Critics want her to go to jail, she’s the ‘devil’ and can't be president. No, they weren’t talking about Hillary Clinton

Victoria Woodhull faced the same obstacles as Hillary Clinton in the late 1800s, and so did the more than 200 women who have aimed for the White House since - yet a constant barrage against Ms Clinton can make it easy for people to dismiss her historic achievement

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"There’s a woman running for president. 

"She is criticised for her ties to Wall Street. [...] Many find her untrustworthy; investigations into her past fill the newspapers. [...] even her marriage is the subject of public speculation and debate. 

"Her ambition alone is alienating to some and her most vociferous critics have even likened her to the devil. Rather than send her to the White House, there are those that wish to see her locked up in prison on election day."

Ellen Fitzpatrick, author of The Highest Glass Ceiling: Women's Quest for the American Presidency, was not talking about Hillary Clinton.

The New Hampshire University professor of history was speaking about Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president in 1872.

While Woodhull was described as "Mrs Satan" and caused strong controversy when she cut her hair short, Ms Clinton was likened to the "devil" by Donald Trump who attacked her "weak stamina", physical health and her appearance. 

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Victoria Woodhull ran for president - but didn't even have the right to vote (Getty)

Almost 100 years after women won the right to vote in 1920, America could finally be about to vote for a woman president.

But the road has been long and hard-fought, and apparent double standards are confronted at every turn, said Ms Fitzpatrick.

The importance of gender in the election has become particularly present considering the recent slew of allegations against Donald Trump's alleged sexual assault, groping and inappropriate remarks towards women.

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Women voters helped to get president Barack Obama elected in 2008, and they are speculated to swing the vote towards Ms Clinton come 8 November.

While professor Fitzpatrick urged people not to overstate the importance of Mr Trump's negative press in pushing Ms Clinton closer to the White House, she urged Americans not to "harbour any illusions" that gender did not matter.

The hurdles that Ms Clinton is facing now are the same that have been faced by Woodhull, Margaret Chase Smith, Shirley Chisholm and the more than 200 women who have run for the presidency.

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"Hillary Clinton has overcome enormous obstacles to get where she is," the professor said.

"You can miss what she has achieved by getting to where she is today if you don’t know anything about the history of the women who proceeded her in this quest."

None of the prior women candidates over the last two centuries have managed to raise the same amount of money or the spotlight that Ms Clinton has achieved over her career. 

Her fundraising, essential to put a "woman candidate on the map" and not an unusual method for her male predecessors, has been painted as corruption. 

 

 

The misuse of her email server has been widely condemned, yet Ms Clinton is "the most investigated political figure in history", said Ms Fitzpatrick.

She is painted as a "has-been" candidate, yet her nomination and her possible presidency is an historic achievement, the professor added.

She won 18 million votes in the 2008 presidential primary - more than any male or female candidate in US history.

Although she came into the national spotlight via her husband’s career - like Margaret Chase Smith - she used that position to further advance in the democratic party. She gained unrivaled access to party support and finance. Still, she faced enormous doubts and has been painted as the "consummate Washington insider".

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Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman to be elected to congress, died in 2005 (Getty)

"It's ironic that in vaulting over the previous hurdles that her predecessors were felled by, Clinton’s successes have been construed as liabilities in the current race," she said.

In some ways, voters might have predicted how Ms Clinton would be treated when she announced her run for the White House.

Chase Smith, a 67-year-old in the 1960s, was described as a "housekeeper" and was widely ridiculed for her "weak stamina". 

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Chisholm, the first African American woman to be elected to congress, announced her run in the 1970s and was treated by the media as if she was "insane".

Weeks before the election, and despite all the hurdles faced by Ms Clinton as a woman, she retains a national lead in the polls.

Mr Trump himself praised his rival for her fighting spirit - contrasting earlier remarks about her "lack of stamina" - and indirectly acknowledging the long path she has had to travel to even come close to the White House.

"I will say this about Hillary," he said at the second presidential debate.

"She doesn’t quit. She doesn’t give up. I respect that."

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