Even the Hillary Clinton haters on Wednesday should display just a tiny bit of pride as the former first lady and secretary of state stands on the threshold of becoming the first woman in U.S. history to win the presidential nomination of a major political party.
When the Democratic National Convention convenes July 25-28 in Philadelphia, Clinton will become the party’s nominee for the White House and face presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump in the Nov. 8 general election.
It’s no small feat. This is Clinton’s second run at the nomination. Then-Sen. Barack Obama won it in 2008 as the first African American to do so and the presidency that year and again in 2012.
Both Clinton and Obama stood on the broad shoulders of the legion of activists whose struggles were intent on making America more inclusive and better.
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Women served as abolitionist in this country’s early history, helping slaves to win their freedom after the Civil War with the 1865 passage and ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The 14th Amendment, passed by Congress in 1866 and ratified by the states in 1868, granted former slaves citizenship, and the 15th Amendment, passed in 1869 and ratified in 1870, gave former male slaves the right to vote.
Women in the suffrage movement, which began in 1848, figured they were next to get the right to vote. After all, most states had extended the right to vote to all white men in the 1820s and 1830s regardless of how much money or property they possessed. White women, however, continued to be viewed as a possession and not an independent person with all rights granted by the Constitution.
Winning the right to vote resulted in a long, intense struggle led by Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others. The National Woman Suffrage Association formed in 1869 and the American Woman Suffrage Association was founded about the same time. In 1890 the groups merged forming the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
The suffragists also changed their approach.
“Instead of arguing that women deserved the same rights and responsibilities as men because women and men were ‘created equal,’ the new generation of activists argued that women deserved the vote because they were different from men,” a History Channel program notes. “They could make their domesticity into a political virtue, using the franchise to create a purer, more moral ‘maternal commonwealth.’
“This argument served many political agendas: Temperance advocates, for instance, wanted women to have the vote because they thought it would mobilize an enormous voting bloc on behalf of their cause, and many middle-class white people were swayed once again by the argument that the enfranchisement of white women would ‘ensure immediate and durable white supremacy, honestly attained.’”
Keep in mind that the Ku Klux Klan as a white Christian male organization had its heyday in the 1920s when its membership in America exceeded 4 million people.
Some Western states beginning in 1910 gave women the right to vote. The National Women’s Party used more modern-day tactics such as hunger strikes and picketing the White House to gain media attention for the cause. World War I slowed the momentum.
But in other ways the fighting overseas helped show that women working for the war effort were just as patriotic as men and deserved the right to vote. They gained that ballot box power with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, and ratified by the states on Aug. 18, 1920.
So 96 years after women gained voting rights, the first woman to run for president in the general election will be on the Democratic ticket. That has to feel good to every women, girl and fathers of daughters, knowing that the historically thick glass ceiling has finally been shattered.
If elected, Clinton also would be president and likely seek a second term as the country celebrates 100 years of women having the right to vote.
That would truly be glorious.