From July 12-15th, 1976 the Democrats held their quadrennial convention to nominate their candidate for President of the United States in Madison Square Garden in New York City. We all know that they nominated Jimmy Carter during that convention, but lesser-known is the person who came in 5th place out of a huge field of candidates with 22 delegates, Ellen McCormack. It’s hard to believe now, but the first woman to ever qualify for Secret Service protection and matching federal funds in a presidential election ran on a single issue for the Democratic nomination – she was staunchly anti-abortion. Largely supported by a group of Catholic women from Long Island, she got into the race because she thought the first election after Roe v. Wade should involve debate on abortion. [i]
While I completely disagree with Mrs. McCormack on her platform, this was an important milestone in the effort to get a woman elected to the highest seat in the land, or, arguably, even the world, and it should be recognized. The path to the current glass-ceiling-shattering election is strewn with characters who are largely forgotten.
Exactly 2 weeks after that convention, right across the river in Newark, a baby was born and immediately given up by her mother in a Catholic hospital, forever shaping that little girls’ views on religion and a woman’s right to choose. 4 days later her parents would meet her and take her into their home, parents who often disagreed politically, but imparted to her the values that they shared – compassion, love for people of all kinds, and the deepest respect for critical thinking, education, and never giving up on looking for answers.
Well, that baby grew up to be me, now 40 years old and living a life that is only possible because of people like my parents, especially women like my mom. Women like Hillary Clinton, too.
I turned 16 in 1992 and couldn’t yet vote. Like much of the country, I was pretty annoyed with Bush and wasn’t all that sure about Bill Clinton, so I was kind of glad I had to sit out one more. However, that wife of his! To a high school girl who knew, to the bottom of her soul, that she would never be able to survive if her life was about domesticity, this was a First Lady I could really get behind. Sure, she was a wife and mother, 2 things I didn’t want for myself, but she was also like the lawyer version of my own mother – fierce and strong and able to handle intense attacks against her (my mother was not exactly beloved by everyone, either – she wanted to fix schools and that’s always a most contentious thing to take on). Watching women who were doing their best to improve things, particularly for vulnerable children, take heavy attacks was a big lesson in what it took to be successful as a female American.
I bounced around a lot over my adult years, so while Clinton was my senator for a time, I didn’t get to vote for her.
I’m not going to go into the millions of reasons for my own support of Clinton in this post, because this is explicitly to explain why we are choosing this moment to relaunch our website.
The last few years have been filled with personal disruption of many kinds for everyone involved and too many commitments to take time for something done purely for love, but that’s over. Regardless of what else happens in life, the aims of this site are too important to put off any longer. Indeed, some of our disruption (like the need to pay off massive healthcare bills despite having top-notch insurance) could be things of the past at some point, depending on how this election goes. We can’t afford to stay quiet.
Hillary Clinton was a Geek Girl before that was a thing. Her approach to a problem is like ours – research, investigate, analyze, discuss, decide, then make it happen to the best of your abilities. Whether you are into comic books, science, history, literature, Making, or whatever it is that makes you nerd out hard, you know what it’s like to approach life with such philosophies, and how rare and special a quality that can be. Speaker after speaker who has worked and/or lived with Clinton testified to her being one of us at heart, a cavalcade of geek cred. Even her husband, describing the girl he had seen but had not yet spoken to, painted a picture of a law-school-aged version of Hermione Granger, with bonus thick glasses.
Last night, when Clinton made her acceptance speech, I was thrilled to hear her say about gender equality, “Standing here as my mother’s daughter, and my daughter’s mother, I’m so happy this day has come. Happy for grandmothers and little girls and everyone in between. Happy for boys and men, too – because when any barrier falls in America, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone. When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit. So let’s keep going, until every one of the 161 million women and girls across America has the opportunity she deserves.” [ii]
Meanwhile, the other major party candidate spews archaic notions such as, “I think that putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing,” and how women are “pigs” whose only merit is in their looks and youthfulness. I used to respect Trump for hiring a good number of women and allegedly paying them fairly (the only time I’ve heard “fairly” connected to Trump paying anything) but the more we learn about how they are really treated, the more even that lone good quality of his is tarnished.
For minorities, this election is about so much more than usual – it’s about hate vs. love – of this nation and all its people. It’s about critical thinking vs. believing everything you read on Twitter that has no basis in facts. It’s about bringing people together vs. dividing us even more.
The reality that a presidential candidate in 2016 has to make the point, “I believe in science,” says so much about the backlash against being a well-informed citizen.
We’re all about bringing people together. So, the election inspired us to put in the work and bring our own vision to fruition, but this isn’t to say it’s becoming a site about politics, even though we are going to do our best to cover the election from a geek woman perspective. We are looking to amplify the voices of women and girls who fit into this Philosophy of Geekdom, of all stripes. If you would like to get involved, please see this and let us know.
The official position of this website is that America is now better than it ever has been and that, if we participate in the process, we can help make it even better in both the short- and long-term. It’s easy to watch cable news and think everything is getting scarier, but we like statistics and peer-reviewed studies, and those emphatically disagree. While there is plenty to fix, the social changes that have happened in my lifetime alone are the reason we can stand up and proudly call ourselves Geek Girls and be counted for ourselves, not just the fathers, husbands, and children attached to us.
We refuse to go back.
Thank you. pic.twitter.com/zTgGmMfHQg
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) July 29, 2016
[i] Los Angeles Times – Obituary of Ellen McCormack
[ii] Los Angeles Times – Transcript: Hillary Clinton’s Democratic National Convention speech, annotated