No Matter What You Think of Hillary, Let’s Celebrate the Sound of Shattering Glass
Whatever you think of Hillary Clinton, there is no question that if she is nominated to run for the White House, it will mark an historic occasion for women in America.
It’s taken a long time (240 years to be exact), but a woman will finally be running for the highest elected office in the United States. Call it one small step for women; one giant leap for America and humankind.
America’s record on women and politics is far from exceptional, especially when compared to other countries around the world. To date, America has hosted 56 presidential elections. However, none of them has featured a woman and 33 of them were held before women even had the right to vote.
Let’s take a look at some of the history behind this great moment for gender equality. Here is a sampling of what some women believe is the significance of a woman running for president.
Early Female Voices of Dissent
Obviously, there were always voices in opposition to women not having a major say in American affairs.
One of the first was Abigail Adams, the wife of John Adams, the second president of the United States. In a letter to her husband in 1776 at the moment of America’s founding, Mrs. Adams wrote, “I desire you would remember the ladies and be more favorable to them than their ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could.”
“If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation,” she added.
A Political Timeline for Women and American Politics
1776 – The Declaration of Independence establishes that “all men are created equal”. No mention of women.
1872 – Victoria Woodhall becomes the first woman to run for president, despite the fact that she can’t vote for herself because women have not yet obtained that right nationally.
1887 – Susanna Madora Salter becomes the first woman elected to political office in America when she is elected mayor of Argonia, Kansas.
1916 – Congresswoman Jeanette Rankin of Montana becomes the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
1920 – The ratification of the 19th Amendment means that all American women now have the right to vote.
1925 – Nellie Tayloe Ross becomes the first female elected governor in the United States, when she wins the Wyoming contest.
1943 – Hattie Caraway of Arkansas becomes the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate.
1972 – Rep. Shirley Chisholm of New York becomes the first African-American woman to run for a presidential spot.
1984 – Geraldine Ferraro becomes the first woman to run for vice president. She and Walter Mondale lose to President Ronald Reagan and his running mate George H. W. Bush.
2007 – Rep. Nancy Pelosi becomes the first woman to serve as speaker of the House of Representatives.
2016 – Hillary Clinton, a former First Lady, Senator from New York, and Secretary of State under Barack Obama, becomes the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
What Does it all Mean Politically?
But no matter what the final outcome of the 2016 race, it’s safe to say that America has, to steal from a once-famous commercial for Virginia Slims cigarettes “come a long way baby” from the days of Abigail Adams’ warnings.
That is evidenced in opinion polls. Gallup, which has polled on the idea of a female president since 1937, reports that only 1 in 3 Americans then supported the idea. By last year, that outcome had expanded to more than 9 in 10.
Political gains for women are also being evidenced slowly in the halls of Washington government. For example, when Senator Diane Feinstein of California was first elected in 1992, there was only one other female senator. Today, 20 members, or 1/5 of the Senate, are women.
And Then There is the Personal
Finally, after 240 years, we will see a woman running to try to lead America. And, for all of us, that means a new, true answer to a long-asked question.
Now, if my 8-year-old granddaughter ever asks me if she can become president, I can say, “Yes Audrey you can. If you want to, there’s a real chance you can.”
Many other countries have had women leaders. Why do you think it has taken America so long to follow suit? While it always comes down to the individual, there are a few demonstrable differences in lifestyle and leadership styles between genders. Do you think women have any inherent qualities that might make them better leaders? If so, what are they?
Dave Price is a retired journalist and educator now establishing a freelance writing/speaking/consulting practice in Atlanta. He’s specializing in writing about the Baby Boom generation, classic rock, aging, and grandparenting. In between touring around the Georgia area with his wife of 43 years, playing with his grandkids, dining on great Southern food, and napping, he’s writing long-form articles and publishing a few blogs which could lead to a series of nonfiction books. Please visit Dave’s author page and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.