“We the people” finally became much more of a reality for women when Hillary Clinton accepted the Democratic Party nomination for President of the United States yesterday. She is the first woman to secure a major party nomination in the Presidential election.
To say that this moment has been a long time coming is understatement. It has been 240 years since the 1776 Declaration of Independence, which set off a revolution against the rule of monarchy and signaled the creation of a new nation with the ideals of freedom, liberty, and individual rights.
At the nation’s birth, however, the reality was far from the ideal. Originally, the right to vote was left up to the states, and it was deemed a legal privilege that most states at first reserved almost exclusively for white Protestant males who owned property. In each generation, many people have fought and sacrificed much to expand this limited definition and to have the founding documents of the United States of America and the expression of ideals live up to the promise of “we the people…” Yet, it took women 144 years after the nation’s founding to secure suffrage, in 1920 with the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Surely, Hillary Clinton is as cognizant as anyone, if not more, of the sacrifices that so many women have made over the generations – including her own – to break the barriers. She arrives at this place in the middle of a Presidential election full of heated, at times frightening, rhetoric; a promise by the other major party opponent, Republican Donald Trump, of mass deportations of groups of people, among other dangerous threats; and many indicators of a nation of sharp divisions. Life and history move on day to day as the country works so imperfectly, but at times in inspiring ways, to confront the issues and challenges.
Still, consider that singular moment on Wednesday evening, July 27, after President Barack Obama delivered a stirring address to the Democratic Party convention endorsing Clinton. She came on the stage, and they embraced and stood there for some time. We were witnessing the first African-American President standing with the first woman to be a major party nominee and have a real opportunity to become President. It’s worth stopping to understand and appreciate how far the country has come and how much each generation has had to be vigilant to ensure we do not go backwards.
Yes, it has been a long time coming, nearly two-and-a-half centuries. As Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party nomination on Thursday, July 28, it’s important to remember and honor the women who paved this long, arduous pathway, with toil, blood, and suffering, through injustice, indignities, and setbacks. We don’t know the names and lives of many of those women, most of whom are now gone. Many citizens aren’t even aware of what others have done to get to this day, or they take the passing of this threshold for granted. [Read more →]