Niecy Nash
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Meet the Queer Schoolteacher Who Made Bernie's Inauguration Mittens

Bernie Sanders at the Inauguration

A week ago, Jen Ellis of Essex Junction, Vt., was living her normal life as a schoolteacher with her partner, Liz, and their daughter. Now she’s getting thousands of emails a day asking for mittens like the ones she made for Sen. Bernie Sanders that he wore in a pic from this week’s inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris that went viral. 

“I think my Gmail has crashed now,” she told Slate. In just a few hours after the photo of the mittens went viral, Ellis had thousands of emails either requesting interviews with her or inquiring about how they too could get some mittens like “Bernie's.”

Ellis says she was actually one of the last to know that Sanders wore the mittens, as she was teaching during the inauguration. “As soon as I was done with my remote teaching, I hopped in my car and drove home,” she said. “It was a huge blizzard yesterday up here in Vermont, so it took me forever. As soon as I walked in the door, my partner was like, ‘You’re not going to believe this.’”

That’s when she saw the camera zoom in on Sanders and the mittens she had made for him. “I was like, there he is, he’s wearing my mittens. I was completely surprised and delighted and flattered and good for him.”

She initially gave the mittens to Sanders back in 2016. Ellis’s daughter goes to the preschool that Sanders’s daughter-in-law Liza Driscoll owns and operates. After Sanders lost the Democratic presidential nomination to Hillary Clinton, she asked Driscoll to give him a pair of mittens she made.

“I was just sad because even though I like Hillary, I’m also super pro-Bernie, and as a public school teacher, I can see every day how families are struggling. People are just trying to make ends meet and they need things like student loan forgiveness and free education and a lot of the things that Bernie is fighting for,” Ellis said. “I sent him these mittens kind of as a shout-out to who he is, and I put a note in that said something to the effect of ‘I hope you run again.’”

Sanders did run for president again, and although did not become the Democrats' nominee, Ellis is still celebrating the new president and vice president with her family. “I’m 42 and I’ve waited four decades of my life — I’m tearing up just thinking about it — to see a woman be vice president. I wish that she was president, although I think Biden is pretty great,” she said.

“It was so powerful to sit there with my 5-year-old daughter who I love so much and be like, this is where you enter politics, right?” Ellis continued. “We have shielded you from Trump as much as possible. But this is what we want you to see, a wonderful, successful woman and a woman of color in such a powerful position. It was great to share that with her and my partner who’s also a woman, so we’re just a huge feminist household celebrating this momentous occasion.”

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