Democrats made history at our convention in Philadelphia when we nominated Hillary Clinton. This is the first time in the history of the United States that a major political party has chosen a woman as its nominee for President. It took a long time to get here. And a lot of things had to change along the way.
In 1916 Jeanette Rankin of Montana became the first woman elected to the House of Representatives. In 1932 Hattie Carraway of Arkansas became the first woman elected to the Senate. In 1933 Frances Perkins became the first woman to serve in the Cabinet when she became the Secretary of Labor. In 1981 Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court. And there were other firsts. In 1974 Ella Grasso was elected Governor of Connecticut. In 1984 Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman to be nominated for vice president by a major party when she was chosen at the Democratic convention. In 1993 Madeline Albright became the first woman to serve as Secretary of State, and Janet Reno became the first woman to serve as Attorney General.
It’s hard to believe now that there was a time when all of what those women accomplished had never been done before, not some time in the nearly forgotten past, but a comparatively recent time. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and others led the fight for women’s right to vote in the late nineteenth century. Alice Paul, a former resident of Ridgefield, was one of the intellectual and moral leaders of the movement in the early twentieth century. She was also involved in peaceful protests, demonstrations, and a hunger strike in jail. And her efforts led directly the passage of a constitutional amendment that guaranteed women the right to vote. One of my mother’s aunts was a suffragette. She wasn’t famous. As far as I know, she was never arrested and she never chained herself to the gate of a governor’s mansion. She was one of the suffragettes who wrote letters and collected signatures on petitions. She told me later that her parents and her older brothers and sisters had worried about her and probably thought she was crazy. But she was one of the people who helped to change America and the world, one of the people who helped to make other advances possible. As Hillary Clinton said in her acceptance speech at the convention, whenever a barrier falls in America it clears the way for everyone.
Hillary Clinton isn’t just a historic nominee. She has the experience, the skills, the judgment, and the temperament we need in a President. There are causes left to fight for, and we know she’ll be on the right side.
There was another convention the week before ours. They made a very different kind of history. They should be embarrassed. They probably aren’t, but they should be.
The Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee provides this column.