Friday 5: Women Who Ran for President
Hillary Clinton made history this election season by being the first woman nominated for president by a major political party. But she is far from the first female candidate — women have been running for president since the late 1800s and over 30 women have attempted to run for our nation’s highest office to date.
Here are five trail-blazing women who ran for president before Clinton.
Victoria Woodhull (1872). On April 2, 1870, Victoria Woodhull wrote a letter to the New York Herald announcing her candidacy for president of the United States. Woodhull was a leader of the woman’s suffrage movement and was an activist for women’s rights and labor reforms. On May 10, 1872, Woodhull was nominated by the newly formed Equal Rights Party. Former slave and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass was selected as Woodhull’s running mate, although he never acknowledged the nomination.
Woodhull’s diverse career included working as a fortune teller and clairvoyant, being the first woman to operate a brokerage firm on Wall Street, and founding and editing a weekly newspaper. As a presidential candidate, her platform included issues such as women’s suffrage, an eight-hour work day, welfare for the poor, direct taxation, and free love, which included the freedom for women to choose their husbands and the right to divorce.
At the time of the election, Woodhull did not meet the minimum age requirement for president, which has led some to question the validity of her run. As of the presidential inauguration in March 1873, Woodhull was only 34 (her 35th birthday was in September 1873). While Woodhull didn’t receive any electoral votes, it’s possible she did receive some popular votes, but since she was not on any ballots in the country, we don’t know how many votes she received.
Belva Ann Lockwood (1884). In 1884, Belva Ann Lockwood was nominated by the Equal Rights Party. She was the first woman to appear on official ballots in six states and was the first woman to win votes. Even though women did not have the right to vote, Lockwood still won about 4,100 votes. Moreover, Lockwood had to petition Congress to have her votes officially counted, as she claimed that ballots with her name on them had either been ripped up or deemed to be false votes.
After Lockwood was refused admittance to many law schools on the grounds that she was a woman, she attended the National University Law School (now the George Washington University Law School) and graduated in 1873. However, the law school was unwilling to grant a diploma to a woman and, without a diploma, she could not gain admittance to the District of Columbia Bar. Lockwood wrote a letter to President Ulysses S. Grant, asking for his help as president ex officio of the law school. Within a week of sending the letter, Lockwood received her diploma.
Lockwood was admitted to the District of Columbia Bar, although she was told by several judges that they had no confidence in her. In 1879, she successfully petitioned Congress to be allowed to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, becoming the first woman attorney given this honor. In 1880, she became the first woman lawyer to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Shirley Chisholm (1972). In 1972, Shirley Chisholm became the first major-party African-American U.S. presidential candidate and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Chisholm was the first African-American woman to be elected to Congress in 1968 and was one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
During the election primaries, Chisholm struggled to be seen as a serious candidate. Most viewed her as a symbolic political figure; Chisholm noted she had met more discrimination as a woman than for being African-American. During her campaign, at least three threats were made against her life. Until she received U.S. Secret Service protection in May 1972, her husband served as her bodyguard.
Despite only spending $300,000 on her campaign, Chisholm succeeded in getting her name on 12 primary ballots and received votes in primaries in 14 states. During the July 12 roll call at the Democratic National Convention, she received a total of 152 delegate votes, or 10 percent of the total. She came in fourth place and ultimately George McGovern was selected as the Democratic nominee.
Lenora Fulani (1988). Nominated by the New Alliance Party in 1988, Lenora Fulani was the first woman and first African-American to appear on all 50 state ballots and the District of Columbia. Receiving almost 225,000 votes (0.2 percent of the total votes), she received more votes for president in a U.S. general election than any other woman until Jill Stein in 2012.
Fulani ran for president in both 1988 and 1992. Her platform included issues such as racial equality, gay rights, and political reform, specifically to support third parties. Throughout her career, Fulani has campaigned to end the two-party system and to create a new party for those who feel ignored by the Democratic and Republican parties.
Jill Stein (2012). Jill Stein was the Green Party presidential nominee in 2012 and is the presumptive Green Party nominee for 2016. In 2012 she received 469,501 votes (0.4 percent of the total votes), more than any other female general election candidate.
Originally from Illinois, Stein is a physician and environmental-health advocate. As a medical doctor, Stein turned her focus to activism when she became concerned about the connection between people’s health and the environment. She has testified on the effects of mercury and dioxin contamination from the burning of trash as well as protecting women and children from mercury contamination from fish.
Stein’s platform is progressive. She advocated for a “Green New Deal” where renewable energy jobs would be created to address climate change and environmental issues, and proposes a move to 100 percent renewable energy for the United States by 2030.