International Women's Day: A look back at female firsts in politics

Story highlights

  • Hillary Clinton, potentially the first female president, is playing up her 1995 speech in China about human rights
  • A recent CNN/ORC poll showed most Americans are ready for a female president

(CNN)On International Women's Day, CNN Politics takes a look back at the first women to ever hold prominent positions in the world of politics.

From Jeannette Rankin, a Montana Republican who in 1917 became the first woman to serve in Congress, to New York Democrat Shirley Chisholm, who in 1969 became the first African-American woman elected to Congress, each woman faced a set of challenges unique to her setting. But each managed to rise in the largely male-dominated world of politics.
Last November the number of women serving in Congress passed 100 for the first time, but the percentage of women in Congress is still about 20%.
    And women have yet to hold the nation's highest office -- the presidency.
    If Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state, senator and first lady, win the Democratic presidential nomination, she will become the first woman to capture a major party's White House nomination.
    In light of International Women's Day, Clinton tweeted an excerpt of her 1995 speech in Beijing, China. The then-first lady famously said "human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights."
    The speech, which became known as a Clinton classic, has been cited by her presidential campaign several times.
    Clinton, who is the first former first lady to seek the presidency, has made women's issues -- from abortion rights to equal pay -- cornerstones of her run.
    According to a recent CNN/ORC poll, while most Americans are ready for a female president, they also say electing one is not a top priority.