By Ashley Taylor, Toledo, OH
Amidst the hype of Hillary Clinton amassing enough delegates to become the first female presidential nominee of a major party, I came across a thought-provoking tweet: “It’s Black and Brown women who sweep the floors after white women break glass ceilings.”
Regardless of one’s political ideology, most saw the nomination of a woman candidate for president as a major blow to the glass ceiling keeping women from political power. Hillary Clinton’s nomination was a landmark victory for women’s rights. But, we must not forget the women who first cracked this ceiling when it seemed to be made of cement. These are women we hardly ever get to learn about, let alone praise for their contributions to women’s equality. We don’t hear enough about women like Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American Congresswoman, and the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination, 44 years before Hillary Clinton achieved this latter feat. Or what about Carol Mosely Braun, the first (and to date, the only) African American woman to serve in the U.S. Senate.
Sojourner’s truth: Where it began, how much has changed
American women of all races and ethnicities have been working toward the moment that a woman’s name would appear at the top of the ticket in a presidential election year since (and even before) the Seneca Falls Convention. At the Seneca Falls Convention, a black woman, abolitionist, former slave, and women’s rights advocate named Sojourner Truth masterfully asked: “Ain’t I A Woman?” Seneca Falls was the birthplace of America’s women’s rights movement. Even then, Sojourner Truth needed to call attention to the movement’s erasure of slave women.
We must now ask Sojourner Truth’s same question and never forget all the women– black, white and brown–who have led us to this moment in history and will lead us beyond. In acknowledging their womanhood and the equal rights women have fought to attain, we must also recognize the added layers of oppression faced by women with intersectional experiences of oppression. Race, sexuality, and gender-based discrimination could not dim the contributions and successes made by women of yesterday to bring us to today, where triumphant strides have come, though the struggle is far from over.
So, as women on both sides of the aisle have reasons to celebrate the fact of a woman candidate for president, we look to the future and to the past. We must not forget to glance back and remember the women, especially black women, whose shoulders Hillary stands on today, and that women in all years after will also bring to their advantage. Only then, when we equitably remember who fought and won the struggle for women’s equal rights, can we reach and finally shatter this glass ceiling and move towards breaking the next one together.