When Hillary Clinton crossed the delegate threshold for the Democratic nomination and told the world she'd done it on Tuesday night, the former Secretary of State made history. It's certainly a trailblazing moment, but many women cut through the brush and laid the first arduous steps well before Clinton's feet hit the ground. Well before the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, giving women across the country were granted the right to vote, the so-called "fairer sex" was finding ways to have an impact on government.
As we recognize the significance of Clinton's 2016 presidential run, let's look back at some highlights — and let me stress, these are bare bones highlights. You'd need an encyclopedia to document all the women who made strides to give women not only the right to vote but to climb through the highest ranks of government.
1756: Lydia Chapin Taft Becomes The First Women To Legally Vote In The United States
It wasn't actually the United States when Lydia Chapin Taft (also known as just Lydia Taft) voted in three town hall meetings in Uxbridge, Massachusetts in 1756. According to accounts of local family records, Taft cast critical votes for whether the town should allocate funds during the French and Indian War after her husband, Josiah, died and she voted in his stead.
1776: Abigail Adams Reminds Her Husband To "Remember The Ladies"
Women in colonial America didn't have much in the way of legal protections and rights — nor political leverage — even if they were white and wealthy, as Abigail Adams was. However, Adams made an impassioned, articulate plea to her husband, John, that the new country that would become the United States should offer more for women. She famously wrote in a March 1776 letter:
By the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.
Unfortunately, the second president of the United States was not convinced, and the U.S. Constitution did not include the right for women (and many, many other peope) to vote.
1848: The Seneca Falls Convention
Although it would be more than 70 years before women across the United States were officially granted the right to vote, a coherent national suffrage movement made its first significant mark in 1848. From July 19-20 in the village of Seneca Falls, New York, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and other revered suffragettes gathered. Nearly 200 women attended the first-ever women's rights conference held in the United States. It was there that the “Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances,” which was modeled after the Declaration of Independence, was read and signed. Among other pronouncements, it stated:
That it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.
1872: Victoria Claflin Woodhull Runs For President
That's right. Well before Hillary ran in 2008, Shirley Chisholm made a stab at the Democratic nomination in 1972, and Margaret Chase Smith attempted to win the Republican nomination in 1964, Victoria Claflin Woodhull ran for the highest office in the land in 1872. She was nominated to represent the Equal Rights Party — which, as the name suggests, promoted equal rights for men and women — in May of 1872. Woodhull's campaign platform included a number of diverse issues, including "eight-hour workday, graduated income tax, new divorce laws," as the National Women's History Museum noted in its biography of her. Prior to running for president, she and her sisters worked as the first female stockbrokers and the first women to set up a Wall Street firm.
1917: Jeannette Rankin Becomes First Woman Elected To Congress
As further proof that women weren't going to let a government that refused to grant them the right to vote stop them, Jeannette Rankin managed to be elected to Congress before the 19th Amendment was even passed. As the Republican nominee running to represent the state of Montana in the House of Representatives, Rankin — who had a background in social work — promoted progressive welfare policies and pacifism. When she was elected in 1916, she said, “I may be the first woman member of Congress, but I won’t be the last.” Rankin was sworn in on April 2, 1917, and she served until 1919, but was elected to another term, 1941-1943.
1972: Shirley Chisholm Launches A Historic Presidential Campaign
After becoming the first African American woman elected to Congress in 1968, Shirley Chisholm decided to go for another historic first. In 1972, Chisholm became the first African American presidential candidate for a major party. She ran for the Democratic nomination, campaigning in several states and entering primaries in 11 of them. She walked into the Democratic National Convention in Miami that year with just 28 pledged delegates, and her campaign was largely seen as more of a political stunt than a serious run. However, she managed to win the support of 151 delegates at the convention, and she proceeded to serve more than another decade in Congress.
1984: Geraldine Ferraro Become First Democratic Vice Presidential Candidate
On July 12, 1984, Walter Mondale selected Rep. Geraldine Ferraro to serve as his running mate. It marked the first time a woman would be on the general election ticket representing a major party. “If we can do this, we can do anything,” Geraldine Ferraro declared at the Democratic National Convention in 1984.
The high hopes and excitement surrounding Ferraro, a former criminal prosecutor in Queens who was elected to Congress in 1978. Though the Mondale-Ferraro campaign was completely decimated by Ronald Reagan and George Bush, it made a lasting impact on the country. Ferraro later wrote in the New York Times of her campaign, "Throwing Ronald Reagan out of office at the height of his popularity, with inflation and interest rates down, the economy moving and the country at peace, would have required God on the ticket, and She was not available!”
Image: Bustle/Dawn Foster