(CNN)The long wait ended Tuesday night with a woman center stage, arms outstretched.
It could be measured in years: 240 after the birth of the United States, 96 after women won the right to vote, eight after coming tantalizingly close -- and falling short.
It could be measured in hours: 24 since history crept in quietly, waiting, yet again, for a moment to roar.
On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton finally embraced a landmark long in the making, claiming victory as the first woman to lead the presidential ticket of a major political party.
"Thanks to you, we've reached a milestone," she told a cheering crowd. "Tonight's victory is not about one person. It belongs to generations of women and men who struggled and sacrificed and made this moment possible."
Gender politics is an infinitely complicated subject, and Clinton, the 68-year-old pioneering presumptive female nominee who has spent three decades in public life, is an infinitely complicated figure. The 2016 campaign will test societal dreams and expectations about the role of women in public life in new ways.
But for one night, the grays of gender politics -- and politics in general -- were dulled by the bright strokes of history.
The Clinton campaign had been forced to wait a day for its declaration, a chasm that stretched between news organizations' decision to declare that she had clinched the nomination and the final Super Tuesday of the 2016 primary campaign when voters headed to the polls in six states.
That delay robbed her moment of its natural crescendo, but the raw power was no less important and enduring.
It was a moment for mothers to think of their daughters, and of their own mothers and grandmothers who would have cherished the image on their screens but did not live to see it.
Clinton has acknowledged that she lacks the natural rhetorical gifts of her husband, Bill Clinton, and the man who defeated her, Barack Obama. But she stood up to the moment -- in big, symbolic nods to the roots of the suffrage movement and in small, intimate ones to her own family.
She offered a moving tribute to her late mother, Dorothy Rodham, who would have recently turned 97.
"She was the rock," Clinton said, adding, "I really wish my mother could be here tonight."
It was a moment about young girls. The Clinton campaign understood that, tweeting a powerful photo of the candidate watching a little girl, her face full of hope, her arms open.
"To every little girl who dreams big: Yes, you can be anything you want—even president. Tonight is for you. -H"
On social media, the hashtags #HistoryMade #ImWithHer rippled through the night.
"A lot of little girls are in bed right now dreaming for the first time, without limits," the singer Katy Perry tweeted. "You broke the mold @HillaryClinton."
"This isn't about politics, it's about my daughter," the actress Alyssa Milano told CNN. "It's about my daughter realizing her power while she's still young enough to have the energy and passion of blind hope. It's about her feeling she can be anything because she is smart and strong and nothing divides us."
It was a moment that crossed party lines -- when Republicans who might not like Clinton, her policies or her politics took note of her achievement.
"I'd like to congratulate @HillaryClinton for becoming the first College Republican to clinch the Democratic nomination for President," tweeted College Republican Chair Alex Smith.
"Whether you're a fan of Hillary or not, Republican or a Democrat, you have to acknowledge that it is a historic night when she clinches the nomination," conservative commentator S.E. Cupp said on CNN. "It's historic for women. It's historic for Democrats."
She went on: "It's interesting also because she's a very controversial feminist. This is not a comfortable or easy position that she has assumed over the course of 30 years."
Ana Navarro echoed those thoughts.
"Confession: Thought woman thing wouldn't mean much to me, but yes, feel something I can't quite articulate seeing 1st woman nominee #History," she tweeted.
It was a moment about perseverance and grit.
"Speaking is hard for me," tweeted former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who knows about perseverance and grit. "But come January, I want to say these two words: 'Madam President.'"
Exactly eight years ago Tuesday, when Clinton conceded defeat to Obama, who made his own mark on history, she looked to the future.
"Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it," Clinton told her supporters then. "And the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time."
After that campaign ended, Clinton presented her aides and staffers with gifts that honored their efforts: Women got a necklace that read "18 million cracks HRC 2008" on one side, and showed those cracks on the other. Men got cufflinks with the same inscription and design.
On Tuesday, many of those same aides wore their gifts to their rally.
But this time, the symbolic resonance of those gifts had changed. They were no longer a consolation, but a celebration.