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Clinton speaks about women's issues, Phila. issues

Calling unequal pay for women "a great injustice," and vowing to fight for issues such as paid family leave and gun regulations, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton met with a small group of supporters at a Jenkintown café Friday.

Hillary Clinton met with a group of supporters at Curds & Whey, a Jenkintown café owned and run by
women. Equal-pay pioneer Lilly Ledbetter also was at the Friday gathering.
Hillary Clinton met with a group of supporters at Curds & Whey, a Jenkintown café owned and run by women. Equal-pay pioneer Lilly Ledbetter also was at the Friday gathering.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

Calling unequal pay for women "a great injustice," and vowing to fight for issues such as paid family leave and gun regulations, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton met with a small group of supporters at a Jenkintown café Friday.

The conversation at Curds & Whey, in a room filled mostly with young mothers, was personal. Clinton gave advice to young women on standing up to criticism, sexism, and online bullying.

"Don't take it personally, because it can knock you to your knees," Clinton said. "It's taken me years to be able to say this, as somebody who has had a lot of other people's criticism, but I really have kept that in my head."

Days before Tuesday's Pennsylvania's primary election, as Clinton visited Jenkintown, Democratic opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders attended a breakfast in West Philadelphia. Sanders spoke with religious leaders and campaign supporters about the economy. By day's end he was addressing a crowd of about 2,000 in Gettysburg.

The rest of the presidential field was scattered widely Friday. Republican Donald Trump was scheduled to address a rally in Harrington, Del., before taking his campaign to Connecticut on Saturday. His rival Sen. Ted Cruz was campaigning in Scranton on Friday, with a stop in Pittsburgh planned for Saturday, and Gov. John Kasich was scheduled to be in Connecticut on Friday night and Rhode Island on Saturday.

Clinton's event Friday focused on issues affecting women and families. About 30 women were in attendance for a conversation with Clinton and Lilly Ledbetter, a former supervisor with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. whose fight for equal pay led to the 2009 Fair Pay Act.

"It is exciting that we're meeting after the announcement of having women on our money," Clinton said, praising the announcement that Harriet Tubman will appear on the front of the $20 bill.

Clinton told those gathered that the event was held at Curds & Whey because it is owned and run by women.

One woman spoke about her family's struggle to afford to send her son to a school for those with special needs.

Another told Clinton that she used all her vacation and sick days to take 12 weeks off work after her daughter was born last year, and it still did not feel long enough.

"I don't think it is, either," Clinton said. "We're going to fight very hard for paid family leave."

Clinton told her own stories, such as struggling to find friends to help when her daughter, Chelsea, was young, her babysitter called out sick, and she had to work.

"You say to yourself, what are you going to do?" Clinton said. "My stomach was in knots."

As Clinton sat in the dining area with the invited guests, the café kitchen remained busy as customers filed in to pick up lunch and orders for Passover. A small crowd gathered outside in the parking lot, hoping to catch a glimpse of the former secretary of state and first lady.

Among those at the event were former U.S. Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.) and State Rep. Madeleine Dean (D., Montgomery).

Jennifer Hernandez of Mays Landing, N.J., told Clinton she had been asked to resign from her job because she needed leave due to complications during pregnancy. She said she was promised her job back after she had her baby. Her baby was stillborn in February, she told Clinton tearfully, and she was not rehired.

"Unfortunately, your story is still all too common," Clinton said. "What happened to you is not only wrong, it's illegal."

After the event, Hernandez said the conversation had persuaded her to vote for Clinton. She said it was powerful to hear "yes, I do understand" from the candidate.

Clinton on Friday also discussed gun regulations, public education, and discrimination.

She said she has followed the battle over funding for Philadelphia schools "with great distress," and cited recent shootings in Philadelphia as she spoke about the need for gun regulations.

Clinton mentioned rival Trump just once during the hour-long coffee. She brought him up during her comments about bullying, and said she refuses to respond to his personal attacks on her.

"It isn't really about me, and I'm not going to respond to what he says about me," she said. "I'm going to respond on behalf of all the people that have been the target of his hatred and his demagoguery."

Meanwhile, at a community center in West Philadelphia, Sanders spent Friday morning talking with local supporters and religious leaders.

"It was very much about the urban situation here," said Rusty Crowell, a Mummer from South Philadelphia, who attended the breakfast. "He was very clear on solutions."

Sanders talked about the need to tax the rich and redistribute wealth, Crowell said.

Crowell, 63, was among the 200 guests at the breakfast meeting at the Sharon Baptist Center on the 5800 block of Catharine Street. Crowell, a musician and retired nurse, said he had been a fan of Sanders' for many years, and has been a local supporter and advocate since Sanders launched his presidential campaign.

"I put in my $27," Crowell said, referring to the average donation to Sanders' campaign.

One of the panelists at the "Faith and Moral Economy Breakfast" was Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center in West Mount Airy. Waskow, 81, said Sanders spoke passionately about social justice.

"He said, 'If we were a poor country, we could say we can't pay for health care. If we were a poor country, of course we can't provide a decent education.' . . . Then he roars, 'But we are not a poor country,' " said Waskow, still energized from the meeting.

Sanders asked the crowd, which according to Crowell and Waskow was diverse in both age and race, how many of them still had student debt. Waskow said about half the crowd raised their hands.

"He was very effective. A combination of passion and intelligence, which you don't often see, especially among politicians," Waskow said.

lmccrystal@phillynews.com

610-313-8116

@Lmccrystal

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