Hillary Clinton has officially announced her bid for President of the United States of America and thus she begins a second historic campaign.
Clinton has already had a go at breaking the proverbial glass ceiling – the high profile campaign of 2008 made history for several reasons: she won more delegates and primaries than any other female candidate in US history, but she ultimately suffered a narrow defeat to Barack Obama. Following her loss, Clinton was far from done, as she continued to build her political prowess by accepting the post for Secretary of State during Obama’s first term in office.
Her second bid for the Democratic presidential nomination will serve women everywhere as the hairline fissures become bigger cracks, and perhaps someday soon the ceiling will come crashing down when America elects a woman into its highest office.
But Clinton was not the first woman to ever run for president. That recognition belongs to a woman who was born in 1838, 109 years before Clinton’s own birth. This woman was everything a quality candidate should be: intelligent, charismatic, and eloquent. She was also extremely beautiful, unafraid, and ambitious. She used her talents to lift herself from extreme poverty, eventually becoming the first woman (along with her sister) to open a brokerage firm on Wall Street, wear her hemline above the boot, and to own a car. Her name was Victoria Woodhull, and she is the woman who took the first swing at the glass ceiling – nearly 50 years before women were even given the right to vote.
Woodhull was nominated in 1872 as the candidate of the Equal Rights Party, which supported women’s suffrage and equal rights for women. She ran against incumbent Ulysses S. Grant (Rep) and Democrat Horace Greeley. Although Woodhull ultimately received zero electoral votes, she drew crowds of thousands to her speeches.
Many of the issues Woodhull spoke passionately about were those that Clinton is speaking about as she campaigns across the country today. Over a hundred years later, the same issues are still hotly debated: universal healthcare, children’s rights, support of labor unions, assistance for working mothers, better public education, and comprehensive sex education, to name a few.
Although Woodhull eventually left politics in the US after two attempts at the presidency, Clinton is geared up to make a big impact. Unlike Woodhull, who lacked even the support of the 19th Amendment, for Clinton, time is on her side.
To read more about Victoria Woodhull’s life and presidential campaign, please read Carol Felsenthal’s fantastic article in POLITICO.