I’m a sentimental gal when it comes to a firsts and lasts. It’s something my mother and I have in common, proven by the boxes and boxes of photo albums commemorating every first and last my family experienced. Last Pi Phi date party. First trial. Last first day of school. It really doesn’t matter the occasion, big or small. I always tend to find meaning in the firsts and lasts.
Tonight could be the last night I go to sleep with a males-only American Presidency.
Because we could elect the first female President tomorrow.
That’s the biggest first and last out there.
I realize that might not mean a lot to some of you. For me, though, I get teary every time I think about it, the idea that history could be made within the next thirty-six hours. As little girls growing up in the eighties and nineties, we were told that we could be anything we wanted to be, even if we were met with a glaring void when our eyes shifted toward the Oval Office. So we became, outside the White House, “anything we wanted to be.”
We could vote, because Elizabeth Cady Stanton voted.
We could be astronauts, because Sally Ride was an astronaut.
We could be pilots, because Amelia Earhart was a pilot.
We could be Fortune 500 CEOs, because Katharine Graham was a Fortune 500 CEO.
We could win a Nobel Prize, because Marie Curie won a Nobel Prize.
We could not just play sports with the boys, but beat them, because Billie Jean King beat a boy.
We could win a Pulitzer Prize, because Edith Wharton won a Pulitzer Prize.
We could score points in a college football game, because Liz Heaston scored points in a college football game.
We could climb Mount Everest, because Junko Tabei climbed Mount Everest.
We could own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, because Mickey Seibert owned a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.
We could sit on the United States Supreme Court, because Sandra Day O’Connor sat on the United States Supreme Court.
We could be the United States Attorney General, because Janet Reno was the United States Attorney General.
President, though? Nah. We had never seen a female President, but every parent told their little girl that she could be the first. The problem, though, is that as the little girl got older, she saw how badly society was flawed. She saw why there had never been a girl President to date. She saw the glass ceiling, and for the first time, she doubted herself. She came to understand the status quo, and every day, a little bit of that hope faded.
And come tomorrow night, all that might change.
All of the women listed above paved the hard road forward. They all fought the first fight, the hardest fight, to make the next girl’s climb a little easier. In a country in which women are still being told they are less than (and paid less than) their male counterparts, having these women behind me, women who fought for me without ever meeting me, matters. It matters.
Representation matters. Especially to little girls who dream big.
Or even to thirty-two year old corporate lawyers who work in a male-dominated industry and still try to dream big.
Come tomorrow, there’s a chance that little girls across the country will lay down in one world and stand up in another, waking to a country that will be headed by someone who looks like them.
A girl might be President.
A girl might be Commander in Chief.
A girl might lead the free world.
And that is nothing short of inspiring.
Change can move quickly, but it can also be painstakingly slow. All those women I listed above? They worked tirelessly for a very long time for me. For me. I could spew feminism and gratitude out of my ears and I’d never be able to show them the thankfulness they deserve. I will be forever indebted to these women, a debt that I myself will never be able to repay.
But a woman President?
That’s one hell of a start.
[edit: About forty-five minutes after I published this post, the news broke that Janet Reno had passed away. Say what you will about Waco and Elian, but she stood firm in her accountability for it. She was a passionate trailblazer, a feminist icon, and one hell of an attorney. Love and light.]