It's about time.
With the history-making nomination of Hillary Clinton, the party that prides itself on inclusion has finally recognized one half of the human race. It's fitting that this moment should come in Philadelphia, the city of sisterly spirit, where women startled the populace by speaking in public -- calling for abolition and suffrage a full 100 years before the 19th Amendment made it into the Constitution.
Those brave and somewhat fierce fighters for rights would find it unthinkable that it's taken so long to reach this milestone. Women have been running for president ever since Victoria Woodhull got the nod from the National Reform Convention in New York in 1872, where, according to the New York Express, "lewd and debauched women were mingled in one shocking, profane mass."
Ineligible because she was under 35, the notorious spiritualist and "free love" advocate attracted considerable attention, but no votes.
The more serious quest of lawyer Belva Lockwood -- the first female allowed to practice law before the Supreme Court -- as the 1884 nominee of the Equal Rights Party did result in almost 5,000 ballots cast by stalwart men. Saying, "I cannot vote, but I can be voted for," Lockwood argued that women were "about to take their places with men in the political field." Would that she had been right. But Lockwood was soundly rejected that year, and again in 1888 in her second run for president.
With the passage of suffrage in 1920, women tiptoed onto the political field, with several summoning the audacity to run for president. But most dropped out before the conventions, leaving a bare handful to share Hillary Clinton's experience of hearing their names actually placed in nomination before one of the major parties.
First was Margaret Chase Smith at the tumultuous Republican convention in 1964. The Maine senator had won votes in primaries in such far-flung states as Texas and Oregon. Her supporters admired her singular courage when, as the only woman in the senate, she alone took on the bully Joe McCarthy as the men in her party stood quivering in their boots.
"I speak as a Republican. I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States senator. I speak as an American," she famously pronounced. "I don't want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny -- Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear." How welcome that powerful voice would be today. She won 27 votes on the ballot.
Eight years later, it was the Democrats meeting in Miami who heard an African-American woman's name called out during the roll for president. Having waged a nationwide campaign, Brooklyn Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm preached to women and blacks, "You, too, can hope to aspire to the highest office in the land." She laughed when the eventual nominee, George McGovern, told her he represented women better than she did.
"Who is he fooling?" she demanded.
Another contender, largely lost to history, was Ellen McCormack, the first woman to qualify for matching federal funds for her campaign and for Secret Service protection. Running on an anti-abortion platform in 1976, she received 22 votes at the Democratic Convention.
And then, as has often been true in the long struggle for women's equality, the momentum behind female candidates stalled and all but disappeared. Women like Elizabeth Dole would step into the fray, but be forced by lack of funds or voter interest to bow out long before their parties formally met. A token female would sometimes snare one or two delegates at a convention.
Of course, two women -- Democrat Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Republican Sarah Palin in 2008 -- carried their parties' banners for the No. 2 spot. But it wasn't until Hillary Clinton ran in 2008 that anyone was able to claim anything like those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, resulting in more than 1,000 votes at the convention before she moved to nominate Barack Obama by acclamation.
And now, as Michelle Obama so powerfully declared on this convention's first night: "Because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all of our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States."
We don't take it for granted. We know that it was almost 200 years ago when Lucretia Mott began preaching in Philadelphia, praying "for the day my sisters will rise, and occupy the sphere to which they are called by their high nature and destiny."
It's about time.