96 Years After the 19th Amendment, the First Female Presidential Candidate
“When my mother was born, women did not have the right to vote, so we’ve come,
in really just a few generations, having to fight for the right to vote
to finally a potential woman head of state.”
–Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton
The first efforts to achieve women’s suffrage began before the Civil War. In 1848, a group of over 300 men and women gathered in Seneca Falls, New York to hold the first women’s rights convention. It took more than 70 years for American women to eventually gain that right.
Passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, the 19th Amendment guarantees all American women the right to vote. Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment on August 18, 1920. On August 26, it was formally adopted into the Constitution by proclamation of Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby.
Though women finally achieved the right to vote, their struggle for equal representation in government has continued, and today they are still largely underrepresented in elected offices all across the nation. It took almost a full century for the first woman to be nominated for the office of president by a major political party, when Hillary Rodham Clinton secured the Democratic party’s nomination this year.
Below are a few more firsts by American women in government and politics:
1887: Susanna Medora Salter became the first woman elected mayor of an American town, in Argonia, Kansas.
1916: Montana Republican Jeannette Rankin carries the distinction of being the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress.
1924: Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming became the Nation’s first female governor when she was elected to succeed her deceased husband, William Bradford Ross.
1932: Hattie Wyatt Caraway of Arkansas is the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate.
1933: Frances Perkins is appointed secretary of labor by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, making her the first woman to serve as a member of a U.S. presidential cabinet.
1964: Senator Margaret Chase Smith from Maine becomes the first woman formally nominated for president of the United States by a major political party, at the Republican National Convention in San Francisco.
1981: Sandra Day O’Connor is appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the Supreme Court, making her its first woman justice.
1984: Democrat Geraldine Ferraro is the first woman nominated for vice-president on a major party ticket.
1993: Dr. Sheila E. Widnall was the first woman to head a branch of the U.S. military as Secretary of the Air Force. The first female U.S. attorney general, Janet Reno was confirmed 98-0 by the U.S. Senate.
1997: Madeleine Albright https://www.britannica.com/biography/Madeleine-Albright is sworn in as the first female U.S. secretary of state.
2007: Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is the first woman to be elected Speaker of the House of Representatives.
According to the World Economic Forum, 63 of 142 countries in the world have had a female leader at some point in the past 50 years, but the United States has never had one in its 240-year history. Why has it taken so long? And will 2016 finally be the year? We’ll find out on November 8!
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