A passionate crowd of well-wishers gathered outside a farmhouse in Maryland in September 1884. They had come to approve the nomination of the most recently announced candidate in the presidential race of 1884. The nominee, an attorney, was smart, well spoken and media savvy. Belva Lockwood was the first woman to run a full campaign for the office of president.
Widowed at the age of 22, with a young daughter to care for, she fought social convention to become one of the very few women in the country with a college degree. She secretly dreamed of a life in law or politics. In 1866, she moved to DC as a teacher, with an eye on Capitol Hill politics. Pursuing her dreams, she applied for admission to several law schools but was repeatedly denied. Five years later, St. Louis’ Washington University law program began to admit women. Lockwood and her fellow female classmates were hassled by male student and placed in segregated classrooms. Ultimately, Belva had to petition Ulysses S. Grant, president of the school, for her degree.
Now running a one-woman law firm in the capital, she was refused admission to the US Court of Claims. After a five-year fight to get qualified women attorneys the privilege of practicing in federal courts, she became the first woman lawyer to argue a case before the Supreme Court in 1880. With this kind of history and vocally outspoken disposition, Lockwood was a fairly well known figure. But it was her decision to run for the highest political office in the land that made her famous. Washington newspapers reported her kick-off rally in Maryland and her quotable quip, “I cannot vote, but I can be voted for.” She understood the irony of a voteless woman running for the presidency but recognized the nomination as a way to awaken the country to the issue of women’s rights and the need for reform.
Bold action and the pursuit of the things she valued shaped Lockwood’s life. Mel Robbins has encouraged all of us with the 5 Second Rule — if you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea. Just yesterday, I had a fellow coach say to me, “Do something you are afraid of this week!” It was his way of challenging me to be bold. This week practice physically moving, taking action within 5 seconds of an idea coming in your head. I’d love to know if it helped you be bold.