Senator Bernie Sanders’ wooly mittens, which he wore to the inauguration, have been taking the Internet by storm. The woman behind them is a second-grade teacher in Vermont—who just happens to be a queer mom!
Jen Ellis lives outside Burlington, Vermont “with her partner, Liz, and their kindergarten-age daughter,” reported Jewish Insider yesterday. (It’s unclear if Ellis is Jewish or if the publication’s interest is just because of Sanders’ Jewish heritage.) Ellis has apparently been flooded with e-mails by people interested in the cozy coverings, but alas, she is not selling them any more. As she said to the Guardian, “I am a second grade teacher, and I’m a mom, and all that keeps me really busy.”
She does give them as gifts, though, creating what she calls “swittens” from old sweaters plus fleece lining made from recycled plastic. In fact, her gifting was the origin of Sen. Sanders’ pair. At the time of the 2016 campaign, Ellis’ daughter was attending a preschool directed by Sanders’ daughter-in-law, Liza Driscoll. Ellis was making mittens for all the teachers, and gave an extra pair to Driscoll to give to Sanders.
Despite the international coverage of her mittens, she related to NPR that her students “thought it was cool,” but “I don’t think that they’ll view me any differently in the end. I still was bundling them up in snow pants and their own mittens and sending them out into the snowy day for recess.”
Clearly she’s staying humble. She told Jewish Insider, “I’ve tried not to let all of the mitten business overshadow the gloriousness of sitting with my five-year-old daughter and my partner and watching the first woman be sworn in as vice president.”
(H/t to Cindy Rizzo for the news.)