Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Are We Ready for a Woman President?

Professor Karlyn Kohrs Campbell (scholar in presidential rhetorics and in women’s rhetorics in the U.S.) gets us remembering. Kohrs Campbell, asking if we're ready, has identified several women who have made the world readier for an American woman president:

*Elizabeth Cady Stanton. 1848. Reads the “Declaration of Sentiments” co-written by her and several women, and modelled after Jefferson’s Declaration, for the first national woman’s rights convention. Charlotte Woodward, a 19-year-old, participates. (Frederick Douglass and other African Americans and other male first-wave feminists or feminist allies are also participants).

Victoria Claflin Woodhull. 1872. Runs for U.S. President (and is the first woman to do so). Woodhull’s choice for running mate in her Equal Rights Party was Frederick Douglass, making him the first African American candidate for Vice President. Woodhull and her sister, Tennesee, were the first stock brokers who were women; they gave professional advice to Cornelius Vanderbuilt.

Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood. 1884 and 1888. Runs for U.S. President on the Equal Rights Party ticket. In her first run, she’s the first woman to get votes—149; her second run gains her more than 4,000 votes. Lockwood is also the first woman to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. She represented indigineous Americans in Cherokee Nation v. United States, and won for the native Americans, the Eastern and Emigrant Cherokees nearly $5 million in settlements. Lockwood said, "We shall never have equal rights until we take them, nor respect until we command it."

*Charlotte Woodward. 1920. Casts her vote as one of the first women legally to do so in the United States. At age 81, she is the only participant from the first national woman’s rights convention of 1848 still alive.

Margaret Chase Smith. 1940 and 1964. Is elected Senator as the first woman to the U.S. Congress in 1940. Senator Smith showed political courage by criticizing the antics of communist witch hunter, Senator Joseph McCarthy, in her speech “Declaration of Consicence.” Although she’s passed over as the Republican nominee for Vice President in 1954, Senator Smith makes a run for the presidency in 1964. Senator Smith is the first woman nominated by either major party. Her votes in the primaries carry her all the way to the Republican National Convention.

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm. 1968 and 1972. Is elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, the first African American woman to be included in the U.S. Congress, in 1968. In 1972, Chisolm runs for the U.S. Presidency, the first black woman to do so. She received 151 delegate votes.

Frances “Sissy” Tarlton Farenthold. 1972. Becomes the first woman to be nominated and voted on for U.S. Vice President. Farenthold was one of three women of a class of 800 to graduate from the University of Texas Law School in 1968. With Barbara Jordan, she was the only other woman to serve on the Texas State Legislature in 1968; and with Jordan, Farenthold was one of the “dirty thirty” Members of the Texas State House of Representatives who called for the ouster of the allegedly corrupt Speaker at the time.

Sonia Johnson. 1984. Becomes the first woman to be nominated for U.S. President by two different political parties (the U.S. Citizens Party and the Peace and Freedom Party). In 1977, Johnson co-founded Mormons for the ERA with three other women . She testified in 1978 to the U.S. Senate’s Constitutional Rights Subcommittee, and the next year delivered the speech “Patriarchal Panic: Sexual Politics in the Mormon Church” to the American Psychological Association, moves which had her excommunicated from the Mormon church. (Campbell wonders why 2008 Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney has been publicly silent on Johnson.)

Geraldine Anne Ferraro. 1984. Becomes the the first woman to represent one of the two major political parties as a candidate for Vice President. Polls showed that she was more popular among American voters that her running mate, presidential candidate Walter Mondale.

Patricia Nell Scott Schroeder. 1988. Becomes the first woman Presidential candidate whose tears in public get attention. In 1972, she’s become the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Colorado in that state’s 79-year history. And in her first term, she’s become the first woman appointed to the House Armed Services Committee, where she literally shares one single chair in the committee room with Ron Dellums, whose become the first African American on the Committee. The Committee chair remarks: “That girl and that black are each worth about half. I'll give them one chair.”

Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton. 2008. Becomes the first woman Presidential candidate who has resided in the White House.

Professor Karlyn Kohrs Campbell reflects that the world has already had to be ready for a Texas gun-slinger cowboy type for President the last eight years. Yes, he's not the only model for a president, for a male president anyway. Kohrs Campbell asks whether we’re ready not just to look at Hillary Clinton as a viable Presidential candidate, but also at how we ourselves look at her. Is the anti-Hillary rhetoric we speak or hear or tolerate or speak against, is it actually against a woman because she’s a woman running for president? Who can our mothers, and sisters, and daughters—aspiring to be President—look to? What models are there? Do we even have good models in our own heads, or any ideals at all, for a “womanly” President? If not, then we may look to Margaret Chase Smith and to “Sissy” Farenthold with June Jordan, who’ve called us not to tolerate lapses in judgement; we may look to Francis Perkins, President FDR’s secretary of labor, the first woman in the cabinet of a President, and the only person to stay in FDR’s cabinet during his twelve years in office. And there are others, many others, we can look to as exemplary: Jean Duane Jordan Kirkpatrick, the first woman U.S. Ambassor to the United Nations; Claudia Alta Taylor “Lady Bird” Johnson, whose 1964 Whistle Stop campaign tour caused Max Freedman to write: “Lady Bird’s no passive partner. . . Perhaps this marks the emergence of women as central figures in a national contest instead of being on the edges of a campaign”; Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; Kathleen Gilligan Sebelius, the second woman to be Governor of the state of Kansas, and the first woman to give a political party’s response to the President’s State of the Union Address; *Leticia R. San Miguel Van de Putte, Texas Senator, the first woman to give a political party’s response to the President’s State of the Union Address in Spanish.
*Kohrs Campbell did not identify Cady Stanton or Woodward or Van de Putte in the particular speech I heard her give. And the other recollections above are from my quick notes as she talked (and from subsequent research). Those who brought Professor Kohrs Campbell to Texas Woman’s University to make the address have said they hope to make it public some day. I figure we can correct all my mistakes here then. (And trickydame at FCW Society gives a very similar history when asking if we're ready).

Update: Girl with Pen

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