Copyright © 2008 Henrietta W. Hay
June 12, 2008
It was 11:15 on June 7, 2008. I had just listened to Hillary's speech. I felt fifty years old, standing on the steps of the capitol in Denver listening to Dottie Lamm and Pat Schroeder and others, defending the ERA and saying that - "someday."
So this wasn't the day for Hillary, but she took a giant step for women. In her words, she put 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling and some day a woman will crash through.
That speech was one of the most inspiring I have ever heard. It was political, of course, but it was also a major landmark for the women's' movement.
She spoke before thousands of cheering supporters at the National Building Museum in Washington. She stood alone on the platform and was in control of herself and the audience.
Yes, she announced that she has suspended her campaign for the nomination for president. She was cordial and very sincere in declaring her support for Senator Obama and strongly urged her supporters to do so. "The way to continue our fight now, to accomplish the goals for which we stand, is to take our energy, our passion and our strength and do all we can to elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States." She spoke of the need to unify, for the Democratic Party to come together and pledged her active support. She made the point that although she failed to reach her goal, the rest of us must not be discouraged. "Care deeply about what you believe in," she said. It was a woman accepting defeat with intelligence, grace and feeling.
Later I listened to Meet the Press discussing what she said, what she meant, what she should have said. They spoke in terms of a political analysis and the coming election, and whether her speech could bring the party together.
I wondered whether we had heard the same speech.
As a woman who has been active in the second women's movement since its beginning, I heard a speech of hope and courage and progress for the women of our country
When I was born in 1914 my mother could not vote, could not own property. Six years later the long battle which began with the Seneca Falls Declaration in 1848 was finally won. The 19th amendment to the Constitution was passed. It said that the right of a citizen to vote shall not be denied because of sex.
In the 1970's the second women's movement started and names like Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug and Betty Friedan became part of the legend. Now Hillary Rodham Clinton is added to the list.
We have not achieved real equality, but we have come so far. "Now think how much progress we have already made," she said. "When we started . . . people asked the same questions. Could a woman serve as commander in chief? Well, I think we answered that one. Could an African-American really be President of the United States?" Oh yes, the women's movement and the civil rights movement have come a long way.
And what does the future hold for women? I think I had better give up my ambition to live until we have a woman president, but someday we will. Hillary said that if we can blast 50 women into space we can have a woman President of the United States.