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The Highest Glass Ceiling: Women's Quest for the American Presidency

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In The Highest Glass Ceiling, best-selling historian Ellen Fitzpatrick tells the story of three remarkable women who set their sights on the American presidency. Victoria Woodhull (1872), Margaret Chase Smith (1964), and Shirley Chisholm (1972) each challenged persistent barriers confronted by women presidential candidates. Their quest illuminates today s political landsca In The Highest Glass Ceiling, best-selling historian Ellen Fitzpatrick tells the story of three remarkable women who set their sights on the American presidency. Victoria Woodhull (1872), Margaret Chase Smith (1964), and Shirley Chisholm (1972) each challenged persistent barriers confronted by women presidential candidates. Their quest illuminates today s political landscape, showing that Hillary Clinton s 2016 campaign belongs to a much longer, arduous, and dramatic journey. The tale begins during Reconstruction when the radical Woodhull became the first woman to seek the presidency. Although women could not yet vote, Woodhull boldly staked her claim to the White House, believing she might thereby advance women s equality. Republican Senator Margaret Chase Smith came into political office through the widow s mandate. Among the most admired women in public life when she launched her 1964 campaign, she soon confronted prejudice that she was too old (at 66) and too female to be a creditable presidential candidate. She nonetheless became the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for President by a major party. Democratic Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm ignored what some openly described as the twin disqualifications of race and gender in her spirited 1972 presidential campaign. She ran all the way to the Democratic convention, inspiring diverse followers and angering opponents, including members of the Nixon administration who sought to derail her candidacy. As The Highest Glass Ceiling reveals, women s pursuit of the Oval Office, then and now, has involved myriad forms of influence, opposition, and intrigue. "


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In The Highest Glass Ceiling, best-selling historian Ellen Fitzpatrick tells the story of three remarkable women who set their sights on the American presidency. Victoria Woodhull (1872), Margaret Chase Smith (1964), and Shirley Chisholm (1972) each challenged persistent barriers confronted by women presidential candidates. Their quest illuminates today s political landsca In The Highest Glass Ceiling, best-selling historian Ellen Fitzpatrick tells the story of three remarkable women who set their sights on the American presidency. Victoria Woodhull (1872), Margaret Chase Smith (1964), and Shirley Chisholm (1972) each challenged persistent barriers confronted by women presidential candidates. Their quest illuminates today s political landscape, showing that Hillary Clinton s 2016 campaign belongs to a much longer, arduous, and dramatic journey. The tale begins during Reconstruction when the radical Woodhull became the first woman to seek the presidency. Although women could not yet vote, Woodhull boldly staked her claim to the White House, believing she might thereby advance women s equality. Republican Senator Margaret Chase Smith came into political office through the widow s mandate. Among the most admired women in public life when she launched her 1964 campaign, she soon confronted prejudice that she was too old (at 66) and too female to be a creditable presidential candidate. She nonetheless became the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for President by a major party. Democratic Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm ignored what some openly described as the twin disqualifications of race and gender in her spirited 1972 presidential campaign. She ran all the way to the Democratic convention, inspiring diverse followers and angering opponents, including members of the Nixon administration who sought to derail her candidacy. As The Highest Glass Ceiling reveals, women s pursuit of the Oval Office, then and now, has involved myriad forms of influence, opposition, and intrigue. "

30 review for The Highest Glass Ceiling: Women's Quest for the American Presidency

  1. 4 out of 5

    Biblio Files (takingadayoff)

    I listened to the audio version of The Highest Glass Ceiling, which I enjoyed very much, but it left me remembering what I miss when I listen to, rather than read, a nonfiction book. Footnotes (or end notes), and bibliography, as well as any photographs or other illustrations are not a part of the audio book experience. In a way, that makes the book a little more relaxing to read since I can't check on every reference and just have to take the reader's word for it. But I do miss checking those s I listened to the audio version of The Highest Glass Ceiling, which I enjoyed very much, but it left me remembering what I miss when I listen to, rather than read, a nonfiction book. Footnotes (or end notes), and bibliography, as well as any photographs or other illustrations are not a part of the audio book experience. In a way, that makes the book a little more relaxing to read since I can't check on every reference and just have to take the reader's word for it. But I do miss checking those sources or reading enlightening footnotes, and I especially miss looking at photos and scanning the bibliography for possible additions to my TBR list. The Highest Glass Ceiling tells the stories of the three women who ran for president in the United States: Victoria Woodhull in 1872 as an independent candidate, Margaret Chase Smith in 1964 ran in the Republican primary race, and Shirley Chisholm in 1972 ran for the Democratic nomination. The stories, while quite different, are also distressingly similar in some respects. None came close to winning. A final chapter brings us up to date with a summary of Hillary Clinton's career. While Fitzgerald takes pains to be evenhanded about Clinton, I couldn't help thinking as I listened to Clinton's resume, that even if she is elected, it will in no way clear the path for more women to rise to high elected office. Her case is unique and and may be more like Margaret Thatcher's in that it has been 26 years since she was in office and only now has another woman even had a shot at becoming Prime Minister again, an entire generation later. Despite my own pessimism about current politics, I enthusiastically recommend The Highest Glass Ceiling as a lively history of women running for President in the United States.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    The stories of three of the first women to run for the American Presidency. One thing that struck me is that the same arguments used against women candidates in the past are familiar to today's women candidates. Out of the three women profiled, Victoria Woodhull (1872), Senator Margaret Chase Smith (R-Maine) (1964), and Representative Shirley Chisholm (D-New York) (1972), I was only somewhat familiar with Representative Chisholm. One common thread in each profile is how each woman believed they The stories of three of the first women to run for the American Presidency. One thing that struck me is that the same arguments used against women candidates in the past are familiar to today's women candidates. Out of the three women profiled, Victoria Woodhull (1872), Senator Margaret Chase Smith (R-Maine) (1964), and Representative Shirley Chisholm (D-New York) (1972), I was only somewhat familiar with Representative Chisholm. One common thread in each profile is how each woman believed they were paving the way for the next woman to win the White House. This book is informative and enjoyable and it's essential to anyone interested in American presidential politics.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Abi

    Victoria Woodhull, Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, and Rep. Shirley Chisholm walk into a bar. It is fully stocked and has a gorgeous glass ceiling that could survive the storm of German naval destroyers that Maggie wanted the prePearl Harbor isolationist country to be prepared for! Rebellious women with agency and big ideas, all! These ladies have been powerful as more than inspiration--they got to the point of running for president because they had power already, they had careers and had we as a vot Victoria Woodhull, Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, and Rep. Shirley Chisholm walk into a bar. It is fully stocked and has a gorgeous glass ceiling that could survive the storm of German naval destroyers that Maggie wanted the prePearl Harbor isolationist country to be prepared for! Rebellious women with agency and big ideas, all! These ladies have been powerful as more than inspiration--they got to the point of running for president because they had power already, they had careers and had we as a voting electorate not required Y-chromosomes, we might have had a black president before I was born.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cherisse

    Expertly written in accessible prose, this book chronicles the little known stories of three women whose presidential ambitions served as the historical launching pad for Hilary Clinton's campaign in 2016.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Meredith Hilt

    A short, timely read that chronicles the presidential campaigns of three women: Victoria Woodhull (in 1872 before women had the vote), Margaret Chase Smith (who boldly denounced fellow Republican McCarthy in 1950 and urged her party not to feed bigotry, fear and ignorance), and Shirley Chisholm (who was the first African-American woman elected to Congress and believed gender was a more difficult barrier than race). Interesting, balanced read includes a brief epilogue about Hillary Clinton.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Fraser

    Excellently researched, poorly written.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Caitlyn

    This book details nearly a century and a half of women's quests for the presidency in America. It was both frustrating and awe-inspiring to learn about women of various ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds and the challenges they faced running their own campaigns and the many double standards they faced for their sex - and in some cases, skin color. Formatting-wise, though, this book is divided into four sections to focus on the four different women discussed. Each section was around 60 page This book details nearly a century and a half of women's quests for the presidency in America. It was both frustrating and awe-inspiring to learn about women of various ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds and the challenges they faced running their own campaigns and the many double standards they faced for their sex - and in some cases, skin color. Formatting-wise, though, this book is divided into four sections to focus on the four different women discussed. Each section was around 60 pages, with no chapters or section breaks. This made it difficult to find a good place to leave off when I only had 15 minutes to read - something that my slightly perfectionist self found annoying when I had to stop reading in the middle of the page. Otherwise, it was an enlightening and eye-opening read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    David

    This book traces the history of women running for the American presidency from Victoria Woodhull in 1872 to Margaret Chase Smith in 1964 and Shirley Chisholm in 1972. The book is essentially a set of serial biographies of these three women, and their presidential campaigns. While the biographies were interesting (if not particularly insightful), what I really missed was any analysis. What lessons can be drawn from these three women's experiences? What obstacles to women's political ambitions are This book traces the history of women running for the American presidency from Victoria Woodhull in 1872 to Margaret Chase Smith in 1964 and Shirley Chisholm in 1972. The book is essentially a set of serial biographies of these three women, and their presidential campaigns. While the biographies were interesting (if not particularly insightful), what I really missed was any analysis. What lessons can be drawn from these three women's experiences? What obstacles to women's political ambitions are structural, and thus slower to change, as opposed to time- or candidate-specific issues? I had hoped that the epilogue, which dealt with Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign, might be a forum for that, but it was mostly similar to the previous three chapters, with occasional comparisons between Clinton's approach and that of her predecessors'.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    The author poses Victoria Goodhull, Margaret Chase Smith, and Hillary Clinton as potential breakers of the highest glass ceiling. It's not a bad story. However, I almost retched at one facet of Goodhull's run. She was touting the fact that she would end up as the "ruler of the world" because the US was the preeminent world nation. Thank God her candidacy melted down when her personal lifestyle revealed her to be an advocate of "free love" and she disappeared. I wonder if Hillary can be induced t The author poses Victoria Goodhull, Margaret Chase Smith, and Hillary Clinton as potential breakers of the highest glass ceiling. It's not a bad story. However, I almost retched at one facet of Goodhull's run. She was touting the fact that she would end up as the "ruler of the world" because the US was the preeminent world nation. Thank God her candidacy melted down when her personal lifestyle revealed her to be an advocate of "free love" and she disappeared. I wonder if Hillary can be induced to pull the same disappearing act.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mitzi Moore

    Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for President of the United States. By election night in 1872, they had locked her up. Written in 2016–before the election—this book was probably meant to have a different ending. Still, the stories of three women who sought the Presidency unsuccessfully are quite interesting.

  11. 5 out of 5

    marissa 🦋✨

    overall, good content but it seemed rather rushed around the elections of these women, which could be seen as one of the main points in their lives. the structure was quite odd with the lack of breaks in each section, which truly took away from these stories.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Farabaugh

    This book does a great job showing how little has changed for women running for the Presidency. It is a depressing, although important, assessment of the obstacles that female candidates face that are not faced by their male opponents. This book was also very well written and moved quickly.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Theresa

    An interesting review of 3 (4 including Hillary) women who tried running for President. It's good the author focused on just a few, because you get a good understanding of those women. Of course not many women have seriously tried running for President before modern times.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Renee Ortenzio

    I listened to this and the reader was a tad dry. Otherwise the content was great.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Hadyn

    Details the fascinating lives of three different women who made a serious run for the presidency. Published in 2016. Sad it wasn't longer or had a happier ending :(

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    A great idea for a book. However, the writing plodded. Someone in my book club remarked that the Wikipedia entry was much more interesting than Ellen Fitzpatrick's chapter on Victoria Woodhull.

  17. 4 out of 5

    (a)lyss(a)

    "Indeed, had all things been equal, Margaret Chase Smith might well have been broadly viewed as a compelling candidate for the nation's highest office." While I wasn't wowed at the writing and the structure of the book, the way it highlights women who have run for President makes up for it. The book follows specific women without a linear story line and it really picks up about halfway through when we get to the turn of the century. This book also makes note of the fact that women have been runni "Indeed, had all things been equal, Margaret Chase Smith might well have been broadly viewed as a compelling candidate for the nation's highest office." While I wasn't wowed at the writing and the structure of the book, the way it highlights women who have run for President makes up for it. The book follows specific women without a linear story line and it really picks up about halfway through when we get to the turn of the century. This book also makes note of the fact that women have been running for President, and other offices, throughout American history. It also talks about, albeit briefly, about how women threw black men under the bus in the argument for the right to vote. This book would have been better if it had gone more in depth about why some of these candidates lost. It also feels like the book that happens before the story - like the author who wrote about Petraeus - this book was published before Hillary Clinton's loss of the 2016 presidency. And while there could be a whole book (or ten) on how that happened and when people talk about women in politics they think of Hillary and this book does a good job of showing she is not the first woman to lose to a less qualified man and she's not the first woman to pursue the oval office. There's a history of white women in the public sector and a more recent history of women of color but it's not explored to a large extent so much as it is just presented to the reader. But this is an informative book that gives some context to the modern woman running for office.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    A snappy book that doesn't drag, is a breeze to read, and is especially timely right now. The chapter on Shirley Chisolm is mostly just a summary of Chisolm's own memoir "Unbought and Unbossed," which I found more rewarding to read in Chisolm's own voice, but does add information on Chisolm's run for president, which is not covered in "Unbought and Unbossed." The epilogue deals primarily with Hillary Clinton, and definitely seems like the seeds of a spin off book. Recommended.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sherry

    Victoria Woodhull in the 1870's, Margaret Chase Smith in the 1960's, Shirley Chisholm in the 1970's and now Hillary Clinton. These women have come closest, though others have also tried. I can't wait! My favorite quote from the book comes from Margaret Chase Smith who feared that her party could win on the "Four Horsemen of Calumny-Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear." I will soon be reading Smith's anti-Joe McCarthy speech, published as "Declaration of Conscience."

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nichola

    Extensive background of women who have run for president, since the first in 1872 ( Victoria Woodhull). Each profile was well thought out with their places in history established. What was learned from each experience and how the country and women moved forward detailed in each one. This was published before the 2016 election cycle, and ends with a look forward to the possible first major party candidacy by a woman.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alec

    I’m so glad I randomly saw this book at a gift shop in Washington D.C.. I loved it because I learned so much! Ellen Fitzpatrick details the careers of Victoria Woodhull, Margaret Chase Smith, and Shirley Chisholm. Besides Hillary Clinton, these three women have had the most successful campaigns for the American presidency…and I had never heard of them before opening this book!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    A timely read for the upcoming November election. This book illuminated women's quest for the presidency long before Hilary Clinton, beginning in 1872 (before women could even vote!) with Victoria Woodhull's nomination. Staggering and informative, this book packed a lot of history into a digestible package.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Carol Lerch

    Good read It is interesting to see that not much has changed since Woodhull ran in the 1870s. The stories are remarkably similar in how the women have been treated in presidential politics. It is past time that women are seen as equals in this country.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mona Bomgaars

    A timely read since I finished this book during the DNC when the first women was nominated as their Presidential candidate. It has been a long struggle for highly qualified women in the U.S. and the author has written a well documented and readable book about four such women.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Polly Rosenstein

    Great portraits of three women who ran for President of the United States, Victoria Woodhull, Margaret Chase Smith and Shirley Chisholm, and how they paved the way for Hillary Clinton's run for the highest office.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Randi

    Three interesting, informative, easy-to-quickly-read histories of women running for the presidency (with a lengthy epilogue featuring HRC). My only complaint is that the history seemed rushed the closer the story came to election day (or conventions). Good stuff for history buffs.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    Solid primer, especially for younger people, about the female forebearers of the American presidency. It's a kind retelling for all involved, but a fine jumping off point if you'd like to learn more.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jazz

    The road to a woman President has been long, and every woman who makes progress is laying groundwork for the first woman who finally achieves election. These stories will give you hope that it won't be long before the US finally has a woman President.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    Easy to read and really interesting. Epilogue on Clinton was sort of pointless.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Linda Ruby

    Excellent details of 3 female contenders for the presidency. Very interesting and readable. Should be a "must-read" for anyone interested in politics

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