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Putting Hillary Clinton's Nomination Into Historical Perspective

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | June 9, 2016 |

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | June 9, 2016 |

I was marveling at what an accomplishment it was for Hillary Clinton to receive the nomination for the Democratic Party after reading this piece over on Vox on what an extraordinary politician she is, and this particular line stuck with me:

America has hosted 56 presidential elections — 33 of them before women received the right to vote. Exactly zero of those elections featured a female nominee from one of the two major political parties.

Until Hillary Clinton.

It really does put her victory into perspective, as does this tweet:

Over 200 years of history, and it took Hillary Clinton to not only break the glass ceiling, but to make the fact that she’s a woman almost an afterthought (Trump’s stupid woman card statement, notwithstanding).

It’s not just that Clinton won the primary. She’s actually only the sixth woman to ever attempt to run for President on a major party ticket. Interestingly, three of the first four were all African-American women: Shirley Chisholm (1972), Carol Moseley Braun (2004), and (Cynthia McKinney). Before Clinton, Chisholm was the closest to ever securing the nomination, scoring 2.69 percent of the primary vote in 1972, good for 7th place. Chisholm was also the first black major-party candidate, as well as the first African-American woman elected to the United States Congress. She’s also a boss.

The very first woman to run for President for a major party was Margaret Chase Smith, who ran as a Republican in 1964, as a moderate from Maine (she frequently broke ranks with the Republicans, which is now the norm for female GOP Senators from Maine. Holla).

Why did she run? “I have few illusions and no money, but I’m staying for the finish. When people keep telling you, you can’t do a thing, you kind of like to try.” I like the spirit, and true to her promise, she stayed until the finish, denying unanimous consent for Senator Barry Goldwater at the Republican convention that year, refusing to withdraw her name on the final ballot.


In all, there have been only 17 women in all of U.S. history to run for President in any party to receive over 30,000 votes. Of those 17 women, only two ran for the Republican nomination, Margaret Chase Smith and Carly Fiorina. Whatever else you might want to say about Fiorina, it takes a certain amount of courage (and a lack of understanding when it comes to GOP demographics in 2016) to run as a female for the GOP nomination.

In fact, Fiorina only received 40,000 votes before dropping out of the race, less than Roseanne Barr, who ran in 2012 for the Peace and Freedom Party and secured 67,000 votes. Of course, Barr only ran for the Peace and Freedom Party after coming in second to Jill Stein for the Green Party nomination, and then chiding Stein and making transphobic jokes about her like the sore loser Roseanne Barr can be.

Fiorina also received fewer votes than Gracie Allen, the wife of George Burns who ran in 1940 in the Surprise Party as a publicity stunt to promote her book. She received 42,000 votes. She was also a boss.


To put Clinton’s victory into more perspective: In 1940, a woman ran as a joke. It took 85 more years before the United States took a woman seriously enough to elevate her to the nomination. The glass ceiling is broken; all that’s left now is to finish off Donald Trump with the shards.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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