Hillary Clinton is the First Woman ever nominated by a major political party to run for President of the United States. She has established her credentials, campaigned vigorously, and won the title. She is not, however, the first woman to run for President and there are many women who paved the way before her. It is time to take a moment and give those women credit.
The First Woman to declare she would run for President, in the April 2, 1870 issue of the New York Herald, was Victoria Claflin Woodhull who ran for a place on the Equal Rights Party ticket. This was particularly surprising because women did not earn the right to vote until August 18, 1920. It turns out Woodhull was not qualified to run for President, not because of her gender, but because of her age. She was only 34 years old, one year younger than mandated by the constitution.
Less than a decade later Belva Lockwood ran for President with the National Women’s Equal Rights Party. “I cannot vote,” she said, “but I can be voted for.” She received 4,711 votes in nine states.
Many of the women who ran for President or Vice-President were nominated by minority parties (e.g., the National Equal Rights Party, the Peace Party, and the Communist Party). Blocked from power by the national parties, they followed their own paths. Even this year Jill Stein is running for President on the Green Party ticket. The Republican National Convention in 1900 was the first time a woman, Frances Warren of Wyoming, even served as a delegate for a major party.
After the nineteenth amendment, there were some changes, but at a pace suited to a snail. In 1924, Lena Springs, after chairing the credentials committee for the Democratic National Convention, received some votes for the position of U.S. Vice-President. That same year Suffragette Marie Caroline Brehm was the first legally qualified female candidate to run for the vice-presidency of the United States, on the Prohibition Party ticket with Herman P. Faris.
As women asserted themselves more into the political process, there were a number of courageous women who ran for President. Among them were:
–Margaret Chase Smith (1964) – She received votes from only 27 delegates at the 1964 Republican convention, but was the First Woman nominated for President by a major party.
–Shirley Chisholm (1972) – The First African American Woman elected to Congress was also the First African American Woman to run for a major party presidential nomination. She appeared on primary ballots in 12 states.
–Ellen McCormack (1976) – She appeared on the primary ballot in only 18 states but garnered more votes than Frank Church or Hubert Humphrey. (Jimmy Carter was nominated.)
–Sonia Johnson (1984) – She was a minor party candidate but was the first third-party candidate to qualify for federal primary matching funds.
–Pat Schroeder (1987) – When Gary Hart’s campaign fell apart, she stepped into the Democratic race, but was not organized well enough to succeed. She is best known for the fact that she cried when she withdrew, interpreted as a sign of her unsuitability for the position. (When did anyone ever mention John Boehner’s bawling?)
–Lenora Fulani (1988) – Running for the New Alliance Party, she was the first African American Woman to be on the ballot in all fifty states.
–Elizabeth Dole (2000) – Elizabeth Dole, like Clinton, served in Cabinet posts and was the wife of a former presidential candidate when she campaigned for President.
–Michele Bachman (2012) – She won the Iowa straw poll for the Republican Party caucuses.
In 1984 two women ran for President of the United States and ten women ran for Vice-President of the United States, but only one, Geraldine Ferraro, won a position on the national ballot from a major political party. The Democrats nominated her to run as Vice-President with Walter Mondale; they were heavily defeated by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. In 2008 the Republican Party nominated Sarah Palin to run as Vice-President with John McCain; they lost to Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
And now a woman heads the ticket, heading for the glass ceiling, standing on the shoulders of all the women who tried before her.