When Laura Franklin was born on Jan. 20, 1918, women could not vote.
But on Friday, Ms. Franklin, 102, sat in her home in Houston watching election returns and radiating joy as it looked more and more likely that Kamala Harris — a Black woman like her — might become vice president of the United States.
And she marveled: Though women’s suffrage was passed on June 4, 1919, over a year after her birth in Portsmouth, Va., Ms. Franklin said she couldn’t quite believe this moment had taken so long.
“It’s almost hard to understand that — it’s hard to understand why women were abject objects; why women were suppressed,” Ms. Franklin said in a telephone interview. “I still don’t understand it.”
Growing up in the segregated South, Ms. Franklin said she faced constant discrimination for both her gender and race in a professional career as a lab technician at the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital to becoming an educator and serving as the assistant principal of a public high school in Chicago.
She recalled not being able to get a credit card without her husband’s signature (she did anyway) and how teachers like her were required to stop working when they became pregnant.
“I know so much about segregation; I know so much about how women were suppressed, generally were suppressed in a whole lot of ways,” Ms. Franklin said. But as for watching a Black woman be sworn in as vice president, she said, “I never thought it was hopeless.”
In New York, Delia Garces, 107, explained from her apartment in Washington Heights that she had insisted on voting in person to make sure her vote for Ms. Harris and Joseph R. Biden Jr. was counted.
Born in the Dominican Republic, where women were granted the right to vote in 1942, Ms. Garces immigrated to the United States in 1968 and became a citizen over three decades ago. As she watched the returns for the Biden-Harris ticket on Friday, Ms. Garces reflected on how much had changed for this moment to be possible.
“Back in my time, you’d never think of a woman reaching those heights. But now we can imagine anything,” she said. “Women’s intelligence and wisdom has taken women a long way — all the way to being able to become president.”
Ms. Garces said she could not wait for what she hoped would be Ms. Harris’s Inauguration Day. “If I’m alive,” Ms. Garces said. “I won’t miss it.”