When Libby Chamberlain came up with the idea of creating Pantsuit Nation, an invitation-only, secret Facebook page for Hillary Clinton supporters, the working mother of two from Brooklin simply wanted a safe place for her friends to be able to gush over their favorite self-proclaimed pantsuit afficionado.
Chamberlain is a Democrat in a small town in rural Maine, a place where neighbors know it’s not really polite to talk politics at work or church, or when you bump into a friend at the post office, she said. Chamblerlain felt the need to gush, but didn’t have an outlet to share her support.
“A lot of my friends, my coworkers, my neighbors, they don’t have the same political leanings as I do,” Chamberlain said. “I was tired of having to mince my words. I am an enthusiastic Hillary fan. It’s not just that she’s the lesser of two evils. And I didn’t think I was the only one.”
Three weeks ago, after the third presidential debate, Chamberlain decided to build that safe space for herself. She invited a few girlfriends to join the group, and they invited a few of their friends, and so on. To show their support for Hillary, they decided to wear pantsuits on Election Day.
A month later, Pantsuit Nation has ballooned to nearly 3 million members from all 50 states, and a few foreign countries. Members raised more than $200,000 for Clinton last weekend alone. It’s now the largest private group on Facebook.
On Election Day, Chamberlain and the cadre of group moderators she has recruited to approve posts – they must be positive comments, or they won’t fly, she said – were inundated with thousands of posts a minute, many of them selfies of proud, pantsuited voters at the polls – most of them women.
“It has brought me to tears, the stories that people tell,” Chamberlain said. “Women who remember when wearing pantsuits to work was a political statement, when working at all as a woman was a big deal. To wear that symbol to the polls to vote in the first female president is powerful.”
For the record, Chamberlain wore a white pantsuit to the polls Tuesday in Brooklin. She had planned to dig one up at Goodwill, like many other Pantsuit Nation members, but the demands of running the group in the days leading up to the election forced her to buy not just one, but three, online.
“I didn’t want to take a chance that it wouldn’t get here on time,” Chamberlain said.
Pantsuit Nation has gained a lot of national attention over the last week, with profiles in the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The New York Times. The group’s biggest moment came Tuesday, when Clinton herself posted a public thank-you on the site, Chamberlain’s first contact with her hero.
Chamberlain is hopeful that the group will live on after the election, regardless of who wins. A President Clinton will need the support of Pantsuit Nation as she tries to build bipartisan support for her platforms and policies and heal a divided nation, Chamberlain said.
If Clinton loses, her supporters may need that safe online space to share even more, she said.
Despite her initial anxiety about publicly disclosing her support for Clinton, Chamberlain said no one in her community has reacted badly to the news that their local school board member, and the part-time private school admissions director, founded Pantsuit Nation.
“I’ve gotten a lot of subtle support, and several outright thank-yous from my neighbors,” she said. “I have learned there are more of us out there than I thought, and some of us have been living right next door to each other and didn’t even know it.”