I’ve fallen behind! Remember a few weeks back when I directed your attention to Nursing Clio’s important new series on women who have run for president of the United States, Run Like a Girl? There are two more entries I haven’t posted about!
If you recall, the first in the series featured (naturally!) the first woman ever to run for president, Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927), who ran in 1872. Last week, Sarah Handley-Cousins wrote about Belva Lockwood (1830-1917), a badass single mother and attorney who was one of the first women to argue before the Supreme Court. She became the National Equal Rights Party’s nominee in 1884 and again in 1888.
This week, Run like a Girl moves into the twentieth century with Laura M. Ansley’s discussion of the political career of Margaret Chase Smith (1897-1995.) A working-class girl from Skowhegan, Maine, Smith was the daughter of the town barber and a waitress from a French-Canadian family. Only a high school graduate, she is exemplary of most American women in the nineteenth and early twentieth-century who came to hold prominent public offices: she ran for her late husband’s office and won in 1940, and then went on to run for the senate in 1948 (and win), and for president in 1964 (but lost!)
Smith was the first woman to run for a major party’s nomination. Just imagine how different the 1964 Republican campaign, and perhaps the last fifty years of Republican party history might have been had she won the nod instead of Barry Goldwater. Counterfactual history enthusiasts, let that one sit with you a bit. I could see where a President Smith might have led her party to embrace the Civil Rights Movement in cooperation with a rump of northern, urban Democrats, countering the old FDR emerging coalition and limiting the Democratic party once again the party of white nationalism in the Solid South. (Laura Ansley, what do you think? What about you other Clio Nurses out there?)
Now put that in your pipe and smoke it while you have a good long think on the scandalous state of our national political conversation this election year. I don’t know if I can take another three months of this.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll have a few lessons about women and leadership from my research on the life and career of Esther Wheelwright, another simple girl born in Maine who rose to the heights of political leadership in early Québec–and she did it without a husband at all! And in the eighteenth century too! Amazing.