Curator Wendy Chmielewski Highlights Women Who Paved Way for Hillary Clinton

Wendy E. Chmielewski

Philadelphia Inquirer: Many women paved the way for Clinton

Hillary Clinton this week is expected to become the first woman to lead a major party's presidential ticket, but women have been angling for the honor for more than a century - even before the 19th Amendment secured their universal right to vote.

Belva Lockwood, the first female lawyer to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, twice sought the presidency in the 1880s. And she wasn't the first; that honor belonged to Victoria Woodhull, an Ohio native who ran in 1872.

Many other women - including famed abolitionist and women's rights advocate Lucretia Mott of the Philadelphia area, ardent suffragist Alice Paul [Class of 1905] of Mount Laurel, and M. Carey Thomas, the former president of Bryn Mawr College who for a time led the National College Women's Equal Suffrage League - figured prominently in helping women achieve equal rights.

The Inquirer asks, “What would Lockwood and these other pioneering women have thought about Hillary Clinton ascending to the presidency?”

"I'm sure they thought it wouldn't be such a long time," said Wendy E. Chmielewski, curator of the Swarthmore College Peace Collection.

Swarthmore's collection includes correspondence between Lockwood and her nephew, pamphlets created during her presidential run, and photographs. Lockwood, a native of Upstate New York, first ran for president in 1884, drawing fewer than 5,000 votes, and again in 1888.

It was the Lockwood collection that brought Chmielewski and researcher Jill Norgren together for a project that sought to trace U.S. women who ran for local, state, and national offices before the 19th Amendment passed.

"We thought there would be less than 100," Chmielewski said.

Not even close.

The project - Her Hat Was in the Ring - has uncovered 3,327 women who ran in 4,572 campaigns. And Chmielewski believes there are a couple of thousand more they haven't found yet.

The website includes short bios of the women, like Olive Rose, the first woman they could find who was elected to an office. She became register of deeds in Lincoln County, Maine, in 1853, beating her opponent, 73-4. That's even though she herself did not have the right to vote.

"Even most historians, most women historians, don't know about these women," Chmielewski said.

Read the full article at the Philadelphia Inquirer.