Editorial: Women make U.S. history

The Detroit News

Hillary Clinton made history this week in Philadelphia at the Democratic National Convention becoming the first female presidential candidate of a major political party. And whether or not you embrace her politically, it’s an American moment worth celebrating.

Just shy of 100 years after women’s right to vote was finally recognized by an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Clinton shattered the glass ceiling of male presidential candidates, becoming the first woman with a shot at winning the White House — an accomplishment American women in the 20th century could only dream of.

It’s an impressive feat for Clinton, who has been working toward this her entire life.

But it also speaks to the goodness of the United States, which provides the framework of equality that supports the careers, ambitions and fundamental human rights of women. Clinton’s nomination follows that of Barack Obama in 2008 as the first African-American presidential candidate.

Contrast the equal opportunity women now enjoy in this country to the dearth of options, and even basic rights, in places under the grip of repressive ideologies like radical Islam. Clinton’s career has tracked closely with progress women have made in a number of areas over the past 40 years.

In 1947, the year Clinton was born, there were just eight women total in Congress. Today there are more than 100 women between the U.S. House and Senate.

Similarly, the number of women in state legislatures has skyrocketed since the 1980s, growing from just a couple hundred nationwide to 1,812 in 2016, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.

The number of female CEOs has significantly increased since just the mid-1990s, when Clinton was first lady.

Women have made so many gains over the past several decades that it’s almost too easy to take for granted that a woman could now become president. In fact, many young female voters express that very sentiment when asked how they feel about the historic nature of Clinton’s candidacy.

But it’s important to pause and appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into the gains women have made in so many areas of work.

Another sign of the progress the nation has made is that women feel comfortable and confident enough in their status that they don’t feel they have to vote for Clinton. Just a slight majority — 52 percent — of registered female voters support the former secretary of state, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll this month. Republican nominee Donald Trump actually receives more support — 54 percent — of white women in Clinton’s age group.

Clinton will clearly have to make a case for the presidency that goes far beyond her gender.

Among the delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia is a 102-year-old delegate, Jerry Emmett of Arizona, who recalled as a young girl watching her mother vote for the first time after the 19th amendment was passed.

It has been a long wait for Emmett and other women. And whether or not Clinton’s historic journey ends in the Oval Office, there is now a sense of inevitability that someday a woman will lead this nation as president.