Roosevelt House is pleased to welcome best-selling historian Ellen Fitzpatrick for a discussion of her book The Highest Glass Ceiling, the story of three remarkable women who were trailblazing candidates for president: Victoria Woodhull in 1872, Margaret Chase Smith in 1964, and Shirley Chisholm in 1972. Fitzpatrick, Professor of History at the University of New Hampshire, will talk about the barriers each confronted, and about the ways in which their campaigns illuminate today’s political landscape, showing that Hillary Clinton’s 2016 run for the presidency as the first woman nominee of a major party, belongs to a much longer, arduous, and dramatic journey.
Fitzpatrick’s look at women and the presidency begins during Reconstruction when the radical Woodhull became the first woman to seek the presidency. Although women could not yet vote, Woodhull boldly staked her claim to the White House, believing she might thereby advance women’s equality. Republican Senator Margaret Chase Smith came into political office through the “widow’s mandate.” Among the most admired women in public life when she launched her 1964 campaign, she soon confronted prejudice that she was too old (at 66) and too female to be a creditable presidential candidate. She nonetheless became the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for President by a major party. Democratic Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm ignored what some openly described as the twin disqualifications of race and gender in her spirited 1972 presidential campaign. She ran all the way to the Democratic convention, inspiring diverse followers and angering opponents, including members of the Nixon administration who sought to derail her candidacy.
A special section in the “See How They Ran” exhibition currently on display at Roosevelt House is dedicated to the stories of Woodhull, Smith, and Chisholm. We hope you will join us for this important event.
Read Rebecca Traister’s New York Times review of The Highest Glass Ceiling here.