The nomination of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic presidential candidate represents the first time that a woman has been nominated by a major American party as its presidential candidate. This coincides with Theresa May becoming the second woman to be Prime Minister of UK. It is also interesting that if Clinton wins, there will be a point in history when three major powers, the USA, the UK and Germany, will all have governments led by women. (Germany has had its first woman Chancellor in Angela Merkel since 2005).

Earlier, when the UK had its first woman Prime Minister in Margaret Thatcher, she had to deal with what was essentially a men’s club, when she dealt with other world leaders. Now, it is already different. It is also noteworthy that neither May nor Clinton are rebellious figures, in the sense that they are aggressive feminists who have made this their principal reason for coming forward. In fact, they are very much establishment figures. May is a reversion to the old tradition of choosing as PM someone who has held one of the three so-called great offices of state: Home, Foreign Affairs, or the Exchequer. Thatcher had held none, taking only a stint as Education Secretary as her Cabinet experience before becoming PM. May, as Home Secretary in the Cameron Cabinet, revives an old tradition, for the last former Home Secretary to become PM was Jim Callaghan (and Callaghan was the only person in the 20th century to have held all three great offices). The last Tory to have been Home Secretary was none other than Churchill, though he did not move from Home Secretary to PM, as she did, there being a 30-year gap between his pre-World War I Home Secretaryship and his World War II premiership. So May is very much an establishment figure.

Her election also meant that the new Tory mechanism was not tested. The party leader was not selected by a vote of the members, but by May being the last candidate standing. After the parliamentary party (which used to pick the leader) chose May and Jacqueline Leadsom, a minister of state, the latter withdrew, probably realising she had little chance before a Home Secretary. The prominence she gained meant that May gave her a place at the Cabinet table as Environment Secretary.

Clinton is even more of an establishment figure. After having been First Lady, she went to serve as Senator and as Secretary of State, having run unsuccessfully for President in 2008. Apart from having been Bill Clinton’s wife, part of her appeal to the establishment is that she is not too ‘liberal’, as was Bernie Sanders, whom she beat out for the nomination. Clinton took campaign donations from ‘big business’, which Sanders excoriated, making the establishment more comfortable with her. Sanders found a strong groundswell of support, probably tapping into the same desire for change that took Obama into the White House, but could not overcome the party establishment, and with the ‘super delegates’ voting for Clinton at the Convention, his defeat was ensured.

Sanders would have been a first: a Jew at the head of a major-party ticket. Actually, the Democrats are ahead, as expected of a liberal party, and not only named a woman in 2016, but also an African-American in 2008 (who won), but was first to have a woman on the ticket, with Geraldine Ferraro, who was vice-presidential candidate in 1992. Actually, the first African-American to run for President was also a woman, Shirley Chisholm, back in 1968. And yes, she tried unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination.

The Republicans have been behind in nominating women. There is a vicious cycle at work; the Republican Party is seen as more misogynistic, thus fewer women run for the sort of office that would be a step towards the presidential nomination. However, after the Democrats named Ferraro, the Republicans named Sarah Palin vice-presidential candidate in 2008. Therefore, the Republicans are inching towards a woman nominee. However, they would have to have someone run. They were fortunate to have an African-American run this year, who didn’t do all that badly, even though he lacked any experience of government office.

Women running for office is a concomitant of them having the vote. They didn’t until the last century. The idea of anyone having the vote, male or female, only emerged in France in the 19th century, and equal rights for women, including voting rights, only emerged because of the French Revolution. However, in France, it was not until 2007 that a major party nominated a woman: Ségolène Royal. She broke up that year with her live-in partner of many years: François Hollande. Hollande beat the man Royal lost to in 2012, and is now President of France. Royal had thrown out Hollande because of another woman.

Clinton’s experience with her husband Bill is mirrored by Royal’s with Hollande, for though it is not mentioned much, Bill Clinton will be remembered in history as the President who was unsuccessfully impeached because of his inappropriate behaviour with the White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. Thatcher’s relationship with her husband Denis was quiet, though May can rightly say that she is her husband’s first wife, which Thatcher was not. The boot is on the other foot with Merkel, who divorced her first husband in 1982, and then married Joachim Sauer in 1998, though they had met in 1981. Sauer stays out of the limelight more successfully than most.

Clinton has gone through the mill, but she cannot avoid the comparison with South Asia’s woman chief executives. There have been five PMs: Sirimavo Bandranaike of Sri Lanka, Indira Gandhi of India, Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan, and Hasina Wazed and Khaleda Zia of Bangladesh, and one executive president, Chandrika Kumaratunga of Sri Lanka. Four were already widows on assuming office, while Hasina’s husband died after she became PM. Only Benazir had a husband while she was in office. Mrs Bandranaike and Khaleda Zia actually became heads of their parties and then PM in succession to their husbands, who were assassinated. The others (Indira, Benazir, Hasina and Chandrika) were all daughters of former PMs. The Asian penchant for hereditary succession can be seen in South Korea’s President Park Geun-Hye, who is the daughter of Park Chung-hee, who was assassinated while in office in 1979, and in Myanmar’s Foreign Minister and de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyii, who is the daughter of Aung San, who is considered the Father of the Nation, though he was assassinated six months before Burma won independence in 1948.

In Asia, women have come to office because of fathers or husbands (Yingluck Shinawatra of Thailand because of her brother Thaksin Shinawatra). It is almost as if Asia tried women heads of government first before the West tried any out. However, in the West, it seems as if the family route applies, though it does not in Europe.