(IN THESE TIMES)
By Susan J. Douglas
On Election Day, the cemetery where Susan B. Anthony is buried had to extend its hours for those wishing to cover her tombstone with “I voted” stickers. Many of us thought that the endless slog would be over, not just the 16-month slog of this curdled, rancid campaign, but also the 144-year slog for a woman to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate, earn the nomination of a major political party and actually win. As a feminist roughly of Hillary’s vintage, who participated in one of the most significant social movements of the 20th century—the Women’s Liberation Movement—I felt we were poised to break this barrier after all these years.
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Devastatingly, even though Hillary won the popular vote, in her stead we got a publicly misogynistic, racist, nationalist, massively uninformed self-styled autocrat.
Hillary was a flawed candidate, and exit polls suggest she failed to galvanize, as Obama had, African Americans, Latinos and young people. But in considering what led to this loss, let’s not forget how sexism, and sometimes rank misogyny, have thwarted women’s quests to lead our country.
The suffragist Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for president, in 1872, representing the Equal Rights Party. In 1870, the passage of the 15th Amendment had granted African-American men the right to vote, but women of all races remained disenfranchised. So Woodhull herself, thwarted by sexism, hoped to combine the campaigns for women’s equality and racial equality. Today that seems more pressing yet imperiled than ever.