The highest, hardest glass ceiling was set to be shattered on Tuesday. Instead what shattered were the hopes of the millions of women (and men) hoping to elect the first female president of the United States. Among them were the women who traveled to Rochester, N.Y., to post their “I Voted” stickers on Susan B. Anthony’s tombstone and the thousands of women who took their young daughters to polling places to witness history being made.
What will they tell their children now? Clinton came heartbreakingly close. But at the final moment, the accomplished and experienced former U.S. senator and secretary of State lost to a manifestly unqualified man with no political or governmental experience and a temperament ill-suited to the job.
We may never know how much this defeat was a referendum on Clinton herself and how much was a reflection of the sexism that still infiltrates our culture (and which Donald Trump played to during the campaign). We do know that it was not just men who rejected Clinton; exit polls say 42% of women voted for Trump — apparently undaunted by Madeleine Albright’s warning that there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.
For most of American history, women were systematically excluded from participation in politics. Their right to vote was not recognized in the Constitution, and when the franchise was extended to African Americans after the Civil War, they were consciously excluded. It took an additional 50 years of protests and parades, failed lawsuits, defiance and arrests to achieve national suffrage by constitutional amendment in 1920.
Nearly 100 years later, they are still underrepresented in elected offices at every level. Women hold only 19.4% of seats in Congress. Only six of 50 governors are women.
In Clinton’s concession speech, she told little girls that they deserve the chance to pursue their dreams. They do. And inevitably, someday, one of them will become president. Sooner, we hope, rather than later.