August 3, 2016
By Andrea Dew Steele
President and Founder, Emerge America
Watching Hillary Clinton accept the nomination for President of the United States last week was one of the greatest thrills of my life. As the President and Founder of Emerge America, I spend every single day working to elect more Democratic women. That one has risen to lead the party – and hopefully come November, our country – means more to me than I can put into words. When I look to my colleagues, many of whom have dedicated their careers to the advancement of women in politics, I know they share my overwhelming emotion. In many ways, this moment feels like ours.
In the days that have followed Hillary’s acceptance speech, however, I’ve spent more time reflecting about what this means to other groups of women: to the fighting feminists who came long before us, and to all the young girls like my daughters, who already know with unquestionable certainty that women can do anything. When I think about the significance of Hillary’s nomination as a whole, I realize that it’s much bigger than me. It’s much bigger than one generation. This moment belongs to all women – past, present and future.
This moment belongs to the suffragettes, who labored for decades for the right to vote. Most of them never had the privilege to cast their vote at all, let alone to vote for another woman. The suffragettes understood that their movement was about more than voting. It was about ushering in an age where women could wield power, where they could gain equal rights in marriage, healthcare, property, education and the workforce. And when the age came where women could take their seat at the table, they began to shape a world where an abandoned teenaged housemaid could grow up to raise the first female nominee of a major party for president.
This moment belongs to my two daughters, Carmen and Gabrielle, and to all girls like them too. Their generation may not have been on the front lines of the suffragist movement, or known a world before Roe v. Wade, or watched as women like Shirley Chisholm, Geraldine Ferraro and Nancy Pelosi broke barriers. But last week, they watched Hillary Clinton shatter that highest glass ceiling. They will grow up in a world where “Madam President” is a realized title, not just a fantasy. To them, the image of leadership will be far more diverse. After all, in 2024 there could be 16-year-old American teenagers who have never had a white male president.
The United States still needs roughly 140,000 more women in elected office to reach gender parity in politics. And hopefully starting now and into the future when my daughters’ generation floods our political offices with women we can start making greater progress towards that goal. After all, my daughters might not have done all the work it took to get to last Thursday night. They might not even realizeall the work it took to get to last Thursday night. But they will be the ones who take the torch from us and run with it – maybe even someday for president.