Female Presidents and Vice Presidents

US Constitution
US Constitution

There is no doubt that females have been underrepresented when it comes to presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

Has there been a female vice president?

Has there been a female president?

Although there have been candidates for both positions, only Kamala Harris has been selected as vice president, and there have been no successful female candidates for President of the United States.

Influential Female Candidates

The recent election of Kamala Harris to the role of Vice President to President Joe Biden is a milestone in women’s history in American politics. However, is there too much emphasis on recent achievements, and do we forget other significant players?

Who Are the Female Candidates for the US Presidency and Vice-Presidency?

Women have campaigned for the roles of President and Vice President for centuries. Some high-profile figures and successes have been more recent, such as Kamala Harris, Hillary Clinton, and Sarah Palin. But, women have put themselves forward for different parties since 1872. Many are forgotten with time or due to the shortness of their campaigns, but they all made a mark.

The Rise in Female Candidates for President and Vice President in the 21st Century

There is a notion that women have only recently made an impression in the presidential race. Of course, this is true for major party nominees, where these women get more public attention after the primaries. 

However, there has also been a high number of other women campaigning for both positions. So, we have to start with the three most prominent names in recent years.

Kamala Harris

Biden-Harris poster
Kamala Harris enjoyed a successful campaign on Joe Biden’s ticket in the 2020 president election.

Vice President Harris made history over and over again in this race. She was the first multiracial woman to run after President Biden selected her for the campaign. She had previously campaigned for President and dropped out. 

She serves as the first female Vice President after becoming the first woman of color in the Senate and California’s Attorney General from 2011 to 2017.

Hillary Clinton

The race between Hillary Clinton and President Trump is one that historians will analyze for a long time to come. Clinton lost her first campaign in 2008 when Barack Obama gained the nomination.

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton missed out on the presidency to Donald Trump in 2016.

She then secured the nomination in 2016 following President Obama’s two terms in office, making her the first woman to become the presidential candidate for a major party.

Although she lost the Electoral College vote, which gave the victory to Trump, she won the popular vote by almost 3 million.

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin was the second female nominee for Vice President for a major Party after being named by John McCain in his 2008 race. Palin was a divisive figure and all over the national and foreign press. She rose from mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, to governor of Alaska in 2006. The pair received 173 electoral votes together.

Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin was on John McCain’s ticket during the 2008 presidential race.

Aside from these two women, there have also been many more female candidates for President and Vice President in the 21st century. They include:

Elizabeth Hanford Dole. She originally ran for the Republican nomination for the 2000 election but dropped out. She later became President Bush’s Secretary of Labor.

Carol Moseley Braun. This Chicago lawyer started as US Ambassador to New Zealand under President Clinton and later became a state representative for Illinois. She ran for the Democrats in 2004.

Michelle Bachmann. The first Republican woman to serve Minnesota in Congress, Bachmann would later found the Tea Party Caucus and run in 2012.

Winona LaDuke. She ran alongside Ralph Nader for the Green Party in 1996 and 2000. Though unsuccessful, her 2.7% of the popular vote is the largest for a third-part female candidate for Vice President.

~ a range of 2020 candidates. Tulsi GabbardKirsten GillibrandElizabeth WarrenMarriane WilliamsonAmy Klobuchar, and Jo Jorgenson all ran with varying levels of success.

Carol Moseley Braun
Carol Moseley Braun (center) was the US Ambassador to New Zealand under President Clinton.

Women Have Campaigned for President and Vice President for Centuries

While the accomplishments of these women in the 21st century are impressive, we can’t overlook those that paved the way. American women have put themselves on the ballot since 1872.

The National Equal Rights Party

The story of this party is one of the most important in the history of women in American politics. The main platform was the crusade for women’s rights in the latter part of the 19th century. The candidates that ran were the first to do so in the United States. 

However, some put an asterisk against this period because women didn’t have the vote. They see this as more of a symbolic gesture than a legitimate race to be President. Still, these three women deserve mention here:

Victoria Woodhull

Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood

Marietta Stow

Victoria Woodhull was the first of these candidates to run and, therefore, the first woman presidential nominee in the US. She had her own newspaper and became the first woman to own an investment firm on Wall Street.

Victoria Woodhull
Victoria Woodhull addressing The Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives and arguing in favor of women’s right to vote.

Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood ran twice for President in 1884 and 1888. She was already a prominent figure and influence in the United States. Her admission to the bar in 1873 led to the creation of a law to allow women to practice before the Supreme Court.

Subsequently, she would be the first woman to do so. She then ran for President as part of the Equal Rights Party.

Marietta Stow ran with Lockwood during the 1884 campaign as her running mate for Vice President. This allowed for an important campaign with a clear message and two women in the limelight.

Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood
Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood (center).

The Green Party Nominations in 2008 and Peace and Freedom Party in 1984

This moment of two women running together for political office for a lesser party happened again in 1984 and 2008. In 1984, Sonia Johnson and Emma Wong Mar ran together for the Peace and Freedom Party. Mar became the first Asian-American to do so.

In 2008, Cynthia McKinney was the Green Party nominee alongside Rosa Clemente. McKinney served in the House of Representatives between 1993-2003 and 2005-2007. Clemente is better known as a journalist and activist but won the nomination for the Green Party. Together they got 0.12% of the popular vote.

The List of Female Candidates for the US Presidency and Vice-Presidency Is Substantial

This gives a brief overview of the major players in the presidential races and their achievements between 1872 and 2020. Please note that there were many more minor candidates seeking political office.

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