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Crystal Dueker, Published August 26 2009

On Equality Day, consider success of women in politics

Recently on “Meet the Press,” (July 26), Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was asked “What’s it going to take for a woman to be president?” She replied, “It’ll take the right woman who can make the case and win the votes and get elected. And I am certainly hoping that happens in my lifetime.”

In my opinion, Clinton held the top ranking in national polls, raised millions of dollars, organized across the nation, and competed head to head against other strong candidates. Yet, on Super Tuesday in February, in a Washington, D.C., hotel lounge, it was historic and exciting for me to watch a battle for delegates along with hundreds of others looking at TV screens on every wall just like a World Series game. We all witnessed how close a woman finally came to being nominated by the Democrats as their candidate for president.

Later, when Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska was announced to become Sen. John McCain’s vice president nominee, she noted, “In Denver this week, Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out the women of America aren’t finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.”

Palin also became a historic figure as the Republican’s first woman on their ticket.

Yet today, many people ask why it has taken so long to get women to run for president, and since women make up more than 50 percent of the U.S. population, they question the fairness of ever winning the White House.

Let’s look at the issue of equality for women at the ballot box. I believe the women of today stand on the shoulders of those who debated, marched and lobbied members of state legislatures and Congress to ratify the amendment allowing women the right to vote. Women have made historic steps. Starting in 1872, Victoria Woodhull (the first woman to have her own office on Wall Street) dared to seek the Equality Party nomination and was put on the ballot of many states. Her act could be seen as “testing of the waters” for female leadership in our nation. Also, in 1884 and 1888, Belva Lockwood (the first female lawyer to argue cases before the U.S. Supreme Court) also won the nomination for president from the Equality Party.

Congresswoman Jeanette Rankin was elected to represent Montana in 1914, when more 30 states gave women the right to vote. She also pushed national discussion of votes for women. North Dakota elected women to the Legislature in 1923 and even had a female speaker of the House in 1933.

Since 1920, polls have been taken about the mood of the nation in supporting a woman for president. As more women have sought the nomination, people seem to be more and more accepting of a woman in the White House.

Before Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro was chosen as Walter Mondale’s vice president nominee in 1984, Shirley Chisholm was mentioned as a possibility for a national ticket in 1972. Chisholm was a member of Congress and also African-American. Patricia Schroeder, also in Congress, ran for a short time in 1992, followed by Elizabeth Dole for the 2000 nomination.

All of these women raised money, gathered supporters and were given a chance to participate in the process. Again, these are all historic steps toward the path to the White House and show us that people have supported women in their bids for the nation’s highest office.

Have you heard of “The Year of the Woman”? It was 1992, when two female senators saw their chamber increase to six women. We saw nine women in the Senate in 1999 increase to 13 in 2002, and after 2008, we now have 17 women in the Senate. Also, in 1992, more than 106 women ran in primaries, and many of them won the nomination for Congress, taking 23 incumbent women in the House up to 47 women representing their districts. Today, there are more than 70 women in Congress.

All of these facts show the progress of women in our nation and represent the views of Democrats and Republicans.

That shows equal support for women, rather than just some quota of 50 percent as a goal. Now, is there a women who is currently serving in Congress or as governor who might run for the White House in 2012 or beyond? Perhaps, but she will have to test the waters like the other women.

As we observe Equality Day today, isn’t it great to look back at 2008 and see there were two women who had a equal chance to win the White House? Will Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin run again? Only time and the support by the people will give us the answer to that question.

Dueker is a Republican activist.