From Roosevelt to Reagan, notable women address conventions

Hillary Clinton’s speech Thursday marks the first time a woman has addressed a major party as its nominee for president. But her speech will not be the first time a woman has delivered a noteworthy or even momentous address to a Democratic or Republican convention.

Some significant voices from history:
ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, 1940 Democratic National Convention
The wife of Franklin Roosevelt played a key role in his 1940 re-election – controversial because no president had ever sought a third term.
Delegates in Chicago nominated FDR again, just as he wanted. After a tense nomination vote, Eleanor Roosevelt ventured to the convention to seek unity, talking of the “grave and serious situation” the nation faced on the precipice of a second World War.
Just as the president “must be on his job,” she said, party faithful could not treat the campaign “as you would treat an ordinary nomination in an ordinary time.”
The address became known as the “No Ordinary Time” speech.
LAURA BUSH, 2004 Republican National Convention
At Madison Square Garden, the first lady talked in personal terms about President George W. Bush’s actions in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, particularly his controversial decision to invade Iraq.
The president “didn’t want to go to war,” she said, any more than Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Roosevelt. “But he knew the safety and security of America and the world depended on it,” she said, recalling her husband walking alone on the White House lawn as he weighed decisions presidential candidates still debate more than a decade later.
The speech previewed Bush’s successful “security Moms” strategy, targeting female voters in his campaign against Democrat John Kerry.
BARBARA JORDAN, 1976 Democratic National Convention
A Texas congresswoman, Jordan became the first African-American woman to keynote a major-party convention.
On the heels of Richard Nixon resigning the presidency, Jordan described a “cynical, angry, frustrated” America, “a people in a quandary about the present.”
Yet she cited her very presence on the dais as “evidence that the American dream need not forever be deferred.”
ZAINAB AL-SUWAI, 2004 Republican National Convention
Al-Suwai fled Iraq after participating in the 1991 uprising against dictator Saddam Hussein. She became a U.S. citizen in 1996 and told her story to defend President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq and depose Saddam.
Wearing a hijab, the traditional head covering for Muslim women, she opened her address: “From my heart, I would like to offer you the traditional Muslim greeting: Assalaamu alaykum – ‘Peace be upon you.'”
GERALDINE FERRARO, 1984 Democratic National Convention
In San Francisco, a little-known New York congresswoman stepped to the podium and declared: “My heart is filled with pride. My fellow citizens, I proudly accept your nomination for vice president of the United States.”
Ferraro was the first woman on a major party’s national ticket. Her national profile was short-lived, as President Ronald Reagan won a landslide re-election over Walter Mondale. Ferraro never served again in elected office.
ANN RICHARDS, 1988 Democratic National Convention
Then state treasurer, Richards used her Texas twang and biting humor as the second woman ever to keynote a Democratic convention.
Her most memorable line in Atlanta skewered the patrician Republican nominee, then-Vice President George H.W. Bush. “Poor George,” she said. “He can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”
It didn’t stop Bush from trouncing Democrat Michael Dukakis in November.
Richards won the Texas governorship in 1990, but lost her 1994 re-election bid to the son of the man she had mocked in Georgia – future President George W. Bush.
NANCY REAGAN, 1996 Republican National Convention
Two years after former President Ronald Reagan used a hand-written letter to tell the world of his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, his wife brought many in San Diego to tears as she spoke of her husband, who would never again address Americans.
“I can tell you a certainty that he still sees the ‘shining city on the hill,'” Nancy Reagan said, repeating her husband’s favorite scriptural imagery. She closed by relaying words he’d spoken in 1992 during his last Republican convention:  “Whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence rather than your doubts.”
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