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The Cobbled Road to the White House

November 13, 2008

I am hardly the first to commemorate November 4, 2008 as a historic day. Regardless of personal opinion or political leaning, the fact that the United States of America has just elected its first non-white President is a big deal. And it comes as the denouement of a rather historic race, although not filled with quite as many firsts as would seem. Barack Obama was not the first African American, nor was Hillary Clinton the first woman, to run for President; likewise Sarah Palin was not the first woman nominated as Vice President. What made this most recent election so historic was the fact that Obama and Clinton ran against each other in the Democratic primaries, making Clinton the first woman who had a fighting chance at the Presidency. Obama was the first African American to survive the primaries. Palin was the first Alaskan to be tapped as a Vice Presidential candidate for a major party.

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The first woman to run for President was Victoria Woodhull in 1872 as a representative of the Equal Rights Party. Woodhull had been the first female stock broker and was a women’s rights activist who championed women’s suffrage and sexual freedom, among other such radical causes of her day. Her bid was unsuccessful, although she’d intended it more as a protest than as a serious attempt, and highly controversial even among her fellow women’s rights advocates Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. She’d also tapped Frederick Douglass as her running mate, despite the then-unseemliness of Caucasians and African Americans working so closely together, which would have made him the first African American to run for Vice President if he had not turned her down. This made James W. Ford the first African American to run for Vice President in 1932 on the Communist Party USA ticket.

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The first African American to run for President was Clennon Washington King, Jr. in 1960 under the Independent Afro-American Party. Although Frederick Douglass was nominated as a candidate at the 1888 Republican National Convention, it is difficult to determine whether he accepted it. Remarkably, he’d even received one vote in his favor, from Kentucky. This was quite an achievement for a man who had been born a slave and learned to read illegally. In 1972, Shirley Chisholm became the first person who was both female and African American to campaign nationally for the presidency on a major party ticket. The second African American to do this was Jesse Jackson in 1984, and was the first African American to be a serious contender.

The first woman nominated for Vice President was Lena Springs at the 1924 Democratic National Convention. Although it had only been a friendly gesture to thank her for her service up til then, she received 50 votes and the support of Will Rogers. Similarly, India Edwards was nominated for Vice President at the 1952 Democratic National Convention for her contributions to Harry Truman’s time in office. But it was Nellie Tayloe Ross who was truly remarkable. Her 1928 nomination for Vice President at the Democratic National Convention came between her being the first female governor in 1925 and the first female director of the U. S. Mint in 1933. And Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman, in 1984, to have a very real chance to become Vice President.

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Given all who have vied before, perhaps it won’t be long until the United States elects its first woman as either President or Vice President. I dare predict this will happen within a generation.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jenny P. permalink
    April 3, 2009 2:26 pm

    Not much into politics, so I thought that this particular blog was boring. I did like the blog about living with turettes (as an adult I still can’t spell worth a dam)

    • Victoria Rose permalink*
      April 3, 2009 7:54 pm

      I’m not really big into politics, either, which is part of the reason why this was done from the angle of, “Gee golly jeepers, historical firsts!” rather than anything about politics per se, policy, etc.


  1. The Cobbled Road to the White House at Hillary Clinton On Best Political Blogs
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