MILESTONES FOR WOMEN IN AMERICAN POLITICS AND THEIR MAJOR CONTRIBUTIONS.
The last century has seen American politics grow from male chauvinism to an all-inclusive gender platform. Women had little to zero contribution to American politics before 1920 because they had no right to vote. With the dawn of civilization, calls for the establishment of women’s suffrage were waged out. It started in the mid-19th century and attracted more attention towards the end of the century into the 20th century. Few states first gave in to these demands before it was nationally accepted in 1920. The anti-women suffrage proponents viewed women’s participation in politics as being too extreme. While women’s suffrage was finally accepted in 1920, women who tried even voting before that were arrested. A woman called Anthony succeeded in voting in the 1872 elections but would shortly be arrested, arraigned in court, and found guilty for going against the rules of the country in matters voting of women. This was met with fury by the suffragists who launched campaigns for constitutional amendments. These campaigns kicked off petitioning state by state.
In 1916, the National Woman’s Party (NWP) was formed to spearhead the continued appeal for a constitutional amendment on women’s suffrage. This movement was so dedicated to the course that they went demonstrating outside the white house. The participants were arrested and thrown into jail. Their efforts did not stop there; they instead went on a hunger strike in prison. With more pro-women suffrage sympathizers in both houses, the Nineteenth Amendment was finally voted in and was incorporated into the U.S.A constitution in 1920, 18th August. The bill reads, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
The passage of the Nineteenth Amendment provided a chance for women to not only participate in the voting but as well as vie for political seats. A handful of women actually women political seats in elections, but they really didn’t become prominent in those days. However, it was not until 1980 that the ratio of women voting finally almost equalized that of men who take part in the voting process. This voting gender gap has since then had an impact on political elections and presentation in politics. Women too have become part of the politics, have vied for political positions, won, and made outstanding contributions to American politics at large. In this paper, I am going to discuss the milestone of women’s leadership in American politics and their contributions. Major women leaders in history shall be reviewed in a non-chronological order in history and their contributions towards American politics outlined.
Credit for the success of the women’s suffrage rule goes to women. May it be noted that this came into being because it was fought for by women. Women organizations did their best in ensuring that women’s rights on matters of voting were regarded. Notable to this fight was Elizabeth Stanton Cady, who rallied for the women’s rights convention in Seneca in 1848. In these meetings, she expressed her views on how women were seen as lesser beings by men and called for reforms on the American voting system. She would then form the American Women’s rights movements to champion for these changes. Being a writer, she expressed her concerns through writing as well. She wrote several pamphlets and dissertations on women’s rights. Her address to the New York legislature in 1854 saw the granting of women’s rights to pay and equal guardianship to their children. Together with her colleague, Anthony, she continued making several presentations with an emphasis on women’s suffrage. She drafted the federal suffrage amendment, which was introduced in the U.S Congress, which was later passed to a law granting women the right to vote.
Bertha Knight took over as the first major woman to lead a major city in the country. No other city had been under a woman in those years. She came to power at a time when Seattle city was experiencing corruption scandals and a dirty city altogether. In a male-dominated city hall, she braved the tides to wipe out corruption. She introduced significant reforms that saw a rise in the standards of the city. During her reign, the city’s budget was reduced while still delivering to her people. She made a significant effort in the fight against the rampant corruption that had engulfed the city. In a nation that had just introduced women’s suffrage, she furthered her political career as council president for Seattle city in two terms.
Mary Bethune helped in the normalization of having blacks take positions as high as the president’s office. She was the first African American woman to work in the white house. Through her discussion with President Thomas Marshall, the Red Cross changed its policies on working with blacks. Before Bethune’s discussion with the president, the Red Cross did not allow blacks to take up roles as those taken up by whites. She shaped the future of black women when she served as the president of the National Association of Colored Women. In 1935, she would then become the advisor to President Roosevelt on minority issues. She used her political career to champion the rights of women and African Americans.
Moseley-Braun became the second African-American woman to be elected to the Senate. In her single term as senator, she made significant contributions to American politics. She first became the second Black senator to be elected, which saw the rise of hope for the African American society in American politics. In her inauguration speech to the Senate, she said, “I cannot escape the fact that I come to the Senate as a symbol of hope and change. Nor would I want to, because my presence in and of itself will change the U.S senate.” A senator, she represented many issues affecting women and the Afro-Americans. She drafted the amendment bill that helped divorced and widowed women to get a pension. She boldly castigated sexual harassment against women, which saw her lead the public outcry for the prosecution of Senator Robert William Packwood of Oregon on allegations of sexual misconduct.
Victoria Woodhull made an outstanding contribution to American politics when she became the first woman to run for the presidency of the United States. She made significant efforts in the fight for the women’s suffrage movement. As an activist, she fought for women’s rights (inclusive of suffrage rights) and called for labor reforms. She threw herself to the candidature of America’s highest office in 1872, not really because she wanted the seat, but to make a show that women are so capable and should be accommodated in politics. She used her owned newspaper to advance the idea that women could live with men and accorded the same rights. Her paper highlighted more essential topics on human living, such as spiritualism, vegetarianism, and licensed prostitution. She used the same article to expose frauds and corrupt land deals alongside publishing political, economic, and social happenings around the country at that time. She was offered the chance to address the House Judiciary Committee, where she made her speech on women’s suffrage. This significantly contributed to the repealing of the suppressive law barring women from voting. Despite losing the elections, her mark for empowering women was enough motivation to push women to participate in their country’s politics.
Madeleine Albright is another female U.S citizen who shaped U.S politics between 1993 and 2001. She was appointed as the ambassador to the United Nations during the tenure of President Clinton. She made bold decisions while representing her nation in the United Nations. She, for instance, criticized the shooting down of Cuban-American exile group planes by Cuban military pilots despite being against the views of the white house. Her other assertive decision still uploaded to date was her firm support of the idea that Saddam Hussein had to be attacked as long as she continued to hold arms inspections. A number of the involved panel members of the case for that military action in Iraq were against it, but she and Bill Clinton stood their ground. She would further her firm stand on that Iraq case into 2001when she made a farewell call to Kofi Annan, saying that the U.S was to continue to persuade Iraq to destroy its weapons in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
The new era post-enactment of the women suffrage law had its other challenges to be fought. Working environments for most workers (women included) were not in order. Rose Schneiderman, a trade unionist, took up the active role to call for reforms in the employment sector. Rose became the most popular female labor union leader who called for better workers’ working environments. On behalf of the New York Women’s Trade Union League, she criticized the poor workplace conditions for workers. She had taken part in the passing of the New York state referendum of 1917 that gave women the right to vote. She was very vocal in advocating for worker’s rights and higher pays to better their lives. She would then lead workers to stage a strike in the textile industries to demand better payment. She then retired in 1949 but would still give radio speeches and talks during labor union meetings. She essentially takes the credit for influencing the passage of the National Industrial Recovery Act and the New Deal legislation. On her death, the obituary read that she had done ‘more to upgrade the dignity and living standards of working women than any other American.’
Eleanor Roosevelt is also among the most common top names in American women who significantly impacted the political arena. Being the wife of President Franklin Roosevelt, Mrs. Eleanor served as the longest first lady of the United States between 1933 and 1945. During this period, she made outstanding contributions to the achievements of human rights. President Harry Truman recognized her efforts and gave her the title of ‘First Lady of the World’. She supported civil rights movements, sometimes against her husband’s views. She was the only top government official who saw the discrimination of African-Americans in the New Deal programs in Southern states. She raised her voice and concerns against this vice. She insisted on having the benefits distributed. Not even his husband’s administration dared comment on this, but she openly criticized the deal. Mrs. Roosevelt’s most outstanding contribution was her principles against racism. She was against racism. To help in the fight against racism, she invited several African-Americans to the white house, which had never happened in the white house before that. She identified a predominantly black reform school and lobbied funds for it on top of calling for changes in its staffing and curriculum. In solidarity with the African-American community, she withdrew her membership from the Daughters of the American Revolution, a group that had denied a black girl using Washington’s Constitution Hall. This incredibly made the African-American community identify themselves with her. This was of importance in a time where racism was a big challenge. It helped change the way blacks and whites associated.
She petitioned the government to offer government-sponsored daycares because she had noted the high absenteeism of working mothers. She empowered women even more when she urged them to learn a trade. She did this to ensure that all women were economically empowered. She was also among the first people who supported the creation of a United Nations agency mandated to oversee matters related to food and Nutrition.
Hillary Clinton Diane is part of the great women who have shaped modern-day women’s politics in America. Her role has been greatly felt. She served in government between 1993 to 2001 as the First lady to the United States, between 2001 to 2009 as New York’s senator, between 2009 to 2013 as the State Secretary and was later nominated by her party as the presidential flagbearer after winning the Democratic Party nominations in 2017. She would then win the popular Electoral votes but lost the Electoral College, which saw her lose the Lucrative White House seat. When she was the First Lady, she advocated for healthcare reforms. She devised a healthcare medical cover to be used by Americans. She called it the Clinton health care plan but failed due to disapproval from Congress. However, she would make more reforms by advocating for the creation of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, Adoption, Safe Families Act, and the Foster Care Independence ACT. She also advocated for gender equality at the 1995 UN conference on women.
During her tenure as senator, she called for medical benefits to all the victims of the 9/11 attack. She supported the invasion of Iraq in 2002 for the capture of Sadaam Hussein but was against the surge of the U.S troops in 2007. During her tenure as State Secretary, she established the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. This was a study intended to be carried out at intervals of four years to analyze the United States’ blueprint on diplomatic and development efforts abroad. Clinton is among the American women who have made extraordinary contributions to the politics of their country.
Present-day politics also includes a top government official: – Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States of America. Running as the vice president of President Biden (current regime), she becomes the first female vice president in the country and probably the highest-ranking female official in the United States of America history. During her tenure as a senator between 2017 and 2021, she made tremendous contributions through advocating for healthcare reforms, federal de-scheduling of cannabis (An ACT that saw the removal of cannabis from the list of a controlled substance), provision of citizenship for immigrants, and ACT that banned assault weapons and progressive tax reform (An ACT that was intended t to reduce the tax burden for people with a lower income). Her ascension to the second most powerful seat in the nation has beamed more hope to the girl child worldwide. It has made an incredible mark showing that ladies too have the capability of performing better even in male-dominated fields such as politics. In her inauguration speech as vice president, she said these regarding her being female and being the Vice president, ‘But while I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.’ In as much as she is also a woman of color, it has also shown that racial prejudice is no longer part of the American system.
It is, therefore, worth noting that women have played an essential role in shaping the course of American politics. Some other American women made significant contributions to the nation’s politics that have not been discussed in this paper. History shall forever remember the likes of Sonia Sotomayor (associate justice of the U.S supreme court, 2009), Mazie Hirono (senator, 2012), Nancy Pelosi (Speaker of the U.S house, 2007), Condoleeza Rice (State Secretary, 2005), Senator Kay Bailey, Heather Fargo (Sacramento Mayor, 2000) among other female leaders who have made and brought change to this country. These iron ladies have defined the true nature of women’s leadership. Through the lenses of the world, they have demonstrated that women, just like men, can stand up to the occasion in matters of politics, governance, and leadership and deliver.
In as much as men still have the upper hand in politics, society is very eager to see more women take up top leadership positions, not just in politics but also in other spheres of life. Recent discussions have even raised the idea that the country is now ready to have a female president. It is now commendable that more young women have even pursued careers traditionally viewed to be meant for ales. This has loosened the archaic thinking that it is only men who can flourish in these fields. This has not only prepared the way for women in politics but also in the corporate world.