They came to fight for feminism, and for the first female president of the United States.
At the Union League of Philadelphia on Monday, a coalition of national women’s nonprofits, female-elected officials, and leaders from labor groups and PACs assembled for a 2016 Democratic National Convention kickoff event called “Women’s Equalitea”—one that repeatedly drove home a fearless message of old-school feminism and a fervor for presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Hosted by the Feminist Majority Foundation and Ms. magazine, representatives from Emily’s List, the National Organization for Women, the National Congress for Black Women, and more joined alongside congresswomen like Barbara Lee, Carolyn Maloney, Gwen Moore, and Loretta Sanchez.
“My first convention was in Miami in 1972 as a Shirley Chisholm delegate,” said Lee, recalling her initiation into politics as a young delegate for Chisholm—the first black major party presidential candidate and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s nomination. “She taught me a lot: that if you don’t have a seat at the table, to bring a folding chair. Shirley said that. And that’s what all of us are trying to do.”
Beth Shipp, the executive director of the nation’s first lesbian political action committee LPAC, spoke about the importance of the lesbian vote in a race defined not only by the first woman presidential candidate to receive a major party’s nomination, but also by an increasing focus on LGBT rights.
“We were founded in 2012 by a group of committed activists and donor lesbians who were tired of walking into rooms where decisions were being made about women’s lives and women’s health,” said Shipp. “And the people making the decisions were a bunch of old white guys.”
Notably, LPAC was the first national LGBT organization to endorse Clinton—the focal point of the event.
Many of the speakers referred to the large electoral base of women voters (53 percent of the electorate) and the disparately lower portion of women in government. At the 1:30pm ET start of the event, the luxurious Union League hall was packed with people buzzing with excitement and applause. But as the time drew near to the DNC’s 3pm gavel-in at the nearby Wells Fargo Center, the crowd noticeably dwindled.
“We are wondering why it took 96 years for a woman to gain the presidency in this country,” said Nuchhi Currier, of the Woman’s National Democratic Club, as her speech brought the event to a close. “Women won the right to vote in 1920. It’s about time.”