When Hillary Rodham Clinton celebrated her presumed emergence as the first female major party nominee in 2012, she quoted Shirley Chisholm: “Those who think that the women’s liberation movement is a joke, may I disabuse you of that notion. It’s about equal opportunity.”
Indeed, women have been turning men’s mockery into female feats for years. In fact, the candidacy of the first woman elected as mayor—boosters insist to any political office in the United States—began as a sexist prank.
In 1887, feeling empowered from having become eligible to vote four years earlier, women in the Quaker village of Argonia, Kansas, joined the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Crusading against booze expressed what some historians call “maternal feminism,” others call “municipal housekeeping,” going public with the motherly impulse to cultivate virtue.