“History Made,” the video that introduced Hillary Clinton as the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, excited the collective memories of legions of women who have long sought, and long-awaited, the election of a woman president. It reminded us of just how long we have fought to win rights, opportunities and recognition for women; how staggeringly slow change can be; how sweet it is when daring to struggle becomes daring to win. I don’t think I was alone in feeling verklempt—choked up with pride and delight that my party has nominated the first woman president.
Among the feminist trailblazers “History Made” honored was my mother, Patsy Mink of Hawaii, the first woman of color elected to the U.S. Congress, who ran a limited campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972. Not until the moment I glimpsed my mother in the video did I fully appreciate how much joy, sadness and relief Clinton’s nomination would arouse in me. Joy that my mother’s work as a legislator and candidate was part of the arc of feminist change. Sadness that she isn’t here to celebrate and enjoy this achievement. Relief that finally, finally, a woman will lead the Democratic ticket.
My mother taught me that an election is not an end in itself, but rather an opening to do the hard work of securing justice, peace and the well being of all. So while Secretary Clinton’s nomination marks a significant moment in our history, it also confers an obligation to translate one woman’s moment into palpable, measurable and meaningful improvements in the status, security and opportunities of all women and their families. Clinton’s nomination is not the end of the story; it’s the beginning of possibility.
Fulfilling my mother’s legacy, I voted for Clinton because I believe in advancing women to places they are qualified to be but never have been. Society as a whole will benefit from adding new voices and neglected perspectives to the public discourse. But as my mother’s daughter, I also feel free, now, to redouble my advocacy for principles and goals that Secretary Clinton may not pursue unless pressed to do so.
I hope that the next president will dedicate herself to ensuring economic security to all families, especially single mother families; will end the reckless and immoral strategy of drone war and drone killing; will restore robust civil liberties and wither the surveillance state; will make the immigration system work for families; will advance social and economic equality. But she may not govern in this way unless the rest of us raise our voices. What’s so empowering about this turning point in the nation’s gender history is that the watershed achievement of one woman invites us all to recommit to the struggle for the kind of polity we want to be.
Gwendolyn Mink is a feminist scholar of American politics and policy.