The last Democratic primary has happened: On June 14, Washington, DC voted, further bolstering Hillary Clinton’s claim to the nomination by supporting her with 78.7 percent of the vote. She is now all but officially the first woman to win the nomination of a major party. But, as we noted last week, there have been other women in the running for the presidency, including Jill Stein, who is this year’s Green Party candidate.
Progress is almost always a series of steps, rarely one giant leap. And that is exactly how it’s been in the history of women running for president. The first woman who tried to get on the ballot was Victoria Woodhull, in 1872, with Frederick Douglass as her running mate. Nearly 150 years later, we still haven’t had a female president, but we are closer than ever. We’ve already looked at what it takes for women to make it in politics; now let’s look at some women who did.
1. Gracie Allen: The mid-century comedian ran a joke campaign under the banner of the made-up “Surprise Party” in the 1940 election, making her technically the first woman to win the nomination of a political party. She bowed out graciously to let Franklin D. Roosevelt cruise into a third term in office. (Photo via Harold Clements/Getty)
2. Charlene Mitchell: Gracie Allen’s stunt belongs in history books at the very least because even pushing the concept of a woman running for president was a bold move in 1940, but Charlene was the first woman to secure the nomination of an actual party (and a Black woman, at that). She ran as the head of the Communist Party in 1968 and, according to ballot-access.org, she received just shy of 1,100 votes. (Photo via Johnny Nunez/ Getty)
3. Margaret Chase Smith: In 1964, Margaret Chase Smith was the first woman to run for the nomination of either of the two major political parties of the last century. She’d already spent nine years in Congress representing Maine (initially taking over the seat her husband held when he died) and 15 in the Senate. Margaret was a moderate Republican who criticized Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s crusade against Communists in the ’50s. She lost to über-conservative Barry Goldwater. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
4. Shirley Chisholm: Shirley was a record-breaker every step of the way. In 1968 she was the first Black woman elected to Congress. Just four years later, she became the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s nomination, and the first Black person to seek the nomination of either major party. Her 1968 campaign slogan, “Unbossed and Unbought,” is as inspiring today as it was then. Another mark of the 1968 campaign, though not Shirley’s personal doing, is that every presidential campaign since has seen at least one woman run. (Photo via Hulton Archives/Getty)
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