22 November 2008

Secretary of State Clinton

In the excitement over Obama's election, we've lost track of how much life has changed for women in the United States in the last 40 years. David Brooks wrote in the Times this week about the academic credentials of Obama and his team: Columbia, Princeton, Harvard, Yale, MIT, Stanford... and Wellesley.

Hillary Clinton graduated from Wellesley College in 1969.

In the 1960s, the nation's "Ivy League" colleges and other elite institutions didn't yet admit female students. In 1970, Yale admitted women for the first time, followed by Dartmouth in 1972 and Princeton in 1977. Not until 1983 did Columbia University admit female undergraduates.

Also in 1970, Harvard merged with Radcliffe College, and MIT eliminated quotas on women admitted. In 1975, UPenn eliminated the College for Women, allowing women to study with male students in all programs. Title IX, which forbids discrimination against women in education, was passed in 1972, but it took many years to be fully implemented. (Some would argue that implementation is still lagging. A topic for another day.)

The nomination of the woefully underqualified Sarah Palin as vice-presidential candidate has obscured the historical importance of Hillary Clinton's run for president: she's the first woman to come close to winning a major party nomination. And let's not forget: the last female vice-presidential candidate was Geraldine Ferraro, Walter Mondale's running mate in 1984.

The papers were reporting that it was "women of a certain age" who were supporting Clinton's presidential bid. (This is pretty snide, by the way, but another topic for another day.) I asked around among women friends and realized that a bunch of us in our early 40s were Clinton supporters. Who knew we had already reached "a certain age"?

But here I am, grinning from ear to ear again, because Clinton will be the US Secretary of State. And I know she'll do very, very well.