In modern politics, Hillary Clinton‘s feat is amazing, and we shouldn’t take anything away from her come-back ability to fight and win after losing the 2008 primary to President Obama. But the modern media is taking it a bit far to call her the first female presidential nominee, especially when Jill Stein was the Green Party’s nominee in 2012 and is likely to be the party’s nominee again in 2016.
What they are trying to say (maybe without actually admitting it) is that Hillary Clinton is the first female nominee from one of the two contemporary major parties — which makes us have to ask, who was the very first female nominee for the presidency?
To answer that, we have to rewind history more than one hundred years, longer ago than universal women’s suffrage.
The Equal Rights Party, Election of 1872
Victoria Woodhull holds the honor of being America’s first female nominated to the office of the presidency by the Equal Rights Party at their convention on May 10, 1872.
Almost 50 years before universal suffrage, Woodhull bucked the odds to become nominated with abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglas chosen as her running mate.
She had bucked the male-dominated system for years, working as a stockbroker, then owning a newspaper, and even being the first women to address a congressional hearing (on any issue) supporting the issue of universal women’s suffrage.
Her newspaper got her into plenty of trouble socially and sometimes even legally: discussing topics such as legalized prostitution, free love, women’s rights, and vegetarianism.
Her campaign was equally progressive, campaigning on the regulation of monopolies, women’s suffrage, the eight-hour day, welfare, direct taxation, and even the abolishment of the death penalty.
America wasn’t quite ready for a female presidential candidate, and U.S. Marshals arrested her on obscenity charges prior to the election, which actually gave her more coverage as a candidate. She spent election day in jail, and received no electoral votes during the election.
Woodhull’s Legacy Remains Today
How is it that after almost 150 years we are still fighting for the same things?
We are still fighting to break up banks that are ‘too big to fail,’ while fighting for equal rights and pay for women in the workplace, suitable and sufficient welfare for our poorest citizens, a taxation system that makes sense and is equitable, and against a death penalty system that is far from effective.
Are progressive ideals just ‘that’ unpalatable in American culture that 150 years of fighting for them has only seen partial fulfillment of their goals?
In many ways, Woodhull’s campaigning platform has been firmly forced on Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the progressives within the Democratic Party, and she’s going to have to learn to become the champion of these issues to hold the party together.
Clinton is going to have to be prepared to fight during the general election season, facing a candidate who is willing to take the lowest cheap-shots possible when debating and referring to his opponents.
If anything, her last 30 years in the political spotlight has probably made her the idea candidate to face this–most candidates don’t have the ‘training ground’ of becoming politically tough enough without an extensive stay in politics.
But in the end, one thing is certain, the progressive issues that are being presented during the 2016 election are American issues. Issues with a rich history of women and men of all races fighting for a better America.