"Walking in shoes my size" by Greta Jochem Daily Hampshire Gazette 11/10/20

AMHERST — California Sen. Kamala Harris made history over the weekend becoming the first woman elected as United States vice president and the highest-ranking woman ever in U.S. government. The daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, she is also the first Black woman and Asian American elected to the position.

Anna Bowen, the owner of Strada Shoes in Northampton, reflected on Harris’ win Monday in her store. “I knew it would mean something to me,” she said. “I didn’t know how much.”
Growing up, Bowen said, she’d always heard women could do anything, but “I’ve never actually felt it until she gave her speech,” she said, referring to Harris’ acceptance speech on Saturday night.

Bowen, who is part of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, also appreciated that Biden mentioned Native American voters in his acceptance speech, saying it made her feel recognized.

Harris is “walking in shoes that are my size,” said Bowen. Harris, 56, often wears sneakers with her suits, and Bowen said she has seen a spike in sales of high-top sneakers recently. Customers have told her they were inspired by Harris’ modern style.

Susan Faludi, writer-in-residence at Smith College, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the author of the bestselling “Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women.” Faludi reacted to Harris’ win in an email to the Gazette. “Considering that Black women were absolutely instrumental to the Democratic win this election,” she wrote, “and that Black women have been at the forefront and in the trenches in turning back the Trumpian tide over and over in these last four terrible years — having a woman of color veep is not just a ‘first’ and a breakthrough; it’s an essential recognition of just who made this victory happen.”

Molly Ryan Strehorn said she cried when Biden and Harris won the election. “It’s just so important to have her visible in that position as a woman and woman of color,” she said in downtown Amherst. Strehorn also liked that during the debates, when Harris was in the running for president herself, she did not go easy on Biden. “She called him to task,” she said.

But Strehorn, a defense attorney, takes issue with work Harris has done in the past as a prosecutor. “She put a lot of people in prison,” she said. Some have criticized Harris’ record as district attorney in San Francisco and attorney general of California. Still, Strehorn hopes Harris’ direct experience in the criminal justice system can lead to better reforms in the future.

Harris’ history in California also made Zhane Beard, 21, skeptical. But Beard didn’t want that to take away from the significance of the moment — that a woman and woman of color was elected as vice president for the first time, she said as she waited for the bus in downtown Amherst. Though Beard voted for Biden and Harris, she said she would have preferred Bernie Sanders: “I didn’t celebrate Biden winning, I celebrated Trump losing.”