Baby, you’ve come a long way /2

Female contenders in primaries to be nominated as US presidential candidates

By Byron Toben

My earlier compilation – Baby, you’ve come a long way /1 – listed females who actually appeared on ballots as candidates for President of the USA. This list contains women who endeavoured to obtain such nomination over the years.

19th Century

The United States did not have universal suffrage until 1920. Nevertheless, two women were key to later attempts to run for that office.

Victoria Woodhull - WestmountMag.ca

Victoria Woodhull – Image: Mathew Brady c1870 [Public Domain]

Victoria Woodhull, a leader of the suffrage movement, was, with her sister, the first woman to operate a Wall Street stock brokerage. They were also among the first women to start a weekly newspaper. Whether a non-voting woman could run for political office seemed to be ignored, as was the fact that she would have been six months shy of the constitutional age of 35 to be president if she had won. She ran for the newly formed Equal Rights Party. Republican incumbent Ulysses Grant won that year.

1884 and 1888
Belva Lockwood, a teacher, became one of the first female lawyers in the USA. Based in Washington, DC, she ran for president for the National Equal Rights Party. She lost to Democrat Grover Cleveland in 1884 and to Republican Benjamin Harrison in 1888.

20th Century

That year saw two women offer themselves as candidates:

Margaret Chase Smith entered the Republican race. The first woman to serve in both the House and the Senate (for Maine), she was very bipartisan. An Eisenhower supporter, she spoke against Senator McCarthy’s excesses. She lost the nomination to Barry Goldwater.

Fay T. Carpenter Swain seems to have disappeared from history. Someone of that name sought the Democratic nomination that year, which went to Lyndon Johnson, who won the general election.

Shirley Chisholm - WestmountMag.ca

Shirley Chisholm reviewing political statistics in 1965 – Image: Roger Higgins, World Telegram staff photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Two women, both Democrats, both ground breakers, entered the race:

Shirley Chisholm of New York was the first black woman to be elected to the US Congress.

Patsy Mink, of Hawaii, served 12 terms in the House as the first Asian (Japanese American) to be elected there.

Both lost the nomination to George McGovern, who lost in the general election to Richard Nixon.

(In 1972) Shirley Chisholm of New York was the first black woman to be elected to the US Congress.

Twenty-two years later, two other women sought the Democratic nomination:

Elenena Lloyd-Duffle, who rose from airline gate handler to become a paralegal and accountant, and Dr. Heather Ann Harder, an author and lecturer on spiritualism and UFOs.

Both entered the race to lose to Bill Clinton, who went on to defeat Bob Dole.

Carol Moseley Braun - WestmountMag.ca

Top Row (L-R): Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) Bottom Row: Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun (D-IL), Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) Image: Senate of the United States [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

21st Century

Carol Moseley Braun, Democrat of Illinois, became the first black woman to serve as a US Senator. She later also became ambassador to New Zealand.

The nomination went to John Kerry, who lost the general election to Republican incumbent George W. Bush.

Hillary Clinton, Democrat US Senator for New York, entered the race for nomination but lost to Barack Obama, who defeated Republican John McCain in the general election, appointing Clinton as Secretary of State.

She finally was nominated for President in 2016 but lost the electoral vote to Donald Trump.

‘(In 2004) Carol Moseley Braun, Democrat of Illinois, became the first black woman to serve as a US Senator.’

The first female Republican contender since Margaret Chase Smith back in 1964 was Michele Backman, a House member from Minnesota, keen on evangelical messages.

She lost to Mitt Romney, who lost to Democrat incumbent Barack Obama.

Carly Fiorina - WestmountMag.ca

Carly Fiorina speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) – Image: Gage Skidmore [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Carly Fiorina, the first woman be a CEO of a top 20 company (Hewlett Packard), entered the Republican race, to lose to Donald Trump who won the electoral count against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

This ends my compilation of females who actually got on ballots as presidential candidates (Part One) and those who entered the nomination race within the two major parties (Part Two).

Although these lists did not include vice president nominations, both Democrat Geraldine Ferraro of New York (1984) and Republican Sarah Palin of Alaska (2008) deserve recognition for being selected by their respective parties.


From Victoria Woodhull in 1872 to Hillary Clinton in 2016, a variety of women have sought the highest post in the land. While none have succeeded, an increasing number have become mayors, governors, congress people as well as lawyers, doctors and other professionals. With three already declaring for the Democratic race (maybe more to come) is 2020 the year?

Feature image: Margaret Chase Smith and Eleanor Roosevelt jointly appear as the first-ever women panelists on Face the Nation in 1956 – National Archives and Records Administration [Public domain] Bouton S'inscrire à l'infolettre – WestmountMag.ca

Read more articles from Byron Toben

Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been WestmountMag.ca’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.

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