Although not at all sorry to see Hillary Clinton leave the race for President, I’m distressed about the concerns of some, over what it might mean for the future of women in politics.
Some Republicans would have liked to see her get the Democratic nomination, because they feel she’d be more beatable than Barack Obama. That’s probably true, but my feeling is this is going to be a big year for the Democrats; if Hillary went on, Republicans would have to sweat out the nightmare scenario that she might have won in November. Many a conservative has tossed and turned through a sleepless night over that possibility.
Should they sweat over Obama? Nobody knows; to some extent he’s a blank slate, but that’ll be filled in over the next several months. Meanwhile, a lot of ink has gone into theories over why the unstoppable Hillary Clinton was stopped.
Some are concerned, first, that many voted against Hillary because she’s a woman, and second, that the loss of the first serious female candidate for President will keep that glass ceiling in place for many years to come.
Worry not. First of all, Hillary did not lose because she’s a woman: She lost because she’s a phony. Yes, phonies do get elected to high office, but Hillary was an extreme example, from her carpet bagging trip to New York to her changes of accents according to the location of her latest speeches. Whether you buy their beliefs and policies or not, it’s possible to believe Obama and McCain actually care about something other than themselves; with Hillary, not so much.
Sure, there are people who believe a woman shouldn’t be President, but it didn’t cost her the election, because just as many believe a black man shouldn’t be President. For that matter, I’ve heard the comment more than once from people who don’t want McCain in because he’s an “old white man”. Age discrimination?
Fear not, ladies. Men have had plenty of opportunity to screw up America; we’re more than ready for a woman to take her turn. We just want the right woman.
Hillary Clinton was not the first serious female candidate: She’s just the first who raised enough money to make it all the way through the primaries. From Elizabeth Dole to Victoria Claflin Woodhull, plenty of serious contenders have emerged. Woodhull ran all the way back in 1872 – before women even had the right to vote.
We have to remember how much progress has been made in women’s rights since our country was founded by white, mostly Christian males. During the Revolution we had Molly Pitcher, who manned a cannon, and Abigail Adams, who had a considerable influence on her husband (President Adams) and her son (President Adams). That’s about it.
But as time went on, women made their marks on our country. It happened slowly, step by step, as they took the influence they always had in the home and reproduced it in society.
Maybe the first famous American female was Pocahontas, who was only twelve when she told her father “Maybe we should go easy on these white guys – they’ve got guns. Besides, that John Smith is kinda cute.” She was wise, and people listened to her, but that was the exception back then. These days 12 year old girls are wildly influential … at least, on advertisers.
It was hundreds of years later when Susan B. Anthony fought for the rights of both blacks and woman. Earning her place on a much maligned dollar coin is probably not what she had in mind.
Clara Barton, a Civil War nurse, founded the American Red Cross. That means she was directly responsible for saving an untold number of lives, and she never even got a copyright on the symbol.
Belle Boyd was a spy during that same Civil War. Unfortunately, she spied for the losing side.
Martha Jane Cannary went out into the Wild West and survived on her own, without depending on any man, which was a big deal back then. I don’t know how that actually worked for her, considering she got nicknamed “Calamity Jane”. In my house that means someone’s trying home repairs.
Bessie Coleman was the first black woman to get a pilot’s license. Nobody told her to sit in the back of the plane.
Amelia Earhart improved on that by setting a whole bunch of new flying records, although she became sadly famous for that last wrong turn.
Laura Ingalls Wilder was the child of a backwoodsman, who went on to become a famous author -- and was also the first woman to ride in an airplane. Luckily, it wasn’t Amelia Earhart’s airplane.
Matilda Joslyn Gage was a noted figure in the women’s rights movement and other causes. In addition, Gage convinced her son-in-law to write and sell his children’s book, which became a huge success. Her son-in-law, Lyman Frank Baum, thanked her, some say, by basing one of his characters on Gage: The Wicked Witch of the West.
Um, never mind that, let’s get back to previous female candidates for the Presidency. You might be surprised to discover that, just as Clinton was far from the first female to give it a serious run, Obama’s not the first black to do so. In fact, Shirley Chisholm beat them both. A black woman who was elected to Congress in 1968, she ran for President in 1972 – exactly 100 years after Victoria Claflin Woodhull did so.
There have been no less than 27 female candidates for President since 1872, including one of Asian ancestry. Sure, many weren’t taken seriously, but they themselves were very serious. It’s a progression, as so many things are in this world. Okay, so some of them didn’t get far, but pioneers often don’t; instead, they blaze a trail for others to widen and extend. Hillary took the trail and paved it into a four lane interstate, and now it’ll be the turn of another woman to ride it to the White House.
Who knows? Maybe that woman will still be Hillary Clinton, whether I want it to be or not. Just as the advances made in women’s rights aren’t going away, she isn’t going away, either.
One of those is a very good thing.