Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton was supposed to make history as the first woman elected president of the United States.
The woman who came into the public eye as the wife of Bill Clinton was expected to lead a 240-year-old country that has never been run by a woman — and did not even allow women to vote until 1920.
She won the popular vote, according to the latest estimates. But ultimately, she lost the electoral vote to a man who talked about grabbing and kissing women without their consent.
After a head-spinning, stress-inducing election, full of October surprises that spilled over into November and even into the hours ahead of election day, many are feeling the crushing blow of Secretary Clinton’s unrealized presidential dreams.
She was to carry the earth itself on her shoulders, as warnings about climate change grow more urgent. She was ready to make daily decisions that affect the economy, jobs, the military, healthcare and federal law, as did her 44 predecessors. Building on her experiences as secretary of state, Clinton was poised to make tough decisions about war and peace.
But now those weighty decisions will fall into the hands of president-elect Donald Trump.
Clinton rooted for the Chicago Cubs, whose World Series win last week last week blew minds because it hadn’t happened since 1908. But at least it happened once before. When the Cubs last won, it would be 12 years before women got the vote. We still haven’t had a woman president.
Our country’s penultimate glass ceiling still hasn’t broken, long after other countries we sometimes consider less socially progressive than our own have elected female heads of state. Sri Lanka’s Sirivamo Bandaranaike became the world’s first woman to be elected premier minister in 1960, and Isabel Perón of Argentina became the world’s first female president in 1974.
The wait for a woman president is even more protracted if you consider the first woman ran for U.S. president 144 years ago, when suffragist Victoria Woodhull threw her hat in the ring at age 34. In spite of her young age (the Constitution requires presidents to be at least 35) and her sex, Woodhull’s name appeared on the ballot in some states.
The wait has taken so long that many of us may have forgotten we were waiting at all. And now, we have to wait longer.
After Woodhull’s failed 1872 bid, one of the country’s first female lawyers, women’s rights activist Belva Lockwood, ran for president in 1884 with female running mate Marietta Stow — the first woman to ever run for vice president. (The U.S. still has not elected a woman vice president, either.)
Over the past century and a half, 31 American women have earned their party’s nomination for president and even more have run in primary elections. They include the first African-American woman elected to Congress, Shirley Chisolm, who ran for president in 1972 — exactly 100 years after Woodhull.
Before last night, Green Party candidate Jill Stein held the record for the most votes ever received by a woman running for president in a general election. She earned 468,907 votes in 2012. We’re still getting the exact count on Hillary’s votes, which now stand at 59,654,369.
That, at least, is progress.
Clinton has herself said, “Every woman deserves the chance to realize her God-given potential.”
The 45th president inherits a country still riddled with inequality: American women still earn 80 cents for every dollar men make. They face both obvious and subtle discrimination. Their contributions are often minimized. Sometimes they are never even given the chance to compete.
How much longer will the country remain behind the times?
At least four more years.