Last night, when she finally said these words, "And so it is with humility, determination and boundless confidence in America's promise, that I accept your nomination for President of the United States" - I cried.
"Tonight we've reached a milestone in our nation's march toward a more perfect union," she noted. "The first time that a major party has nominated a woman for President. Standing her as my mother's daughter and my daughter's mother, I'm so happy this day has come. . . . When any barrier falls in America, it clears the way for everyone. After all, when there are no ceilings, the sky's the limit."
I never thought I'd see the day.
Suffragettes have had my attention for some time, because the women's right to vote was a battle, a hard-fought battle that had women literally beaten, spit upon, belittled, and run down as less than. Always less than.
It was and still is something to fight against. The war's not yet won.
My county's own Mary Johnston fought for women's right to vote, along with Virgina's Ellen Glasgow and other notable women of the early 1900s. Johnston, in a prophetic moment, said this in a New York Times interview in 1911:
"I regard the fight for the franchise as a piece of roadbuilding. One and all of the women who are engaged in this piece of engineering are the servants of the woman who is to be—of a creature great and strong and wise and free and lovely—a woman magnificently beyond to-day's most wonderful dream. She may not come in the fullness of might and beauty for 500 years, but she could not come at all but for the road we are building to-day. She must come over that road. So we build in faith and in the service of that great woman and of the children she shall bear, and it is a work of great religious significance."
It did not take 500 years. But it took nearly 100. Women received the right to vote in the United States in 1920. Fortunately for Clinton, other women have moved mountains to give her a platform - nameless women who have raised children, created homes, and served as teachers. Women who have gone into the Armed Forces, become police officers and firefighters, writers, poets and environmental leaders. Women astronauts and engineers, scientists and doctors. Geraldine Ferro, first vice president nominee of a major party. Jill Stein, the nominee of a third party (the Green Party) and others who have knocked and beat on the bottoms of the shoes of the patriarchy until finally the men have fallen over with sore feet. It took a world of women, beating on that glass ceiling, so Clinton could break through.
I am 53 years old. I have always had the right to vote. It was a right my mother refused to exercise because of a silly notion that she might have to serve on a jury. Serving on a jury, to my mind, is another great right of a citizen, and a duty she shirked over some nebulous fear.
But perhaps that was because my mother thought, as she taught me, that she was less than. Women all around me have always been less than in the eyes of the patriarchy that forms America, and especially rural America - from my grandmothers to my mother, my aunts, and to myself. In Southwest Virginia, this Appalachian mountain land, women are currency, not humans.
I grew up knowing I was less than from the moment some male doctor pulled me from my mother's womb and spanked my bottom to make me breathe. I knew it when my father told me he was saving money for my brother's education, but not for mine (though I'm the one with the masters degree). I knew it when a male coworker tried to rape me in a back room before I married and when a friend of my father's grabbed me in a parking lot and felt me up. I knew it when every male doctor I saw for infertility looked at me not with compassion, but with pity and spite because I was, from then on, even less than all the other less than women who could carry a child.
Do you understand? This is not something I expect everyone to understand. Not even all women will understand, and they may not want to. Examining one's life can be painful, and I acknowledge that many do not take the time to do this. And many women are happy with their status.
That is their right.
I have never been happy being less than. In many instances, I am more than and I have always been equal to - as are all women - even when those around me refused to acknowledge it. I may not be physically strong, but there was a time when I was smarter than many men I knew.
I still am. We all bring something to the table, regardless of gender. We all have something to add to this world, and no contribution outshines another. If it does, it is only because some mind has made it so.
My husband, a kind and intelligent man, knows last night was important to me. He handed me a tissue last night when I burst into sobs, but I do not know if he understood the momentous occasion or the reason for the tears. I don't know if he understands the implications. I do not know if any man truly understands what it is to be a woman, any more than I can truly understand what it is to be a woman of color in this country.
Last night, women were no longer less than. Women can now be equal to and even if Mrs. Clinton losses this election (so get out and vote for her so this does not happen), that glass ceiling will have a truly large crack in it, one that may be repaired but never solely replaced.
At long last, Mary Johnston's vision from 105 years ago has come true.
And finally, after having female leaders around the world look at the United States in confusion, we are with them. Croatia has a female leader and has for some time. Canada, Chile, Germany, Great Britain, Denmark, Finland, Grenada, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland and on and on have female leaders in the 21st century (and many way before that - remember Cleopatra? Queen Victoria? Mary, Queen of Scots?).
And here we are now, the United States of America, after 240 years as an independent country, on the cusp of making a woman a leader of this nation.
This is no fantasy we are living in. Hillary Clinton is not Wonder Woman or Xena. She's no daughter of Zeus. She's a human being who has worked hard, solidly, for decades to better the world and to move herself up, fighting battles against men who would deny her the right to take that first gasp of air she needed when she was a wee baby if they could. Men who proclaim to love life, so long as that life serves them.
We are servants no longer. Take notice, men. You are no longer kings.
I'm with her.
I'm a Democrat.