hillary clinton.jpg
Photograph: EPA/TANNEN MAURY

Hillary Clinton stood under an actual glass ceiling Tuesday evening as she at last broke the figurative glass ceiling that had eluded her eight years earlier.

After months of primary voting and years in waiting as the party's heir apparent, Clinton declared herself the party's nominee, the first woman in a major US political party to do so.

"We are all standing under a glass ceiling right now, but don't worry we aren't smashing this one," she joked. It was the figurative one that has kept women out of top jobs that she broke through.

"Thanks to you we've reached a milestone - the first time in our nation's history that a woman will be a major party's nominee."

Clinton's feat comes 144 years after the first woman ran for US president to protest women's lack of a right to vote and 96 years after women won the right to vote in the United States.

She had come close before, but fell short against Barack Obama's historic campaign in 2008.

"Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it," Clinton told supporters in her concession speech as Obama broke his own barriers as the nation's first African American president.

Clinton paid tribute Tuesday to the women who blazed the trail for women's rights and her own mother who was born on the day Congress approved the constitutional amendment that eventually granted women the right to vote. In a video, her campaign showed images of women making advances through the years.

Ellen Malcolm, the founder of Emily's List, a group that works to elect Democratic women candidates, said it had once seemed inconceivable that the US would elect a female president, but "tonight I saw the first half of a dream come true, as Hillary became the Democratic nominee."

While the National Organization for Women declared Clinton's victory "momentous."

"Hillary's achievement brings us that much closer to the equality envisioned by women's rights leaders nearly two centuries ago," the group's president Terry O'Neill said.

Prior to her Tuesday victories however Clinton had not focused extensively on her gender, playing up instead her years of experience on the national stage and her policy proposals.

But when Donald Trump alleged in April that Clinton would not be where she is if she were a man and accused her of playing the "woman card," Clinton's campaign fired back and used the Republican's words in fundraising efforts, going so far as to give out cards to supporters emblazoned with "Woman Card" and designed to look like New York subway cards.

One Clinton supporter in Santa Monica, California, Lareen Russell, told dpa she voted for Clinton "because it is time for a woman in the White House."

Clinton has spent most of her adult life on the political stage, but for many of those years she was at the side of her husband Bill Clinton, first when he was governor of Arkansas and then when he became president.

Clinton came under fire in Arkansas as a feminist unwilling to take her husband's surname and instead using Hillary Rodham during his early campaigns.

As first lady, she took a more activist role than many presidential wives, heading up a failed drive to expand health care and later advocating for human rights around the world, declaring "women's rights are human rights" during a speech in China.

Clinton came into her own on the political stage after running as a senator from New York and ultimately being tapped as Obama's first secretary of state.

Her long time on the national scene however will likely prove a challenge for Clinton as she now seeks the presidency. Americans have named her the most admired woman for 20 years in a row in a survey by pollster Gallup, but at the same time more than half of voters have an unfavourable view of her.

An intense dislike of Clinton is likely to motivate many older Republicans to oppose her at the polls, even as their own candidate inspires similar vitriol among much of the electorate.

While acknowledging her own experience and the historic nature of her candidacy, Clinton on Tuesday sought to look toward the future rather than the past.

"Yes, there are still ceilings for women to break," she said. "But don't let anyone tell you great things can't happen in America."

Latest news

19-year-old men arrested for putting up anti-Serb stickers in Vukovar, minister condemns incident

Police have arrested a 19-year-old man, suspected of putting up anti-Serb stickers reading  "Serbian Family Tree" with an image of people hanging from a tree and the face of Ante Pavelic, Croatian fascist dictator who led the World War II Ustasha movement and the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), at bus stops along Trpinjska Street in the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar.

Britain faces highest terrorism threat since 1970s, official says

Britain faces its highest threat of terrorism since the 1970s, when the Irish Republican Army planned a series of bomb attacks, a legal official said on Sunday.

Monitor: Syrian regime forces killed in fighting near Lebanon border

Dozens of Syrian regime troops were killed and injured in an attack on Sunday by hardline jihadists led by an al-Qaeda-linked group near the Lebanese border, a monitor said.

Anarchist riots hit central Athens district

Clashes broke out between Greek police and self-styled anarchists in a central Athens neighbourhood early Sunday.

Thousands more affected by noise under Berlin flight route change

Thousands more residents in Berlin could be affected by aircraft noise due to changes in a flight route to a long-delayed new international airport.

Details emerge on Heidelberg car-ramming as police seek motive

The car used to ram into crowds in the south-western German town of Heidelberg was rented in Hamburg, police said Sunday, as they continued to search for a motive for the incident.

Fire at asylum seeker accommodation in Sweden

A fire overnight at an accommodation centre for asylum seekers in Sweden caused injuries to at least a dozen residents, police said on Sunday.

Analysts: Croatia's economy rises 3.3%, hitting new high since 2008

Croatia's economy expanded 3.3 per cent in the last quarter of 2016, compared to Q4 2015, according to projections of economic analysts polled by Hina, who ascribe this record high rise to increasing personal consumption, higher industrial output rates and growing investments.

Fate of German hostage in Philippines unknown as deadline passes

The fate of a 70-year-old German man held captive for three months in the southern Philippines was unknown after a deadline for a ransom to be paid passed Sunday, a military spokesman said.

Dengue fever risk growing in Thailand, authorities say

Dengue fever is posing a greater threat in Thailand, particularly in the southern region, the country's Disease Control Department said Sunday, as the number of people killed by the mosquito-borne disease this year stands at six.

Brexit fears plague locals and expats alike in southern Spain

As Britain's departure from the EU approaches, the anxiety is most palpable on Spain's Costa del Sol, where so many Britons live. What will happen to the economy if the expats one day have to leave?

'La La Land,' politics to share spotlight at Oscars

The Oscars will take the stage Sunday for an awards ceremony whose outcome feels like a foregone conclusion - a win, or 10, for "La La Land."