Making history: The election of former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris to the White House was announced Saturday, November 7th. Americans everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief. For those who have been persecuted and oppressed during what can be qualified as perhaps the most erratic and reckless presidency to date, this is what hope looks like.
Americans cast their ballots in unprecedented circumstances—a global pandemic, and an incumbent president who seemed to take pleasure in disseminating fears of voter fraud. Unlike in 2016, when Senator Hillary Clinton lost to the notorious billionaire businessman, this year America made History for the right reasons. And in great part—if not, singularly—due to the presence of Senator Harris, who follows in the footsteps of a long legacy of women.
This moment has been in the works for over a century. While many Americans regret the opportunity lost in the 2016 elections, they forget—and were probably never taught about—the first woman to be elected as party nominee for a presidential election: Victoria Woodhull.
A woman whose reputation preceded her, Woodhull gained notoriety in the latter half of the 19th century for her work as a spiritual medium and fiery advocate for women’s suffrage, equal rights, and ‘free love’.
‘Wicked Woodhull’, as some would have her remembered, was nominated presidential candidate of the Equal Rights Party in May 1872. The party was organized by Woodhull herself alongside members of the National Radical Reformers—former advocates of the National Woman Suffrage Association. She was to run with vice president candidate nominee Frederick Douglass; a former slave, abolitionist, and founder of The North Star newspaper. In truth, Douglass campaigned for then Republican president Ulysses S. Grant and never publicly acknowledged the nomination.
On election day Victoria was arrested for diffamation of popular preacher Henry Ward Beecher, whom she had publicly accused of adultery in an article. And while it is supposed that votes were indeed cast for her in several states, they were all left uncounted. The mystery will forever remain in the past.
Today, however, the moment imagined by so many has become a reality: a woman of Black and Indian heritage will take a seat in the White House as vice president. Elected by a record number of Americans, she rightfully acknowledged the role voters played in turning the page—or rather, closing the book—on a rather difficult era in American politics. ‘You ushered in a new day for America’, she said in an emotional victory speech given from Biden headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware last Saturday night. Harris was particularly grateful towards women:
‘I am thinking … about the generations of women, Black women, Asian, White, Latina, Native American women, who throughout our nation’s history have paved the way for this moment tonight. Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and justice for all. All the women who have worked to secure and protect the right to vote for over a century …’
Kamala Harris’ win alongside president-elect Joe Biden is just a first step into what will hopefully evolve into the democracy that Americans have been longing for. She is the first, but as she said herself, ‘I won’t be the last’.