After working as a key player in the Woman’s Suffrage movement, and seeing some success in the form of the 19th amendment in 1920, Alva Belmont reportedly withheld her vote until a female candidate ran for president.
Foolish or not, it was a powerful statement of her belief in her goal of total and absolute equality.
“Do you know how many women were in the Senate in 1984? Two. We have multiplied that number by 14,” (Geraldine Ferraro, VP Nominee in 1984). Although Ms. Ferraro’s ticket was defeated, it was a seminal moment in politics that was validated by a subsequent leap forward in the number of local and national female candidates.
Women have run for president from both parties since Ferraro’s turn. The Democratic candidate, and ultimate winner of the popular vote if not the electoral, for 2016 was Hillary Clinton, who Ferraro fiercely supported in 2008.
Female Democrats have an advantage over female Republicans at a margin of almost 2-to-1 in state legislatures. That ratio rises to more than 3-to-1 in Congress. A major reason is “Emily’s List”, which has been recruiting and training female candidates since the year after Ferraro’s historic run. In recent years, the group has trained over 1,000 women how to run for office, assuring them they’re qualified and in demand.
Hillary Clinton has supported these efforts through her long and well documented career. “Hypothetically speaking, I really do hope that we have a woman president in my lifetime,” said Clinton to an enthusiastic audience of thousands. “I hope that we will see a woman elected because I think it would send exactly the right historic signal to girls and women, as well as boys and men. And I will certainly vote for the right woman to be president.” She referenced former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt who noted, ‘If women want to be in politics, they need to ‘grow skin as thick as a rhinoceros.’ Clinton continued, “and I think there is still truth to that, so you have to step up, you have to dare to compete…”
‘Dare to Compete’, was a phrase Hillary borrowed from a young female college student whom she met while running for the Senate seat in New York.
The young student told Clinton of her admiration for her accomplishments. She told her not to give up, and being an athlete the student used the phrase “Dare to Compete” on a banner.
Having the confidence to put yourself out into hostile waters, in order to reach an important goal, is a lesson that everyone can take home.
The best voices in both parties should be encouraged to run for office, and those voices should reflect the demographic makeup of all fifty states. We will see Alva, if the highest ceiling cracks open this century.