Love her or hate her, Hillary Clinton has shattered one of the biggest glass ceilings in American history. While several women have run for the highest office in the land—starting with Victoria Claflin Woodhull, who threw her hat in the ring in 1872—Clinton is the first ever to be nominated by a major political party. To call this a momentous occasion for our country would be an understatement, but the former Secretary State couldn’t, and didn’t, pull it off on her own.
When she clinched the nomination back in June, Clinton paid homage to the women of the Seneca Falls Convention, who met in 1848 to “discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman.”
“Tonight’s victory is not about one person. It belongs to generations of women and men who struggled and sacrificed and made this moment possible,” Clinton explained. “In our country, it started right here in New York, a place called Seneca Falls, in 1848. When a small but determined group of women, and men, came together with the idea that women deserved equal rights.”
Unfortunately, those “equal rights” Clinton spoke of in June were slow to come to Black women, who would have to work even harder, and decades longer, to enjoy the spoils the Suffragettes in Seneca Falls advocated for despite being integral parts of the movement. Even today, as Black women are still fighting battles on multiple fronts—to have our voices heard and to ensure our lives matter—we still turn out during election time at higher rates than any other group in America.
To be clear: Clinton would not have reached this moment without the work of Black women. While many are ambivalent about what this election will mean for us, Black women carried Clinton to victory all across America. But far too often our foremothers, who have fought and bled and toiled, have been ignored.
As many will no doubt invoke the names of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, several Black women should also be among the venerable list of those credited for Clinton’s remarkable accomplishment. And because we often have to remind America we been on, here are a few of the women Clinton should thank for her historic presidential nomination.
Anna Julia Cooper
“Only the BLACK WOMAN can say when and where I enter in the quiet undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence or special patronage; then and there the whole Negro race enters with me.” – Anna Julia Cooper
Born into slavery in North Carolina in 1858, Anna Julia Cooper would go on to be a prominent educator, activist, and scholar who influenced many, including W.E.B Dubois and Paula Giddings. A staunch feminist who advocated for voting rights, Cooper easily articulated the ways in which Black women’s experiences with race and sexism were different than both Black men’s and white women’s.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett
“I’d rather go down in history as one lone Negro who dared to tell the government that it had done a dastardly thing than to save my skin by taking back what I said.” – Ida B. Wells-Barnett
Best known for leading one of the most popular anti-lynching campaigns in America, Ida B. Wells-Barnett was also a dedicated suffragette who worked tirelessly to secure the right to vote for Black women. In addition to being a noted journalist, Well-Barnett founded the Alpha Suffrage Club of Chicago in 1913.
Mary Eliza Church Terrell
“When Ernestine Rose, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone and Susan B. Anthony began that agitation by which colleges were opened to women and the numerous reforms inaugurated for the amelioration of their condition along all lines, their sisters who groaned in bondage had little reason to hope that these blessings would ever brighten their crushed and blighted lives, for during those days of oppression and despair, colored women were not only refused admittance to institutions of learning, but the law of the States in which the majority lived made it a crime to teach them to read.” – Mary Eliza Church Terrell
Born in Memphis in 1863, Mary Eliza Church Terrell was a social activist who co-founded and presided over the National Association of Colored Women. An educator, civil rights proponent, and author, Terrell was also a member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, highlighting the concerns of Black women, and a charter member of the NAACP.
Amelia Boynton Robinson
“I have been called rabble-rouser, agitator. But because of my fighting, I was able to hand to the entire country the right for people to vote.” – Amelia Boynton Robinson
While Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. may get the credit for pushing America to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Amelia Boynton Robinson was integral in the movement for voting rights in Selma and beyond. After registering to vote in 1934, which was almost impossible for Black people at the time, Boynton Robinson worked tirelessly to ensure others would be able to do the same. In addition to helping organize marches throughout Alabama, Boynton Robinson became the first Black woman to run for office in Alabama.
“At present, our country needs women’s idealism and determination, perhaps more in politics than anywhere else.” – Shirley Chisholm
Forever unbought and unbossed, Shirley Chisholm was the first Black woman to be elected to Congress, representing New York’s 12th Congressional District. She served for seven terms, from 1969 to 1983, advocating for women and Black Americans. In 1972, Chisholm became the first Black woman to run for president, earning a speaking slot at the 1972 Democratic National Convention. While her presidential bid was unsuccessful, many credit Chisholm with opening the door for both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton may have earned her party’s nomination for president, but she didn’t get there alone. Black women have been vital to her rise through the ranks, whether they died decades ago, or voted for her across the nation. To them, she owes a debt of gratitude, and a commitment to keep pushing for change.
Britni Danielle is the Senior Digital Editor of EBONY.com and JETmag.com. Catch her tweeting @BritniDWrites.