Today we celebrate Women’s Equality Day and the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which enshrined women’s voting rights in our constitution. The anniversary is a reminder of the progress our nation has made when it comes to the treatment of women, and an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the unfinished work in the fight for full equality — starting with electing the first female President of the United States.
In 2016, we are poised to put the final crack in the highest, hardest glass ceiling of American politics and power. For the first time in our nation’s history, a major political party — the Democratic Party — has nominated a woman as our candidate for the nation’s highest office. And, as President Obama pointed out at the Democratic National Convention last month, there has never been a man or woman more qualified to occupy the Oval Office than Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRepublicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Poll: Democracy is under attack, and more violence may be the future Popping the progressive bubble MORE.
As we fight to elect the first female president, we must not forget that the right to vote is comparatively new for women — and newer still for women of color, for whom suffrage wasn’t truly protected until the 1965 Voting Rights Act. All but the last 16 American presidents were chosen in elections when women were disenfranchised solely because of their gender.
But since the Amendment’s enactment, the number of women holding elected office has slowly and steadily grown. Each year, more women are lending their minds and voices to critical decisions in Congress and state legislatures.
That progress is the living legacy of the first suffragettes who organized and demanded the vote — brilliant and brave women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Because of their determination in the face of staunch opposition, anger and even ridicule, women today have more opportunities and representation than ever before.
Female elected officials, especially Democratic ones, have fought for improvements in women’s health care and child care, and expanded opportunities for women in the workplace. Nancy Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the House, has spearheaded legislation with the support of other strong women — on both sides of the aisle, and in both chambers.
Women have succeeded in passing legislation to narrow the gender pay gap, like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first piece of legislation signed into law by President Obama after he took the oath of office. And the Ledbetter Act was sponsored by Senator Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiTwo women could lead a powerful Senate spending panel for first time in history Harris invites every female senator to dinner next week Will the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? MORE, the first Democratic woman elected to the Senate in her own right. In 1963, women earned just 59 cents for every dollar that a man made for the same work. Today, women make 79 cents for every dollar. Anything short of full equity is unacceptable, and a reminder of the work that remains.
I have been involved in politics since 1978, when I was elected to the Board of Directors for the City of Little Rock, Arkansas. Nine years later, I was the first woman elected Mayor of Little Rock. I currently lead the Women’s Caucus for the Democratic National Committee, where I served as a Vice Chair for almost 20 years.
I know the kind of person you have to be before you’re ready to assume the awesome burden of the presidency. And I know Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton has the experience, the grit and the temperament to be our commander-in-chief. She’s ready to build on the progress of the pioneers who came before her, ready to stand up for hardworking families, and ready to fight for an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top.
Donald TrumpDonald TrumpStowaway found in landing gear of plane after flight from Guatemala to Miami Kushner looking to Middle East for investors in new firm: report GOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips MORE has attacked Hillary Clinton for playing the so-called ‘woman’s card’ in this campaign — a bizarre and backward line of attack. He’s actually trying to convince voters that being a woman gives her some kind of advantage, that she’s using her gender to take some shortcut to the Oval Office. We’re not buying it.
In all of American history, if you were to ask a little girl who her favorite president is, she would have to choose a man. If you were to ask a little girl to list her favorite female role models from history, not one person on her list could be an American president. It’s time to change that.
This November, voters will be able to cast their vote for a capable, qualified, and fiercely dedicated public servant for our nation’s highest office. And that person is a woman. It’s time to use our hard-won right to vote and elect Hillary Clinton as our first female president.
Lottie Shackelford is the Women’s Caucus Chair and a Vice Chair Emeritus of the Democratic National Committee. She was the first woman to be Mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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