Making History

By Stephanie Schriock, EMILY’s List President

This week, Hillary Clinton became the first woman in our country’s 240-year history to win a major party nomination for President of the United States. This is a big deal. A stop-everything-you’re-doing-to-think-about-the-history-we-just-made big deal.

Think about this: The Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776. Women didn’t get the right to vote in this country until 1920 after a 70-year public struggle. And even after the 19th Amendment was ratified, women of color still were not guaranteed this fundamental right until the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Movements don’t happen overnight and they are never easy, but we’ve come a long way. Even as recently as the 1970s, many women still couldn’t get their own credit card or rent an apartment without a man co-signing for them. And Roe v. Wade, Title IX, and the Violence Against Women Act all didn’t exist yet.

My home state of Montana was actually the first state ever to elect a woman to Congress — Jeannette Rankin, in 1916 — four years before women across this nation could even vote. At the time, she said, “I may be the first woman member of Congress, but I won’t be the last.” She was right, but it took a while to get the second, and even to get to the 19 percent women are today in Congress.

A Democratic woman, Sally Ride, would actually go to space before a Democratic woman would get elected to the U.S. Senate in her own right. (Some had served, but usually because they’d been married to a man who died while in office.)

EMILY’s List was founded in 1985 to help elect that first woman, and she was and is Barbara Mikulski. And we’ve been working toward this moment ever since. In a little more than 30 years, we’ve literally changed the face of power in Washington, by electing 18 more pro-choice Democratic women to the Senate, 110 women to the U.S. House of Representatives, and more than 700 women to state and local office, including 11 woman governors. (You can see that impact in the blue trend line on the chart.)

Our country would be unrecognizable today without the leadership of EMILY’s List candidates. There have been some heartbreaking losses along the way, but we’ve learned from the victories and the defeats and we’ve never been stronger than we are today.

There is still one office missing, though, from the list of elected positions EMILY’s List women have won.Americans have elected 44 presidents in our country’s history and none of them have been women. But we plan to change that this year by electing Hillary Clinton to be our first woman president.

This primary victory is one giant step toward achieving that goal and the EMILY’s List community is so proud of what she’s accomplished, standing on the shoulders of women like Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul, Jeannette Rankin and Barbara Mikulski, Shirley Chisholm and Geraldine Ferraro.

At EMILY’s List, we know that firsts are important. But so is what comes next. Today, somewhere out there, the second, third, and fourth woman presidents are energized by this moment. Future women mayors, state representatives, and members of Congress are realizing that there is no limit to what they can achieve. Women and girls across the country are not just seeing Hillary Clinton, a trailblazer — they’re also seeing that new trail.