Ellen Fitzpatrick says no one’s taken the women who have sought the presidency in the past very seriously

Historians in the News
tags: Ellen Fitzpatrick, The Highest Glass Ceiling



Victoria Woodhull was the first. Woodhull, who ran for president in the 1872 election, wasn’t able to vote herself, as it would be 50 years before the 19th Amendment extended the franchise to women, but she figured “there was no reason she couldn’t be voted for,” said historian Ellen Fitzpatrick. Woodhull’s story was complicated — she found herself in prison on election day, for one thing — but she set a precedent when her name appeared on ballots for the presidency. 

Woodhull is one of three women profiled in Fitzpatrick’s new book, “The Highest Glass Ceiling: Women’s Quest for the American Presidency”; the others are Margaret Chase Smith, who ran for the Republican nomination in 1964, and Shirley Chisholm, who ran for the Democratic nomination in 1972. Despite vast political and historical differences, the three shared one challenge: being taken seriously by a country in which “the whole idea of having a woman as president was deemed outlandish,” said Fitzpatrick. “The reason, I think, that no academic historian has written a book of this kind actually mirrors the phenomenon the book describes,” she added. “No one has ever taken them seriously.”

Widely respected by her Senate colleagues, Smith was among the most admired women in the world according to a Gallup poll. That changed quickly. “She goes from being this highly esteemed senator to, literally overnight, being an object of ridicule in newspapers and in the popular press,” said Fitzpatrick. ...




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