The Women Who Helped Donald Trump to Victory
November 11, 2016, 7:13pm


NAZARETH, Pa. — Debbie Biro became a Republican to vote for Donald J. Trump.

A lifelong Democrat, Ms. Biro, 57, is a churchgoing single mother who practices yoga and does not eat meat. She works in the office at the Crayola Crayons factory near here, and she can pinpoint her “turning point” — the moment she became convinced that Mr. Trump was “a strong leader, and he’ll get things done.”

It came in January, when he skipped a debate in Iowa to host a fund-raiser for veterans — an event that later garnered questions of how much money he had given. Ms. Biro’s father served in the Korean War, and she said she admired Mr. Trump’s business skills, “and I thought it was nice that he was taking care of the vets.”

In well-to-do Naples, Fla., Sue Gauta, 47, a small-business owner married to a doctor, also embraced Mr. Trump. So did Wanda Lincoln, 67, a retired college administrator still working to make ends meet in a threadbare mill city in Maine. And Kyleigh Ostendorf, 26, who lives in Los Angeles and produces graphics for ESPN.

As America dissects the results of Tuesday’s election, one trend stands out: Tens of thousands of women — 53 percent of all white female voters, according to exit polls — chose Mr. Trump, playing a crucial role in his victory.

[Female Clinton Supporters Are Left Feeling Gutted]

In interviews here in the Lehigh Valley — a bellwether region in a swing state that helped elect Mr. Trump — and around the country, female supporters said theirs was a vote for Mr. Trump and not against Hillary Clinton. America was on the wrong track, the women said, and Mr. Trump alone could fix it.

They are women who want their daughters to grow up and run businesses — and who run businesses themselves. Many said they were eager for a woman as president. Were they offended by Mr. Trump’s vile comments about women, captured on tape? Absolutely. Did they believe the women who came forward and said Mr. Trump had groped them? Not necessarily. Did any of it stop them from voting for him? No.

Where female opponents took to Twitter with #NotOkay, branding Mr. Trump a misogynist and worse, his female supporters saw “a good man and a good father,” said Mary Barket, the head of the Pennsylvania Federation of Republican Women, who knows Ms. Biro from church and helped her get involved in the Trump campaign.

Ms. Biro, who said she was “a quiet, reserved person,” had never knocked on doors or worked in politics before. But she spent one day each weekend since August canvassing for Mr. Trump.

The Women Who Helped Donald Trump to Victory
Mary Barket, president of the Pennsylvania Federation of Republican Women, in Easton, Pa. Mark Makela for The New York Times 

Where those who voted against Mr. Trump saw someone who bankrupted businesses and ducked paying taxes, these women said they saw a man who built a real estate empire and simply followed the law. They saw a man who had raised and promoted a beautiful and successful daughter, Ivanka, and who let a smart and accomplished Washington strategist, Kellyanne Conway, manage his presidential campaign.

In short, they embraced Mr. Trump’s sales pitch for himself.

“I think that women see the big picture — women are smart,” Mrs. Gauta said. “The fact that he said something crude,” she said “is not going to change my mind about the good he can do for our country.

“Did I like that, no,” she went on. “But do I think he can do a better job than Hillary? Absolutely. I think he has got the best interests of this country at heart. He’s got a beautiful family; he wants to leave a nice country — the great country he was raised in — for his kids. And I think he said the only way I’m going to get that done is by being president myself.”

She took her sons, 14 and 16, to a Trump rally, and said she “was even more impressed by him in person than on TV.” But as to his sometimes foul mouth, “If my boys ever said anything like that, I’d put them over my knee and spank them.’’

In Chicago, Nicole Been, 22, a Roman Catholic who attends DePaul University, is deeply opposed to abortion and the “hookup culture.” She complained that other students branded her a racist and a bigot for supporting Mr. Trump.

In Philadelphia, Daphne Goggins, 53, an African-American community activist and ardent Republican, always knew she would vote for Mr. Trump. She said she believed decades of Democratic efforts had done little for black people. When Mr. Trump invited her to a minority outreach meeting, she told him tearfully that “for the first time in my life, I feel like my vote is going to count.” (Only 4 percent of black women, exit polls show, supported Mr. Trump, while 26 percent of Latinas did.)

For the women interviewed, as for male Trump backers, the economy was of utmost concern. Mrs. Gauta and her husband are tired of paying $1,800 a month in health care premiums, with a $12,000 annual deductible. Ms. Lincoln, the retired college administrator, now works at her husband’s auto body shop in Old Town, Me., to help pay the bills.

Ms. Ostendorf, the graphics producer in Los Angeles, watched her father’s million-dollar business implode in the economic crash of 2008. He picked up work doing maintenance for the Y.M.C.A.

“I’ve seen America fall down,” she said, “and a big part of Trump that appealed to me was his business plan.”

The Women Who Helped Donald Trump to Victory
Trump’s supporters in Reno, Nev., cheered as it became clear the real estate mogul was going to become the president-elect. Max Whittaker for The New York Times 

And they said they are troubled, as well, by an America that seems to have embraced multiculturalism and political correctness without question. They said they did not understand the Black Lives Matter movement, wondered why Democrats seemed so fixated on transgender access to bathrooms and tended to be enraged at the way veterans are treated and violence directed at the police.

They are concerned about immigration and the threat of terrorism.

Bobbye Horton, 67, of Grand Junction, Colo., who is Hispanic, approved of Mr. Trump’s plan to build a wall with Mexico. On Wednesday she wore a “Viva Trump” T-shirt. Immigrants, she said, needed to use legal channels or stay out. “He got at the heart of America.”

Research suggests Americans in both parties long ago became open to a female president. By 1999, the Gallup poll found that 92 percent of Americans said they would vote for a woman. When Gallup first asked that question, in 1937, the figure was 33 percent.

“People no longer hear, ‘Do you want a woman to be president?’” Ms. Conway said in an interview in February, before she became Mr. Trump’s campaign manager. “They hear, ‘Do you want that woman?’”

This held true in many conversations with Mr. Trump’s female supporters. Many said they simply avoided talking about voting for him with Democratic female friends, for fear it would damage their sisterly bonds. (Ms. Biro never speaks of politics at yoga or at work.)

“When I told them that I was supporting Trump, they were, like, shocked, oh my gosh, ‘there is no way I could support him,’” Ms. Biro said of her friends. “But I was like, ‘Everybody has their thing.’”

Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster, said the party had expected “a surge of women” to support Mrs. Clinton, but that did not happen. While Mrs. Clinton did better with women in almost every demographic group, Ms. Lake said, “Trump won very solidly the white women’s vote, and we know that was fed by white, blue-collar women.”

Ms. Biro comes close to fitting that mold; although she considers herself middle class, she did not go to college. And Nazareth, a middle-class community in Northampton County, is the kind of community where Mr. Trump did well.

Yet sitting in the kitchen of her tidy Cape Cod-style home here, with the Trump-Pence signs still stuck in the front yard and a poster that speaks of peace as a path to enlightenment on the living room wall, Ms. Biro expressed the same hopes and fears for the country that many of Mrs. Clinton’s supporters now have.

“Hopefully he’s going to try to unite people,” she said of the president-elect. “We have to try to help people heal, so people can learn to trust, and have faith that things are going to be O.K.”