The news that U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton is leading for the Democratic presidential nomination has brought a spate of news stories about women candidates for president in the past. Many of these stories erroneously say that Victoria Woodhull ran for president in 1872, and that Belva Ann Lockwood ran for president in 1884 and 1888. These stories are not true. Neither woman organized any slates of candidates for presidential elector, pledged to vote for her. Therefore, it was literally impossible for anyone, even those two women themselves, to cast a vote for them for president (of course, back then no state permitted women to vote in any event, but they were still permitted to run for federal office). The National Archives contain the certificates of how many votes were received by each slate of presidential elector candidates, in all presidential elections since 1789. Researchers who have gone through these archives have never found any slates of electors pledged to Woodhull or Lockwood, nor has any state’s official election returns mentioned any such votes.
The first woman who ran for president in the general election and received any valid votes was Charlene Mitchell, presidential nominee of the Communist Party, in 1968. She was only on the ballot in two states and only received 1,075 votes.
The only three women who ever ran for president in the general election and received as much as 70,000 votes are Lenora Fulani of the New Alliance Party (who did it in 1988 and 1992), Linda Jenness of the Socialist Workers Party in 1972, and Sonia Johnson of the Citizens Party in 1984.