The Women Who Paved The Way For Hillary Clinton

Delegates won in Tuesday's primaries helped Hillary Clinton accomplish a historic feat: In securing the Democratic presumptive presidential nomination Clinton is the first female presidential nominee of a major political party. It's a glass ceiling the former secretary of State has been keen to shatter since supporters of her first presidential campaign in 2008 helped her leave “about 18 million cracks” in it before conceding the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama. And while Clinton’s recent historic first is certainly significant, her road to the White House was paved with the accomplishments of many noteworthy women.

It’s well know that Clinton is by no means the first woman to run for president of the United States (and if we’re lucky she won’t be the last either). The National Women's History Museum claims at least 35 women have run for president in America's 227 years of having a president. But while some of the many women who’ve helped pave the way for Clinton’s historic nomination may be lesser known, their accomplishments are no less significant. In honor of Clinton securing the Democratic nomination, Bustle is taking a look back at some of the pioneering women who laid the groundwork for Clinton to become the first woman to be named the official presidential nominee of a major political party.

Here are nine women who helped pave the way for Clinton's historic nomination:

Victoria Woodhull

The first woman to ever tap the glass ceiling of the United States presidency did so 136 years before Clinton’s first campaign in 2008 and nearly 50 years before the ratification of the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in 1920. In 1872, Victoria Woodhull became the first woman to run for president under the Equal Rights Party. Woodhull named Frederick Douglass as her running mate, despite Douglass’ unwillingness to accept the position or indeed even campaign on her behalf. (He stumped for incumbent Republican Ulysses S. Grant.) Although Woodhull received no electoral votes (she couldn’t even vote for herself) it's unknown if she managed to rack up any of the popular vote.

Belva Lockwood

The Equal Rights Party, which campaigned on women’s right to vote, nominated a second woman for president in 1884: Belva Lockwood. An ardent champion of equal rights, Lockwood was making waves well before her first presidential campaign. In 1865 she helped push a measure giving federal employees the same salaries, no matter their gender, through Congress and became the first woman to argue before the Supreme Court in 1879. She won more than 4,000 votes in six states and ran for president again in 1988.

Margaret Chase Smith

Long before running for president in the 1964 Republican primary, Margaret Chase Smith became the first woman elected to both the House and the Senate. A politically involved wife, Smith ran for her husband’s seat in the House after his death in 1940 and won. In 1948 she successfully ran for the Senate. She served in Congress for 32 years before winning 27 delegates at the Republican National Convention. Ultimately, she lost the nomination to Barry Goldwater.

Shirley Chisholm

As the first African-American woman to serve in Congress, Shirley Chisholm was no doubt a pioneering woman in politics. She became both the first black presidential candidate to run under a major party and the first woman to run in the Democratic Party’s presidential primary when she launched her presidential campaign in 1972. Despite having limited campaign funds, Chisholm entered 11 primaries and won 28 delegates across 14 states before former Vice President Hubert Humphrey released his black delegates ahead of the first vote at the Democratic National Convention thus enabling Chisholm to collect 151 delegate votes.

Ellen McCormack

Three years after Roe v. Wade, self-described housewife Ellen McCormack declared her candidacy in the 1976 Democratic primary with a campaign centered on overturning the historic Supreme Court ruling with a constitutional amendment. Although McCormack lost the party’s nomination to Jimmy Carter, her presidential campaign was significant for a few reasons. McCormak was the first female presidential candidate to qualify for federal campaign funding and a Secret Service detail. She managed to get on the ballot in more states than any other woman who had run for president up to that point, gathering 238,027 votes and 22 delegates across 18 states. She attempted to run for president again in 1980 under the Right to Life Party.

Geraldine Ferraro


Geraldine Ferraro never ran for president, but she helped women push through a slightly different glass ceiling in 1984 when she became the first female vice presidential candidate to run on a major-party ticket. An assistant district attorney in New York, Ferraro transitioned into a career in politics in 1978 after winning a seat in the House. She served three terms in Congress and was elected the chair of the Democratic Party Platform Committee the same year she was announced as Walter Mondale’s running mate. The two were ultimately defeated by the GOP’s Ronald Reagan. She helped fundraise for Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Patricia Schroeder


Colorado’s first elected Congresswoman (and the first woman to serve on the House's Armed Services Committee) ran as a Democratic candidate for president in 1988. In announcing her campaign, Patricia Schroeder dismissed concerns her gender could potentially hurt her at the polls, saying (quite famously), "I think America is man enough to vote for a woman." Although the nomination went to Michael Dukakis when Schroeder pulled out due to a lack of funding, she had reportedly come the closest a woman had ever come to winning the nomination of a major political party up to that point.

Lenora Fulani

Lenora Fulani sought to end America’s two-party political system when she ran for president under the New Alliance Party in 1988. Despite three unsuccessful attempts to run for office (she’d run for New York City mayor, New York governor and lieutenant governor) prior to her presidential campaign, Fulani was undeterred. As the presidential nominee for the New Alliance Party, Fulani was the first woman and African-American to appear on the ballot in all 50 states. She netted 225,000 votes in November, the highest number of votes a female candidate had won in a general election thus far. She ran for president again in 1992 with much less success.

Jill Stein


There’s another woman on November’s general election ballot who has helped push the idea of a female president: The Green Party’s Jill Stein. An environmental activist and physician, Stein collected an impressive 469,015 votes in the 2012 general election, making her "presidential candidacy the most successful ever conducted by a woman," according to Time Magazine.