Hillary Clinton may become the first female president of the United States, but she is not the first woman who has run for the job.
This year alone there are five women who have earned their party’s nomination—including the Green Party’s Jill Stein and the Party for Socialism and Liberation’s Gloria La Riva, who has been on various Socialist tickets for more than 30 years.
Although Clinton, in July, became the first woman ever to be nominated by a major political party, dozens of women have attempted the feat in the past century and a half.
Victoria Woodhull, an early suffrage leader, ran for president in 1872 on the Equal Rights Party’s ticket—decades before women had even secured the right to vote and despite the fact that, at 34, she was too young to be eligible. She’s remembered today as part-hustler, part-trailblazer, and her roster of experience included stints as a clairvoyant and a Wall Street broker. (If anyone actually voted for her, those votes were never counted.)
Belva Ann Lockwood followed suit in 1884 and 1888, arguing that just because she couldn’t vote didn’t mean that men couldn’t vote for her.
In 1920, Laura Clay and Cora Wilson Stewart both sought the Democratic Party nomination. (James Cox beat them, then lost to Warren Harding.) In 1964, Fay Carpenter Swain attempted to get the Democratic nomination while Margaret Chase Smith went after the Republican nomination. (Smith lost to Barry Goldwater, who himself lost to Lyndon Johnson that year.) In 1972, a trio of Democratic women tried to land the ticket: Shirley Chisholm, Patsy Mink, and Bella Abzug. Mink, who died in 2002, is best known today as the author of Title IX. She also held the distinction of being the first Asian American to seek her party’s nomination for the presidency. George McGovern wound up winning the Democratic nomination in 1972, then suffered a stunning defeat to Richard Nixon in the general election.
It’s tempting to read something into the fact that so many women attempted to secure nominations from parties that rejected them—only for those parties to ultimately lose the election with their preferred, male nominee. But what might such a pattern suggest? It seems possible that women saw a more plausible opening for their own candidacy in elections where their parties were weaker. That, in turn, might have made an already politically risky move—to run for president as a woman—seem slightly less treacherous. Less treacherous to the public that might vote for them, that is.