When we take a look at the history of the United States, whether recent or not, we can see that there were many women who had in mind to be the country’s president. Maybe today any little girl can dream of becoming president, but in the past, this was not that easy. If you wanted to achieve anything like this, you had to work a lot.
America is a country that believes in equal opportunity and achievement. Because of this, women ran for president long before they were even allowed to vote. These women are pioneers. They paved the way for the next ones who will want to be presidents.
But even if they were the first to campaign, the first to raise money for this, or the first to announce, they would not be the last. Read on and discover the women who ran for president and their amazing stories.
1. Laura Clay
- Democratic Party: 1920
Laura Clay was born in 1849 near Richmond, Kentucky. She had a large family, being the youngest of six children. Also, her family was powerful and had a lot of land and farms. Her father was abroad for a period of time while serving as Abraham Lincoln’s representative to Russia.
Mrs. Clay, the mother of Laura Clay, insisted her daughter be well educated, and for this reason, Laura attended Sayre Female Institute in Lexington, Kentucky. In 1888, Laura Clay became president of the Kentucky Woman Suffrage Association.
If you want to learn more about the Suffrage Movement, this book might be a good start.
While she was in this position until 1912, she fought for women’s rights and managed to change some laws regarding married women and their property rights. Also, she fought for the notion of joint guardianship of children.
She and Cora Wilson Stewart were the first women to have their names submitted for presidential candidacy at an influential political party’s convention in 1920, at the Democratic National Convention.
2. Charlene Mitchell
- Communist Party: 1968
Even if she passed away quite recently, on December 14, 2022, there is a high chance you’ve never heard of her name. Charlene Mitchell was born on June 8, 1930, in Cincinnati, Ohio, but she was raised in Chicago.
According to some sources, she began her political life early. When she was 16 years old, she joined the Communist Party, and by doing so, she became the youngest of its members. One of the first things she did was found Los Angeles’ all-black Communist Party chapter, named the Che-Lumumba Club. The name comes from Che Guevara, the Argentinian revolutionary, and Patrice Lumumba, a former Congolese leader.
Not a lot of time has passed, and the Los Angeles chapter has become one of the most active chapters of the Communist Party from all across the nation. Mitchell was now one of the most influential communist leaders in America, and in 1968, she ran for president.
Charlene Mitchell received around 1000 votes, but this was not in vain. Her courage and drive helped many other black women who later wanted to run. She was an example to them.
3. Shirley Chisholm
- Democratic Party: 1972
Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm was the first woman and African American to ever enter the race for president of the United States. This was something major because she was the only African American chosen from the two big political parties. After being elected to Congress in 1968, her career ascended more and more.
Her parents are immigrants from Barbados and Guyana, and she was born in 1924 in Brooklyn, New York. During her political career, Chisolm made an important contribution to anti-poverty policies and educational reform. Also, she founded both the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971.
Later, in 1972, she wanted to get the Democratic nomination with the slogan “Unbought and Unbossed.” Unfortunately, Chisholm lost the nomination to Senator George McGovern, the anti-Vietnam War contender. She was denied access to televised primary debates, and after taking legal action, she only managed to make one speech.
But even with all of these obstacles, people still liked her. Women, minorities, and students all agreed with her. As a result, Shirley Chisholm received 152 votes from delegates, or 10% of the total.
4. Elizabeth Dole
- Republican Party: 2000
Elizabeth Dole has been associated with Republican politics since the 1970s, serving under six consecutive presidents. She was born on July 29, 1936, in Salisbury, North Carolina, and if we were to take a closer look at her career, we would notice that she had numerous “firsts” for women.
Dole was the first woman to become an executive of the American Red Cross since its founding. She was also the first woman to serve as Secretary of Transportation, and she was the first woman to compete for the Republican presidential nomination.
She is known as a great political communicator, and she became a national phenomenon when she delivered a speech in favor of her husband’s presidential quest at the 1996 Republican National Convention. After this amazing speech, Elizabeth Dole gained a reputation, and doors have been opened to her. She was ready for the 2000 presidential run.
But even if she managed to get the 2000 Republican Party presidential nomination, there were many hurdles in front of her. It is true that she was the second-most popular Republican candidate, but she got very little media coverage. She had fewer chances to appear on the first page of papers or to be quoted first in the news stories.
Dole dropped out of the race in October 1999 after failing to bridge the gap behind Texas Governor George W. Bush and because she was also running out of campaign funding.
5. Hillary Rodham Clinton
- Democratic Party: 2008 and 2016
Hillary Clinton has been an active politician since her college days, and she was also the first lady of our country between 1993 and 2001, during her husband’s presidency. But she was not only the first lady; she was also the only first lady to serve in the United States Senate, where she represented New York from 2001 to 2009.
She is probably the first woman who was so close to getting the nomination of a major party that everybody expected her to win it. Clinton began her campaign in 2007, but Barack Obama managed to earn more pledged votes, which made her suspend her campaign in June 2008. But this didn’t stop her from supporting him. She also served in Obama’s administration from 2009 to 2013 as secretary of state.
Clinton never gave up on her dream, and later, in 2016, she was the first woman to be elected president by an important political party in the United States. This happened after she garnered more votes at caucuses and primaries than her main opponent, Bernie Sanders.
During her victory speech, Hillary Clinton stated that this victory is an important milestone in American politics. She said that this victory is not about her but about an entire generation of women and men who tried hard and made sacrifices for this to happen.
However, they were not the only women who played significant roles in American politics. If you enjoyed their stories and wish to learn more about the ladies who contributed to the building, our country’s political landscape, you should also read the following article: Meet the 5 Strong Female Politicians Who Shaped America’s Future