CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — It was visceral. Women felt gutted, shocked, appalled, afraid. The prospect of celebrating the election of the nation’s first female president had been crushed by a man whom many women viewed as sexist.
In this liberal enclave, where Mrs. Clinton won 89.2 percent of the vote over Donald J. Trump, one of her strongest showings anywhere, Molly Hubner, 33, said she was having difficulty explaining the result to her 6-year-old daughter.
“We had told her that he wouldn’t be a good president because he’s not very kind,” Ms. Hubner said, pushing her young son in a stroller as she jogged down a leaf-covered sidewalk. After the election, she said, they told her it is important to be kind to people “and that our country is O.K., it’s still a safe place to be.”
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Women across the country who supported Mrs. Clinton are just starting to process their feelings about the long roller coaster ride that in their view ended in disaster.
The shock they feel that a man whom they describe as sexist, misogynistic and boorish was elected has overshadowed some of their grief about Mrs. Clinton’s loss. Like so many of the other rivals in his path, they say, the most famous woman in the world has been reduced to one more piece of collateral damage.
And these feelings have morphed into a genuine sense of foreboding.
“I woke up in a strange country,” said Jill Laurie Goodman, a lawyer who lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. “I’m about Hillary’s age. I went to law school about the same time she did, coming out of the antiwar and civil rights movement.”
She had believed that society was moving forward, Ms. Goodman said. And yet, “I woke up yesterday feeling as if everything I thought 45 years ago was wrong, that I had just gotten it wrong.”
In Berkeley, Calif., Hope Friedman, a 62-year-old retired nurse, said she was also stunned by the result.
“I was a big Hillary supporter, but I am not in love with Hillary the way I was with Obama,” she said of the president. “My motivation for being active in the campaign was much more about being terrified of a guy that says and does the things that Trump has said and does.”
As she described her reaction to Mr. Trump’s victory, she wept.
“It kind of felt like being punched in the stomach,” she said. “It feels like when you get a cancer diagnosis and you are sick to your stomach and you can’t believe it and your mind is spinning.”
Sally Waldron, 69, an adult educator here in Cambridge, finds that her sorrow is rooted more in the dread she feels about a man with attitudes like Mr. Trump’s becoming president than it is borne of Mrs. Clinton’s loss.
“Part of me thinks this should be about the first woman losing,” Ms. Waldron said as she watched her grandson play in a sandlot.
“I would have loved if she was the first woman president, but that’s not where the disappointment is for me,” she said. “The disappointment is in the values that won and what it means for lots of people.”
Even in the more conservative South, Clinton supporters expressed the same kind of disappointment and dread.
“I’m horrified because I have two daughters,” Kelly Cobb, 40, said as she bought slices of cake near Emory University in Atlanta.
Ms. Cobb, a stay-at-home mother, said she believed that Mr. Trump had managed to define Mrs. Clinton in the public imagination as a criminal and that he had benefited from gender stereotypes.
“I think there’s huge disdain for her because she’s a woman, but she’s also been in politics for a long time,” said Ms. Cobb, who also said she was uncertain what Mrs. Clinton’s defeat signaled for other women seeking office.
“I don’t know if it’s Hillary Clinton and who she is, but I have to think it does have something to do with the fact that she’s a woman,” she said. “People are just unaccepting of that and judge her to a much higher standard than they would a white male.”
Jessica Leeds, one of the first women to allege that she had been groped by Mr. Trump, said she cried Tuesday night as the results came in. She said she was stunned to discover that large numbers of women had voted for Mr. Trump.
“Apparently they just dismissed it,” she said. “They bought the line that it was just locker room talk, that it didn’t matter.” And, she surmised, “there are a lot of women who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a woman.”
Women did not turn out for Mrs. Clinton in the numbers that her campaign expected, said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster. The electorate was 52 percent female, slightly lower than the normal 53 percent. She was strongly supported by white, college-educated women; black women; and Latina women, but white, blue-collar women and white, non-college-educated women sided heavily with Mr. Trump.
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Her failed bid raises the question about whether Mrs. Clinton’s experience will discourage other women. Did she break a barrier, or did she inadvertently reveal how high that barrier is?
Women began entering government in bigger numbers in the 1970s, but any rush has stalled. The number of women in Congress is about 19 percent. Research has shown that women are such a minority in government not because they are less likely to win — they are just as likely, over all — but because they are so much less likely to run in the first place.