-Huff Post Politics
In 1952, when Nancy D’Alesandro was 12, her father ― then the mayor of Baltimore ― brought her with him to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. They had to leave the festivities early, but as a consolation prize, he bought little Nancy a stuffed donkey.
“Whoever gets nominated, we’re going to name the stuffed animal” after him, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr. told his daughter.
Among the potential nominees that year were Adlai, Estes and Averell ― not names she said she’d heard much in her neighborhood of Little Italy.
But the Democratic nominee ― and thus the stuffed donkey ― became Adlai Stevenson. Young Nancy D’Alesandro grew up to be Nancy Pelosi, the first female speaker of the House. And the 1952 gathering kicked off a lifetime of Democratic conventions.
At the 1960 convention in Los Angeles, the then-20-year-old convinced her parents to go to the glamorous Hollywood restaurant Romanoff’s on the night that John F. Kennedy accepted the nomination. As they ate dinner ― with her father grumbling about the high price of the food ― Kennedy himself strolled into the restaurant, stopping by their table to ask how they liked the speech he had just delivered.
“We were like we had died and gone to heaven,” Pelosi remembered. Her father suddenly had no more complaints about the cost of the meal.
By 1984, Pelosi had married, moved to California and started her own career in politics, rising to chair the state’s Democratic Party. That year, she led the host committee for the Democrats’ convention in San Francisco, where Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman ever picked as the vice presidential nominee of a major American political party.
“It would be really hard to explain the thunderous response that happened when Geraldine came on to the stage,” Pelosi recalled. “It was something so spectacular and thrilling … I’ll never forget.”
This year’s Democratic convention ― which will be Pelosi’s 14th ― will mark another political milestone, as the Democrats officially nominate the first woman to the top of a major party ticket.
While more than 200 women have pursued the presidency since 1872, the year Victoria Woodhull became the first woman to run for the highest office in the land, no one has come as close as Hillary Clinton.
“Hillary Clinton, when she goes into the Oval Office, she will do so with more experience, more judgment, more eloquence in terms of the issues she cares about than many presidents have in our past. She’ll be great,” Pelosi said. “She happens to be a woman ― that’s an enhancement ― but it is a strong message about how far we’ve come.”
The Huffington Post spoke with Pelosi and other Democratic women who have fought their whole lives to make this moment possible ― from shifting the conventions’ decision making out of those male-only smoke-filled backrooms to electing female candidates to political offices across the country.
These women have waited their whole lives to see a woman in the White House. And they’ll be in Philadelphia later this month to see Clinton accept the nomination.
“On my grave, I want it to say that I was a good mother and that I helped Hillary Clinton become president of the United States in 2016,” said Roz Wyman, who in 1984 was the first woman to chair a major-party convention and has missed only one convention since 1952. “I’ll tell you, I want Hillary so much that it hurts. And I got shingles, I think, from the aggravation of it.”
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