The Women You Didn't Know Ran for US President

President Barack Obama made history in April when he designated a national monument near the iconic National Woman's Party headquarters, where members of the Party led the struggle for women's equality, publishing more than 600 pieces of federal, state, and local legislation in support of equal rights.

"I want young boys and girls to come here 10, 20, 100 years from now to know that women fought for equality," Obama said as he officially announced the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument. "It wasn't just given to them. I want them to come here and be astonished that there was ever a time when women could not vote, that there was ever a time where a woman never sat in the Oval Office."

But if we trace back through the history books, there were three women who blazed a trail in American politics in an effort to break the highest glass ceiling of them all: president.

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Photo Credit: MPI/Getty Images 


Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927) | Woodhull became the first woman to ever run for U.S. president in 1870 after the Equal Rights Party nominated her. She was 32 years old at the time and faced much opposition by the press, who portrayed her as a devil for supporting the free love movement — although her support stemmed from a belief in the right to divorce and reproductive rights. Before her bid for president, Woodhull held many historic firsts including becoming the first woman to address a Congressional committee and working as one of the first female stockbrokers on Wall Street. She also held a fascinating past as a spiritual healer and had almost no formal education. Photo Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Margaret Chase Smith (1897–1995) | Smith was the first woman to serve in both houses of the United States Congress, and was the first woman to represent Maine in either. She made strides as one of the most important American women in politics and was a fierce denouncer of McCarthyism at a time when many politicians feared to speak out. She also advocated that women take their place in politics. "If we are to claim and win our rightful place in the sun on an equal basis with men," she once said, "then we must not insist upon those privileges and prerogatives identified in the past as exclusively feminine." At President John F. Kennedy's very last press conference in 1963, he was asked about a possible Smith run. Smith announced her run for President in January 1964 and later she became the first woman to have her name placed for nomination as a presidential candidate under a major political party. Photo Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005) | Chisholm held many firsts. She was the first African-American congresswoman and African American to run for president. In 1972, she sought the Democratic nomination for president, just three years after she became a congresswoman. "I ran because most people thought the country was not ready for a black candidate, not ready for a woman candidate. Someday, it was time in 1972 to make that someday come," she said in an interview. She made it as far as the Democratic convention and survived several assassination attempts. She even sued to ensure she was included in the televised debates. Many MAKERS including Eleanor Holmes Norton and Letty Cottin Pogrebin have recounted her legacy. Photo Credit: Thomas Monaster/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images