The woman who broke N.C. political glass ceiling salutes Hillary Clinton

With Democrats poised to make Hillary Clinton the first woman to be a major-party nominee for president, the woman who broke a key part of North Carolina’s political glass ceiling said she couldn’t be happier.

Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, the first woman elected to a statewide executive branch office in North Carolina, said she felt a “wave of joy, excitement and satisfaction” on the day when Clinton secured enough delegates to become the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee.

“When one person breaks the glass ceiling, the light shines through and others can go,” she said.

Asked if she felt she’d ever see the day a woman claimed a major party’s presidential nomination, she replied: “I really believed in my heart we would. A lot of young girls would come up to me and say things like ‘Do you think there will ever be a woman president?’

“I always said, ‘Yes, of course.’ But in my mind, deep down, I always thought, ‘We’re not making much progress toward that.’”

Marshall got her political start in 1988, when she ran for the N.C. House. She was elected secretary of state in 1996.

Clinton’s nomination sends a message to all American women and girls, she added.

“It says you really can be what you want to be. It’s hard to explain to people that you can do it if you’ve never seen anybody quite like that. I’ve had that experience myself,” she said. “But when you see someone moving into that role, you say to yourself, ‘By golly, I think I could do that.’”

Eric Frazier