Women Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates: A Selected List
Many women have sought to become President of the United States. A number received national attention, either as pioneers in the electoral process, as potential candidates, or as candidates of minor parties with a significant national presence. Others were from minor parties or were fringe candidates who entered major party primaries.
Two women have been nominated to run for the office of Vice President: Sarah Palin by the Republican party in 2008 and Geraldine Ferraro by the Democratic party in 1984. Another, Frances “Sissy” Farenthold, had her name put into nomination for Vice President at the Democratic National Convention in 1972. In addition, Toni Nathan, the 1972 Libertarian candidate for Vice President, became the first woman to win an electoral vote when one Republican elector voted for her instead of for his party’s candidate.
This fact sheet includes all candidates known to CAWP who meet any of the following criteria: achieved major historic firsts; were named in national polls; achieved prominence by holding significant elected or appointed office; appeared on the general election ballot in a majority of states; and/or became eligible for federal matching funds. We welcome additional information sent to the address below to supplement our records.
For a list with additional information about other candidates, see: www.jofreeman.com/politics/womprez03.htm
Victoria Claflin Woodhull (1872) - The first woman to run for United States President, Woodhull was the candidate of the Equal Rights Party. Her opponents were Ulysses S. Grant (R) and Horace Greeley (D). Woodhull, born in Homer, Ohio on September 23, 1838, traveled with her parents practicing spiritualist activities. She fought for women’s rights and founded her own newspaper. She became the first woman to own a Wall Street investment firm. Died 1927.
Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood (1884 and 1888) - Lockwood ran for President under the banner of the Equal Rights Party in 1884, when the major party candidates were Grover Cleveland (D) and James G. Blaine (R), and in 1888, when the election was decided by the electoral college, with Grover Cleveland (D) winning the popular vote and Benjamin Harrison (R) winning the electoral vote and the presidency. Lockwood was born in Royalton, New York in 1830, and educated at Genessee College in Lima, New York and National University, Washington, D.C. She was admitted to the bar in Washington, D.C. in 1873. In 1879 she drafted the law passed by Congress which admitted women to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court; she then became the first woman lawyer to practice before the Court. Died 1917.
Margaret Chase Smith (1964) - Smith was the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for President by a major party. She received Republican primary votes in New Hampshire, Illinois, Massachusetts, Texas, and Oregon, among others, and had twenty-seven first ballot votes at the Republican National Convention. She removed herself from contention after the first ballot. Smith was born in Skowhegan, Maine on December 14, 1897, graduated from Skowhegan High School, and was a primary school teacher for two years. In 1940 she was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives to fill the vacancy caused by her husband’s death; she served in the House for four terms. She was easily elected in 1948 to her first term in the U.S. Senate and reelected to the Senate three more times. Died 1995.
Shirley Anita Chisholm (1972) - Chisholm was the first African American woman to seek a major party’s nomination for U.S. President. She campaigned throughout the country and was on the ballot in twelve primaries in what was largely an educational campaign. She received 151.95 delegate votes at the Democratic National Convention. Born in Brooklyn, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES (continued) New York on November 30, 1924, she graduated from Brooklyn College and earned a master’s degree at Columbia University. Chisholm served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1969 to 1983, the first African American woman to serve in Congress. Prior to her service in Congress, she served in the New York state legislature from 1964 to 1968. She was a school teacher and director of child care centers before going into public service. Chisholm died in 2005.
Patsy Takemoto Mink (1972) - Mink, the first woman of color to serve in the U.S. Congress, ran as an anti-war candidate in the 1972 Oregon Democratic presidential primary, winning two percent of the votes. An attorney, Mink served in the Hawaii territorial and state legislatures before winning a seat in the U.S. House in 1964. She served in Congress from 1965 until 1977, when she left the Congress after losing a U.S. Senate primary race. She served as assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs, as president of Americans for Democratic Action, and as a member of the Honolulu City Council before winning a special election and returning to Congress in 1990, where she served until her death in 2002.
Ellen McCormack (1976, 1980) - McCormack entered 20 state primaries for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976 as an anti-abortion candidate, winning 22 convention votes. She became the first woman to qualify for federal campaign matching funds and qualified for Secret Service protection. In 1980, she ran for president again as the candidate of the Right to Life Party, winning more than 30,000 votes from three states.
Sonia Johnson (1984) - Johnson ran on the ticket of the Citizens Party, receiving federal matching funds and winning more than 70,000 votes.
Patricia S. Schroeder (1988) - Schroeder, a Democrat, made headlines when she took preliminary steps toward making a serious run for the presidency, but dropped out before the primaries because she could not raise the necessary funds. Born in Portland, Oregon on July 30, 1940, Schroeder graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.A. She attended Harvard Law School and received a J.D. in 1964. She began her law practice in Colorado as a field attorney with the National Labor Relations Board for two years and later entered private practice. In 1972, she entered her first political contest to challenge an incumbent in Colorado’s first congressional district. She won a close election and went on to serve twenty-four years in the U. S. House of Representatives. An anti-Vietnam war protestor, she secured an appointment to the Armed Services Committee in her first term. Schroeder served as co-chair of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, which she helped to found. After leaving Congress, she became president of the Association of American Publishers, the trade association for book publishers.
Lenora Fulani (1988, 1992) - New Alliance Party. Ran for U.S. President twice and qualified for federal matching funds.
Elizabeth Hanford Dole (2000) - In January 1999, Elizabeth Hanford Dole resigned her position as president of the American Red Cross, a position she had held since 1991, to consider a run for the Republican nomination for the U.S. presidency. She dropped out of the race in October, 1999. During the 1996 presidential campaign, Dole took a leave of absence from the Red Cross to campaign with her husband, Senator Robert Dole. She has held two cabinet posts: Secretary of Transportation (1983-87) and Secretary of Labor (1989-91). An attorney, Dole served as White House aide in the Johnson and Reagan administrations and was appointed by President Nixon to the Federal Trade Commission. She left her Reagan administration cabinet post to work for the presidential campaign of her husband. She was later appointed as Secretary of Labor by President Bush. She was elected as a U.S. Senator from North Carolina in 2002.
Carol Moseley Braun (2004) - Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun (D-IL) was among ten Democrats seeking the 2004 presidential nomination. Braun was born in Chicago, Illinois on August 16, 1947. She graduated from the University of Illinois-Chicago in 1968 and received her law degree from the University of Chicago in 1972. An attorney and a one-term U.S. Senator (1992-1998) she was the first African American woman to serve in the U.S. Senate. Appointed in 1999 by President Bill Clinton, Braun served as U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand. Earlier in her political career, she had served as Illinois state representative and assistant majority leader (1978-1988) and Cook County recorder of deeds (1988-1992).
Michele Bachmann (2012) – Bachmann was a candidate for the Republican nomination for president; she won the Ames straw poll in August, 2011, but withdrew from the race after a disappointing showing in the Iowa caucuses. Bachmann represented a six-county Minnesota district in the U.S. House from 2007-2015, where she was a founder of the Tea Party Caucus and a vocal, visible advocate for conservative causes. She became the first Republican woman from Minnesota elected to Congress in 2006 after serving in the State Senate from 2000-2006. A native of Waterloo, Iowa, she attended Winona State University, received her J.D. from the O.W. Coburn School of Law at Oral Roberts University, and earned an L.L.M. in tax law from the College of William and Mary. She worked for the Internal Revenue Service as a tax attorney until leaving to become a stay-at-home parent. She and her husband served as foster parents for 23 teen-aged girls. Before seeking public office, Bachmann was a pro-life activist and founded a charter school, breaking from the school when local officials insisted that it remain non-sectarian rather than heavily Christian-oriented in order to keep its charter. She ran for the Stillwater school board, but lost.
Hillary Rodham Clinton (2008, 2016) - A graduate of Wellesley College and Yale Law School, Hillary Clinton served on the staff of the House Judiciary Committee considering the impeachment of Richard Nixon. After moving to Arkansas, she ran a legal aid clinic for the poor and was appointed by President Carter to the board of the United States Legal Services Corporation. She led a task force to improve education in Arkansas and served on national boards for the Children's Defense Fund, the Child Care Action Campaign, and the Children's Television Workshop. Continuing her legal career as a partner in a law firm, she led the American Bar Association's Commission on Women in the Profession. She was elected to the U.S. Senate from New York in 2000 and re-elected in 2006. She served on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee; the Environment and Public Works Committee; the Special Committee on Aging; and the Senate Armed Services Committee. She also chaired the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, responsible for communicating with the public about key issues before Congress. The wife of former President Bill Clinton, she is the only First Lady of the United States ever elected to public office. Clinton was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008, losing to Senator Barack Obama. President Obama appointed Clinton to serve as U.S. Secretary of State, a position she held from 2009 - 2013. In April 2015, she announced her candidacy for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
Carly Fiorina (2016) is a graduate of Stanford University, the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park, and the MIT Sloan School of Management. Fiorina moved up in business from an entry-level employee to management trainee to leading AT&T's spin-off of Lucent Technologies and, later, Lucent's North American operations. In 1999, Fiorina became Hewlett-Packard’s CEO, the first woman to lead a Fortune 50 business. After being forced to resign her position at HP, Fiorina served in a number of advisory and policy-making positions for national and state governments and led a number of charities and nonprofits. She chaired the American Conservative Union Foundation, which annually hosts CPAC. She also chaired Good360, a nonprofit organization that helps companies donate excess merchandise to charities. She was an adviser to Republican Senator John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. In 2010, she won the Republican nomination for the United States Senate in California, but lost the general election to incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer. Fiorina is the chair and CEO of Carly Fiorina Enterprises, a business and charitable foundation. On May 4, 2015, she announced her candidacy for the Republican nomination in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the only woman running for the Republican nomination.
Vice Presidential Candidates
Frances “Sissy” Farenthold (1972) - Gloria Steinem, author and feminist activist, put Farenthold’s name into nomination for the office of Vice President at the 1972 Democratic National Convention. A Former Texas state legislator and gubernatorial candidate, Farenthold finished second in the balloting for the vice presidential nomination, receiving 400 votes.
Toni Nathan (1972) - Nathan, a Libertarian, made history as the first woman to receive an electoral vote for vice president when a Virginia Republican elector voted for President Nixon, but declined to vote for Vice President and former Maryland Governor Spiro T. Agnew and instead voted for Toni Nathan of Lane County, Oregon.
Geraldine Anne Ferraro (1984) - Ferraro was the first woman vice-presidential nominee of a major U.S. party. Shortly before the Democratic National Convention in July of 1984, Ferraro was named by Walter F. Mondale as his choice for the vice-presidency. The ticket received 13 electoral votes. Born on August 26, 1935, in Newburgh, New York, she attended Marymount Manhattan College and Fordham University Law School. She was an assistant district attorney in Queens, New York. She won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1978 and was subsequently elected to two more terms. In 1992 and again in 1998, she lost bitterly contested primaries to challenge Alfonse D’Amato for the U.S. Senate seat. She also served as co-host on the CNN public affairs program Crossfire and was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission. She became president of G&L Strategies, a management consulting firm, and then executive vice president and head of the public affairs practice of The Global Consulting Group.
Winona LaDuke (1996, 2000) - LaDuke was the running mate of Green Party candidate Ralph Nader.
Sarah Palin (2008) – Palin is the second woman vice-presidential nominee from a major U.S. party and the first Republican woman nominee for the vice-presidency. Shortly before the Republican National Convention in September of 2008, Palin was named by Senator John McCain as his choice for the vice-presidency. Born on February 11, 1964, Palin was selected while serving her first term as the governor of Alaska. She served two terms on the Wasilla, Alaska city council and was elected mayor in 1996. Palin ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2002 before winning election as governor in 2006 by first defeating the incumbent governor in the Republican primary, then a former Democratic governor in the general election.
Sources: JoFreeman.com; National Constitution Center; Federal Election Commission; Women as Politicians, “Congressional Biographies,” University of Maryland; “Not One of the Boys” a discussion guide, written by Katherine E. Kleeman, Center for American Women and Politics.