US Politics – Also ran: three women who paved the way for Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris

Few women have come as close to power as 55-year-old vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris, however, a few have tried

By Amber Milne

LONDON, Aug 19 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Americans have seen dozens of first ladies and more than 50 women in cabinet – but not one female boss in the White House.

Kamala Harris hopes to change all that.

When Harris formally accepts the role of Democratic vice presidential hopeful in a keynote speech on Wednesday, the California senator – who is Black, Asian American, and female – will set her sights on making all sorts of history.

For if the Democrats clinch the presidency, 55-year-old Harris will become the first woman to sit a heartbeat away from the top job, a century after U.S. women won the right to vote.

Few women have come so close to such power.

Here are three who tried.


Nominated in 1984 for the Democratic Party, Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman VP nominee for a major party.

Running alongside presidential candidate Walter Mondale, the former Queens congresswoman and daughter of Italian immigrants was picked to appeal to women voters.

After losing to Ronald Reagan and her Republican counterpart George Bush, Ferraro remained politically active for decades and raised money for Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2008.


A surprise pick, Sarah Palin is the first and only woman to be chosen as the Republican candidate for VP. She was chosen two years after becoming the first woman and youngest person to be elected as Alaska state governor.

A life member of the National Rifle Association and an opponent of abortion, Palin ran alongside John McCain in 2008, who lost the election to Barack Obama.

Congratulating Harris on her nomination, Palin offered six pieces of advice, including “trust no one new” and “don’t forget the women who came before you”.

HILLARY CLINTON (2008, 2016)

Running twice for president after serving as first lady and directing U.S. foreign affairs at the State Department, Hillary Clinton is the woman who has come closest to the Oval Office.

Once widely expected to be the first female president of the United States, Clinton drew loud crowds of supporters shouting:

“I’m with her”.

Not enough were, though, and the top job that her husband had won against high odds in 1992 eluded her – twice.

A one-time secretary of state – top job in the U.S. cabinet – Clinton fought for equality, worker rights and healthcare. She was beaten to the Democratic nomination in 2008. Eight years on, she won that accolade but failed to win the presidency.

“To all the little girls watching…never doubt that you are valuable and powerful & deserving of every chance & opportunity in the world,” she said on Twitter after losing to Donald Trump, an ex-reality television star and business mogul, in 2016.

Sources: Reuters, Britannica, Instagram, Twitter, BBC

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