Many women have sought to become President of the United States. A number received national attention, either as pioneers in the electoral process, as potential candidates, or as candidates of minor parties with a significant national presence.
A political cartoon shows a woman, carrying two children and a man holding a bottle of rum on her back, speaking to a winged woman with a sign reading, "Be saved by free love" representing suffragist Victoria Woodhull.
Illustration shows a woman labeled "Mrs. Lockwood" holding papers that state "Nomination for Pres. Womens' Rights Party," bursting through an opening in the floor of a stage to appear next to a clown labeled "B.B." who is holding a paddle labeled "Demagogism" and a string of sausages labeled "His Own Nomination, Womens' Suffrage Nomination, Tewksbury Pauper Nomination, Convict Party Nomination, Greenback Nomination, [and] Last Nomination".
Lena Springs (1924)
Springs, a suffragist from South Carolina, chaired the credentials committee at the Democratic National Convention and received several votes for the vice presidential nomination. While she did not become her party's nominee, she was the first woman whose name was placed in nomination for the VP slot at a major party convention.
This video includes clips of her speech before the Women's National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on January 27, 1964, courtesy of Northeast Historic Film John J. White, Sr./ WGAN Collection.
Elected to the House of Representatives in 1940 (to replace her dying husband) and the Senate in 1948, Smith had already made history by becoming the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress.
Chisholm was the first Black woman to seek a major party’s nomination for U.S. President. She campaigned throughout the country and was on the ballot in twelve primaries. Chisholm had already made history as the first Black woman from Brooklyn to be elected to the New York state legislature and the first Black woman elected to Congress.
Mink received more than five thousand votes in the Oregon primary on May 23 and smaller numbers in Maryland and Wisconsin, where selecting officials placed her name on the ballot. She made no effort to have her name placed into nomination at the Democratic National Convention.
Ferraro gave her acceptance speech on the last night of the 1984 Democratic Convention in San Francisco, CA.
Sonia Johnson (1984)
Johnson ran on the ticket of the Citizens Party, receiving federal matching funds and winning more than 70,000 votes. She had gained fame as an activist promoting the Equal Rights Amendment and opposing policies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, of which she was a member until her excommunication.
Dole dropped out of the Republican race in October 1999. In her withdrawal speech, she said a lack of money doomed her candidacy. In 2002, she was elected to the U.S. Senate from North Carolina.
Braun discusses her career, including her run for the presidency.
During a final campaign rally at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC, Clinton spoke to her supporters about the race and gender barriers she and Senator Obama broke during their campaigns.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, the Women's Media Center and Media Matters launched "Sexism Sells, But We're Not Buying It," a video and online petition effort illustrating the pervasive nature of sexism in the media's coverage of women candidates.
Bachmann won the Ames (Iowa) straw poll in August 2011, but withdrew from the race after a disappointing showing in the Iowa caucuses.
Fiorina suspended her campaign in February 2016 due to disappointing early primary results. In April 2016, Ted Cruz named her as his vice presidential running mate, but he suspended his campaign a week later.
Prior to Clinton in 2008 and Fiorina in 2016, just 5 women had competed in major party primaries for the presidency.
In 2016, Secretary Clinton became the first woman in history to win the Iowa caucuses. In 33 states or territories, she is the first (and so far the only) woman to win presidential primaries (23 in 2008 and 10 as of April 2016).
Despite winning the popular vote by almost 3 million votes, Clinton lost the Electoral College and conceded the general election on November 9, 2016.
On December 31, 2018, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) became the first woman to declare her candidacy in the 2020 presidential race.
US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 race on January 15, 2019.
On January 21, 2019, US Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) officially launched her campaign for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 presidential race.
On January 24, 2019, US Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) officially launched her campaign for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 presidential race.
On January 28, 2019, author Marianne Williamson announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 presidential race.
This exhibit was created by the Center for American Women and Politics, a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Special thanks to:
Chicago History Museum
Library of Congress
Margaret Chase Smith Library
New York City Department of Records
Ken Rudin, host of Ken Rudin's Political Junkie radio program
Women in Leadership: South Carolina Women's Leadership Network
Women's Media Center