The San Diego Union-Tribune
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Hillary Clinton’s place atop the democratic party in the race for the White House was a long time coming. While it is Clinton who ultimately broke the glass ceiling, there are plenty of other women who have been chipping away for years.
The San Diego Union-Tribune
Love her or hate her, Hillary Clinton’s acceptance of a major party nomination to be president of the United States is a cultural milestone, a major moment for America. Yes, other female politicians have shared stages similar to the one Clinton took Thursday. Geraldine Ferraro, then a New York congresswoman, was the Democrats’ first female vice presidential nominee in 1984. Then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was the Republicans’ first in 2008. Yet no one has stepped into a spotlight like this.
It was not for lack of trying. As the nation braces itself for what will be a brutal election between two candidates with hope and high unfavorability ratings, let’s not forget the women who paved the way, from Gracie Allen to Margaret Chase Smith to Shirley Chisholm to Elizabeth Dole.
Just think how far America has come since 1940 when comedian Gracie Allen ran for president on the “Surprise Party” ticket as a radio publicity stunt — a joke — and got between a few hundred and 42,000 votes (hers was a write-in campaign so there aren’t exact figures) to Franklin Roosevelt’s 27 million and Wendell Wilkie’s 22 million.
Her campaign song honestly (and hilariously) said: “Even big politicians don’t know what to do. Gracie doesn’t know either, but neither do you.”
Twenty-four years later, Maine Republican Sen. Margaret Chase Smith announced her entry into the 1964 presidential campaign despite ridiculous criticism that she didn’t have the “physical stamina to run” and her own concern that as a candidate she would miss Senate votes, thus ending her roll call record string of 1,590. “I have few illusions and no money, but I’m staying for the finish,” Smith said. “When people keep telling you, you can’t do a thing, you kind of like to try.”
Smith went on to become the first woman to be considered for a presidential nomination by a major political party and won 27 delegates to Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater’s 883 at the Republican National Convention. By comparison, then-Michigan Gov. George Romney, whose son Mitt would grow up to become the 2012 Republican nominee, received just 41 delegates that year.
In 1972, New York congresswoman Shirley Chisholm became the first black major-party candidate to seek the presidency and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s nomination. On the day that South Dakota Sen. George McGovern won the California primary, Chisholm won the non-binding primary in New Jersey. She wound up with 152 delegates. In her 1973 book “The Good Fight,” Chisholm wrote, “I ran because somebody has to do it first. In this country, everybody is supposed to be able to run for president, but that has never really been true.”
In 1982, Chisholm told the Associated Press, “I’ve always met more discrimination being a woman than being black.”
Then came the 1990s and Bill Clinton’s election. In 1995, one generation ago, a Florida Walmart pulled off its shelves T-shirts that said, “Someday a woman will be PRESIDENT!” Four years later, Elizabeth Dole, a former transportation and labor secretary, raised more than $5 million while considering a bid for the 2000 Republican nomination.
Dole’s supporters called her the most serious and credible woman ever to seek the White House, but she dropped out in October 1999, having raised less than one-tenth what George W. Bush raised. “I have been all but overwhelmed by women of all ages who’ve invested me with their hopes and their dreams,” she said at her final campaign news conference.
Now Hillary Clinton is a nominee. Women have much to fight for still, and Donald Trump may win in November, but now our daughters can say they want to grow up to be president, and it’s no joke.