A Century of Presidential Women: Part 2

Part 1

Here is a recap of the complete list of presidents:
Jeannette Rankin (R-MT) 1933-1941
Hattie Caraway (D-AR) 1941-1945
Minnie Fisher Cunningham (D-TX) 1945-1953
Gladys Pyle (R-SD) 1953-1961
Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME) 1961-1969
Lurleen Wallace (D-AL) 1969 [Died in office]
Maurine Neuburger (D-OR) 1969-1977
Marjorie Holt (R-MD) 1977-1985
Shirley Chisholm (D-NY) 1985-1989
Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R-KS) 1989-1997
Patricia Schroeder (D-CO) 1997-2001
Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) 2001-2009
Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) 2009-2017
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) 2017-2025
Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) 2025-2029
Kristi Noem (R-SD) 2029-2037

The 1984 presidential election marks another first, as New York’s Shirley Chisholm becomes the first African-American president of the United States. In 1968 Chisholm was elected to the House from a largely black district in Brooklyn, and became the first African-American woman to serve in Congress. During her tenure which lasted from 1969 to 1983, Chisholm focused on labor issues and poverty, serving on the Education and Labor Committee and pushing for greater opportunities for inner-city residents. Chisholm was also one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971, and in 1972, became the first African-American to mount a serious campaign for a major party nomination for president. While her campaign was poorly run, Chisholm received 152 votes from delegates at the Democratic convention, coming in fourth for the nomination. Chisholm later said that during her presidential and Congressional campaigns, she received more discrimination for being a woman than for being black. In this history, the better climate for women running as well as a more experienced campaign in 1984, possibly with support of other minority leaders such as Jesse Jackson, allow Chisholm to win the nomination and the presidency.

While Chisholm’s administration was pioneering and reversed many of the economic policies of the Holt administration, it was short lived. In 1988, Chisholm was defeated for reelection by Kansas Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum. Kassebaum is the daughter of former Kansas governor Alf Landon, who in our history was the 1936 Republican nominee for president. Nancy Kassebaum was first elected to the Senate from Kansas in 1978, succeeding retiring Senator James Pearson. Kassebaum was elected to the Senate for three full terms, serving from 1978 until she retired in 1997. In contrast to Marjorie Holt, Nancy Kassebaum was a moderate Republican in the Senate. Early in her tenure, Kassebaum was appointed temporary chairperson of the 1980 Republican National Convention and presided over the first two days of the convention. In the Senate, Kassebaum passed the HIPAA healthcare legislation which she cosponsored with Massachusetts Democrat Ted Kennedy. In the 1992 election of our history, she was speculated as a possible replacement for Dan Quayle as George Bush Sr.’s running mate. In this history, Kassebaum succeeds where her father failed in our history and serves as president from 1989 to 1997.

Following Nancy Kassebaum, another Democrat was elected for a single term in an era increasingly leaning toward Republicans in this history. Patricia Schroeder entered the House of Representatives from the district covering Denver, Colorado in 1973; the same year that Marjorie Holt entered the House. Pat Schroeder was a near opposite of Marjorie Holt on most policies, coming from one of the most liberal districts in the Rocky Mountain region. Schroeder was noted during her early years in the House for balancing her House career with motherhood and emphasizing family issues. In 1987 in our history, Schroeder was the manager of fellow Coloradan Gary Hart’s 1988 presidential campaign until his withdrawal, and briefly entered the race for the Democratic nomination herself afterward. After serving in the House for 24 years, Schroeder retired in 1997 in our history, and became the CEO of the Association of American Publishers for over a decade, where she advocated stronger copyright law.

Patricia Schroeder would be the second recent Democrat to only serve one term, after she was defeated by Elizabeth Dole in the 2000 election. In our history, Elizabeth “Liddy” Dole first entered government as a Democrat working for Lyndon Johnson and stayed on as a deputy adviser for Richard Nixon. She married Kansas Senator Bob Dole in 1969, and switched to the Republican Party in 1975. She served in several high positions during the 1970s and 1980s, including as Federal Trade Commissioner from 1973 to 1979, as Secretary of Transportation from 1983 to 1987, and as Secretary of Labor from 1989 to 1990. Dole was the first woman to be appointed to two different cabinet positions. In 1996 she gave a memorable speech at the Republican National Convention for her husband’s campaign, which led to Dole running for president in 2000. While she came in third in the campaign behind John McCain and Republican nominee George W. Bush, Dole was highly considered as a potential running mate for Bush. After her defeat for the nomination, Elizabeth Dole was elected to the Senate in 2002 and served one term. In this history, Dole’s political career would obviously be quite different, likely holding cabinet positions in the Holt and Kassebaum administrations, before running for president.

Following Elizabeth Dole is the last Democratic president in this series, Kathleen Sebelius. Sebelius was elected to the Kansas State House in 1986 representing Topeka, and served in the House until 1995 when she won an upset victory in the election for the state Insurance Commissioner. In 2002 Sebelius was elected governor of Kansas, becoming the second female governor in the state’s history after Joan Finney. During her first term, Sebelius was a strong supporter of public education and nearly eliminated Kansas’s state debt. She was easily reelected in 2006 and became one of the more promising potential contenders for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. In our history, speculation continued after Barack Obama won the nomination that she would be his running mate. Sebelius would end up being appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services in 2009, and spearheaded the introduction of the new policies introduced by the Affordable Care Act. In 2014, Sebelius resigned as Secretary. In this history, Sebelius would not just be a speculative candidate for president, but run and be elected in 2008.

Following President Sebelius’s two terms, the Republicans returned to the presidency with another more centrist candidate similar to previous successes with Kassebaum and Dole. Lisa Murkowski is the first woman on the list who currently still holds office. Murkowski comes from a political family, her father Frank having been elected to the Senate in 1980. She began her career in 1998 when she was elected to the Alaska state House, quickly rising to become Majority Leader. When Frank Murkowski was elected governor of Alaska in 2002, he appointed Lisa to fill his vacated Senate seat. She served the remainder of her father’s term and was first elected to a full term in 2004. Murkowski was fairly conservative during her first term in the Senate, but after a bitter reelection campaign in 2010 she has since moved toward the political center. The 2010 campaign was a standout in that Murkowski was narrowly defeated in the primary by Joe Miller, who had been endorsed by the Tea Party movement. Rather than bowing out of the election, Murkowski continued to run a write-in campaign, ultimately winning reelection with 39% of the vote. It was the first successful write-in campaign for a federal office since 1954. Murkowski has since moderated her stance on many issues, including announcing her support for same-sex marriage in 2013.

Following Murkowski, the Republican Party swings back toward conservatism and nominates New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, who wins the 2024 presidential election. Kelly Ayotte was appointed Attorney General of New Hampshire in 2004 following the resignation of the previous Attorney General, and served in that position until 2009 when she resigned to explore a candidacy for the United States Senate. The Republican nomination of a younger woman in an increasingly Democratic New England brought the race a lot of attention, and led to Ayotte winning the 2010 Senate election with over 60% of the vote. As of 2015 in our history, Ayotte is the second youngest woman in the Senate at 46. Ayotte was considered a possibility for Mitt Romney’s running mate in the 2012 presidential election, and has occasionally been mentioned as a potential Republican candidate for president in the future. As a New England Republican, Ayotte is still moderate on several issues, but in general is more conservative than Murkowski.

After falling approval numbers and an increasingly conservative Republican Party, President Ayotte chooses not to run for a second term. The Republicans nominate Kristi Noem of South Dakota, returning to the longtime Republican stronghold in the Great Plains for their choice of candidate for the 2028 election. Currently in our history, Kristi Noem is South Dakota’s sole member in the House of Representatives, serving the state’s at-large district. Noem, like Ayotte, was elected in the Republican wave election of 2010, narrowly defeating incumbent Democrat Stephanie Herseth Sandlin for the House seat. Noem currently chairs the Congressional Women’s Caucus, and serves on the House Ways and Means Committee. Her primary focus in the House is on agricultural issues and policy. Noem’s presidency would signal the return of the more conservative Republican Party of Marjorie Holt, and her two terms would see the Republicans hold the presidency for two straight decades. It is likely that after Noem’s administration, the Democrats would return to office.

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