4 History-Making Debate Moments


So far, the 2020 presidential election features more women on the debate stage than ever before. But women on both sides of the aisle have been present in debates – albeit sparingly – for decades. We’ve rounded up some of the best debate moments from women candidates.

Shirley Chisholm, 1972 Presidential Debate

Not only was Shirley Chisholm the first African-American congresswoman and presidential candidate, she was the first woman to appear in a televised presidential debate. But it certainly wasn’t easy: Chisholm was excluded from the first three Democratic primary debates and had to file a complaint with the FCC, which she won on appeal. In the famous words of Congresswoman Chisholm, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”


Geraldine Ferraro, 1984 Vice Presidential Debate

Geraldine Ferraro made history when she became Walter Mondale’s running mate in the 1984 presidential election. She was the first woman to appear as a VP candidate on a major party ticket. Like every woman candidate before and after her, Ferraro dealt with sexism repeatedly on the campaign trail. During the 1984 Vice Presidential debate, when George Bush offered to help her understand the nuances of international diplomacy, Ferraro famously answered, “I almost resent, Vice President Bush, your patronizing attitude that you have to teach me about foreign policy.”

Carol Moseley-Braun, 2003 Presidential Debate

After Chisholm blazed the trail for women participating in presidential debates, it would be another 30 years before another Black woman made it to the debate stage. The only woman among nine men in the first debate of the 2004 presidential race, Carol Moseley-Braun struggled to be taken seriously. Moderator George Stephanopoulos failed to even acknowledge her until 15 minutes into the debate. Even then, Moseley-Braun was only asked one direct question – and it was from another candidate. Despite it all, she was able to stand out with one of the most memorable quotes from the night: “The black vote did in fact decide the 2000 election – Clarence Thomas’s vote.”


Carly Fiorina, 2015 Presidential Debate

In an interview with Rolling Stone, then-candidate Donald Trump made a disparaging remark about Fiorina’s physical appearance, specifically her face. At a Republican primary debate, he attempted to backpedal to which Fiorina replied, “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said”. The response drew wild applause from the audience.

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