for all. We can deliver racial justice, and we can make America once again the leading force for good in the world.”
Susan Desmarais, who helped organize a companion rally to the Women’s March at Five Corners for those who couldn’t travel to D.C., told The Times she watched the Inauguration on TV with her “pussy hat” on.
“I hope I won’t be needing this hat again, and I’m wearing it [today] to celebrate the Inauguration of our first female, multiracial vice president,” she said. “While being very aware of all the work we need to do as people and as a country, I feel hopeful, inspired, and safer with Biden-Harris in the White House.”
Reached in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., Oak Bluffs transplant Trish Moreis-Stiles, who attended the Women’s March four years ago with her then-16-year-old daughter, had one word to describe how she’s feeling now: “Thrilled!”
Washington, D.C., was in lockdown for Biden’s inauguration, 25,000 members of the National Guard standing guard, because of reported threats in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. “You can’t get into the city,” Moreis-Stiles said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Morris-Stiles said with Biden-Harris in charge, she’s looking forward to an administration that works for the people again, instead of someone using his office to benefit himself and his family.
“I’m looking forward to normalcy,” she said. “How many times in the last four years have we watched TV and thought that could never happen? Like when tear gas was used to clear out demonstrators for a photo op outside a church.”
Lara O’Brien, who is now living in Ireland, wrote in an email that the Irish people are watching with a sense of relief. “As a nation, we engage and watch politics both Irish and international, and the U.S is always a topic of great debate, along with Brexit and now the damned COVID pandemic,” she wrote. “The talk on the street here in Howth seems to be relief that Trump is leaving, and hoping no more lives are lost, or lies are told.”
O’Brien wrote that Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Biden’s pick as labor secretary, has gotten a lot of attention in Ireland. “He speaks Irish, or Gaeilge, from his summers as a child in Connemara; that’s nearly more interesting than Biden’s ties to Mayo,” she wrote. “Anyway, we will be watching and cheering the Biden-Harris team on, and expecting great things from them, including peace, progression, and repair.”
Carla Cooper of the Martha’s Vineyard Democratic Council said she thinks President Biden is “the right choice for this moment,” and noted that both Biden and Harris have empathy and humanity that has been absent in the prior administration.
“This country needs to heal from the psychological abuse we have had to endure from Donald Trump, and from COVID. We still have a lot of work to do, but we aren’t going to be reacting to the latest egregious, inhumane things that come out of this administration,” Cooper said. “I am really looking forward to doing work that isn’t just playing defense.”
Cooper broke out her pearls on Inauguration Day, in honor of Kamala Harris and her new position as vice president. Although Cooper said she is “elated” to see a woman of color in one of the highest offices in the nation, she wondered, “What took so long?”
She said she hopes the next four years will be filled with new representation that embodies the diversity of the American people. “It is going to take a lot to break down that white male dominance,” Cooper said.
Holley MacKenzie, also of the M.V. Democratic Council, said Trump tried to lead through mockery, intimidation, and inflammatory language. But she said a president must lead by positive example, through compassion and empathy.
“Trump spoke in a manner that I wouldn’t even allow my children to speak in. I think Biden understands the importance of words, and will lead by example,” MacKenzie said.
In acknowledgement of the first woman of color being elected as vice president, Mackenzie said she is happy that young women of color will be empowered by seeing someone who looks like them, whether it’s race or gender, representing the American people.
“It’s 2020 — women represent more than half the population, and we are still in the 20 percent range of members of Congress,” MacKenzie said. “We need representation so when young children look to our leadership and see someone who looks like them, whether it’s the color of their skin or their gender, it makes it more realistic to them that those dreams are attainable.”
Island activist Lisette Williams said the fact that a woman of color is going to be serving as vice president shows countless young women and girls that their dreams are attainable.
Williams quoted Harris, who said, “I may be the first woman to hold this office, but I won’t be the last.”
She added, “I woke up feeling energized, knowing that this four-year-long nightmare ends today,” and said that, just like when Barack Obama was elected as the first Black president, many young boys of color could see themselves being president one day, in a way they could have never envisioned before. “That is what this day gives people, someone different to look up to,” Williams said.
Don Keller, a frequent Trump critic in The Times comment section, and a self-proclaimed “out of the pantry” Pastafarian, donned his colander and celebrated Wednesday’s inauguration by flipping the American flag decal over on his Mini Cooper.
“I bought the car the day after Donald Trump was elected president. I put the flag on shortly after his inauguration in the upside down position,” said Keller, a U.S. Navy veteran. The flag is flown upside down as a sign of distress, according to flag protocol. That resulted in a couple of “road rage” type incidents, one of which Keller described in a Letter to the Editor. “Another time, a guy took a picture of it and said he was going to have me arrested,” Keller said.
But on Wednesday, Keller put that all behind him. “I feel hopeful so I just wanted to flip it over and literally flip that chapter behind us.”
Lucas Thors contributed to this story.