We have certainly come a long way since the founding of our country in 1776.
Back in the olden days, women had no voice in the writing of our constitution, making laws or setting policies.
There have been some courageous trailblazers since then, who have brought women into the political process to claim a voice of their own. After all, laws and policies affect them too. It did take 140 years after the Declaration of Independence for the first woman to be elected to Congress, but the percentage is rising.
Now, there are 20 women out of 100, (about 20%), in the Senate and 84 in the House out of 435 members, about (19%). The new PM of England is a woman, 12 Muslim countries have had a woman leader as have many countries around the world.
In light of the first woman to be nominated for President, we took at look at some of the many incredible, amazing women in politics who crushed barriers and helped pave the way for Hillary.
The first woman elected to Congress in 1917
- Advocated for Women’s Suffrage and was a committed pacifist who lost the next election because she voted against entering WWI.
- She ran for senate unsuccessfully, but won reelection to The House in 1941.
- She was the only member of the House to vote against war with Japan.
Margaret Chase Smith
The first woman elected to serve in both houses of Congress
This powerhouse started as her husband’s secretary, office manager and political confidant. When he died in office in 1940, she won a special election for his seat, and stayed in the House for 4 terms.
She ran for and claimed a Senate seat in 1948, making her the first woman to serve in both houses. During her many years in the senate she:
- She always wore a red rose, which later became our national flower thanks to her
- She was an expert on military affairs and served on the Armed Services Committee
- She was also well versed in aeronautics and served on the Aeronautical and Space Sciences Committee
- She was the first woman elected to a leadership post in the Senate: Chair of the Senate Republican Conference
- She set a record for casting the largest number of consecutive roll call votes—2,941
- She was outspoken against McCarthyism and wrote her “Declaration of Conscience” in 1950 condemning it
- She declared her candidacy for President in 1964, making her the first woman to place her name in nomination at a major party convention
- Was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1989
The first African American elected to Congress
Known as “Fighting Shirley”, she served in the House for 7 terms, from 1969-1983
- Her campaign motto was “unbought and unbossed”
- She served on the Education and Labor Committtee
- She helped form the Congressional Black Caucus in 1969
- She was the first black woman of a major party to run for a presidential nomination
- She co-founded NOW (National organization for Women)
- She hired an all-female staff
- She championed minority education and work opportunities
- She was an outspoken opponent of the draft
Of my two handicaps, being female put many more obstacles in my path than being black. Shirley Chisholm
Has served in Congress longer than any woman in history
This 4’11” firecracker once said “Don’t get mad, get elected!” and she did just that for 10 feisty years in the House and 30 years in the Senate.
- She won her first House seat in 1977 through a grass roots campaign supported by Ellen Malcolm of the now ubiquitous Emily’s List
- She was elected to the House in 1977
- She was elected to the Senate in 1986 and is still serving today
- She chaired the House Appropriations Committee
- Is an advocate for women’s health issues
- Is the Chairwoman for the Subcommittee on Commerce, justice and Science
She is retiring this year to campaign for more women in the Senate and gave her reason:
“Do I spend my time raising more money, or do I spend my time raising hell?
Has held the highest office in government
As speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi was third in line for the presidency, making her the first woman to hold the highest political office. (So far!)
In 1987, she won a special election and her seat in Congress. During her tenure she has:
- Been selected to be the Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives in 2002, making her the first woman in history to do so
- In 2006, she was elected to be Speaker of the House
- She served on the Appropriations Committee
- She served on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
- a strong supporter of increased funding for health research, health care, housing programs and initiatives.
- She is also an advocate for human rights and the environment
Women who ran for Vice President
- Geraldine Ferraro in 1984
- Sarah Palin in 2008
Other women who ran for President
Hillary is not the first woman to have a go at the Presidency. Her predecessors have been:
- Victoria Woodhull in 1872 on the Equal Rights Party
Special note: She ran with Frederick Douglass, the first African American to run for VP
- Gracie Allen in 1940 on the Surprise Party
The comedienne added some much needed humor to the 1940 election, but sadly, lost.
- Shirley Chisholm in 1972 on the Democratic party
She did win 152 delegates in the primary
- Linda Jenness in 1972 on the Socialist Workers Party
Won over 83,000 votes
- Jill Stein in 2012 on the Green Party
With over 500,000 votes, hers was the most successful presidential campaign by a woman to date.
There are so many more notable women, like Bella Abzug (House, 1970), Barbara Boxer (House 1983-1993), Susan Collins (Senate, 1997-now), Barbara Jordan (Senate, 1966-1972) and Pat Schroeder (House, 1972 at age 32), who have all broken barriers, contributed hugely and fought for their place in history. They have served as role models for other women and demonstrate that anything is possible.