"Thanks to you, we've reached a milestone," Clinton said to a large crowd of supporters in Brooklyn's Navy Yard. "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."
Clinton joins a long list of women who have sought the presidency. Here are some of them:
- Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican, in 1964 became the first woman to seek the nomination of a major political party. She lost every primary contest, but won votes in the New Hampshire, Texas, Oregon, Massachusetts and Illinois. She lost the GOP nomination to Barry Goldwater. She also served in the House and Senate during her political career.
Gender Barriers and Obstacles
While Clinton and her predecessors faced similar gender barriers in the politics, the nation's earliest female politicians had an additional obstacle to overcome.
"You know they were running before women had the right to vote," said Debbie Walsh, the director of the Rutgers University Center for American Women and Politics. "Susan B. Anthony in the late 1800s would try to go to vote and she was jailed. So these women faced scorn and ridicule for running ... If you look at cartoons from that period, they were mocked."
The 2016 presidential primary has also seen its fair share of mean-spirited mockery toward women candidates as well. Donald Trump Ridiculed former GOP hopeful Carly Fiorina, saying, "Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?"
"It's interesting because there are still times when women run and they're mocked and not taken seriously," Walsh said. "But I think it's been an evolutionary process. I don't think there was one year when suddenly it all stopped including now."
Pushing an agenda
Clinton and other female candidates ran with the goal of becoming president, while others have run to draw attention to issues.
While she received only 0.36 percent of the popular vote in 2012, likely 2016 Green Party presidential nominee, Jill Stein, is hoping to continue to stress some of the progressive issues Bernie Sanders has raised, such as eliminating student debt, cracking down on Wall Street and putting an end to U.S. military interventions overseas.
Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman to seek a major party's presidential nomination, also ran to promote her own issues.
"I don't think she believed at the time that she thought she was going to become the Democratic nominee, or certainly not get elected president," Walsh said. "But she ran because she had a set of issues that she wanted to make sure were part of the debate and the discussion in the presidential election in 1972. And that's why a lot of times why women are running."
The Path Forward
Clinton's achievement is historic in the United States, but women around the world, including Margaret Thatcher in Britain and Angela Merkel in Germany, have been elected as their nation's leaders.
A potential reason as to why a female hasn't yet made it to the Oval Office in the United States could be a lack of female representation in American politics, Walsh suggested.
"If you look at the rankings that have been done of national parliaments and national legislatures, the U.S. currently ranks 91st in the world for the percentage of women in our national legislature," Walsh said. "So if you think about who becomes president of the United States in this country, it is largely senators and or governors, with an occasional general thrown in. Basically, we draw our presidents from state capitals, and also the United States Senate, and women are really underrepresented in those institutions."
Americans today are more open to voting for a female president than ever before. A CNN/ORC poll conducted in February
found that 80% of Americans thought the country was ready for a female president, while only 19% said the nation was not ready.
"That's not to say that the women who run even today aren't still facing double standards," Walsh said. "These are still the realities. Is it better? Absolutely. Is it different? Absolutely. Are there still challenges that women who run for office face? Yes."