DENVER—Women were a leading force during the Democratic Party’s 2008 convention (DNC), here, inspired largely by Hillary Rodham Clinton’s history-making presidential bid in which she garnered 18 million votes. She delivered a powerful appeal for her supporters to rally to elect Barack Obama president and a House and Senate friendly to the cause of women’s equality.

Awilda Marquez, a Clinton delegate from Denver was at the head of the march for immigrant rights that began from Denver’s majority Latino west side the last day of the convention. Initially, she said, she could not bring herself to shift her support to Obama. But during Clinton’s speech “I heard her message that it was time to move on. I leaned over and I grabbed one of those unity signs and I waved it.” Now she is wearing a pin on her vest that reads, “Hillary supports Obama and so do I”

Marquez, Director of Excise and Licensing for the City of Denver told the World, “I found the convention absolutely exciting and inspiring. This election could change the future of our country.”

Women were visible at every level with 51 percent of the delegates women of all races and national background. They made their voices heard in over a dozen speeches. Michelle Obama pointed out in her convention speech that they were meeting during the 88th anniversary week of women’s suffrage and the 45th anniversary week of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.

She stressed her working class roots, daughter of a blue collar worker in a Chicago water filtration plant who was stricken with multiple sclerosis in his early thirties. She said she fell in love with Barack Obama watching him toil as a community organizer on Chcago’s South Side to help steelworkers who lost their jobs when the steel mills shut down. Delegates wept openly as she spoke.

Hillary Clinton demolished Republican hopes of exploiting Democratic splits to bolster John McCain’s faltering campaign. “No way! No how! No McCain!” Clinton thundered. “Barack Obama is my candidate and he must be president.”

She thanked the “sisterhood of the pantsuit” for helping muster the 18 million votes she garnered in her drive for the presidency. She paid tribute to one of her most stalwart supporters, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio who died of an aneurism just days before the convention opened.

Her goal, she said, was “to fight for an America defined by deep and meaningful equality from civil rights to labor rights, from women’s rights to gay rights, from ending discrimination to promoting unionization.”

She added, “I’m a United States Senator because in 1848, a group of courageous women and a few brave men gathered in Seneca Falls, New York…the first convention on women’s rights in our history.” It took another 72 years to win women’s suffrage.

Added Clinton, “And on that path to freedom, Harriet Tubman had one piece advice, ‘If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If they’re shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going.”

Lily Ledbetter of Alabama told the convention of learning decades after she went to work for Goodyear, that the company was paying her far less than the men beside her doing the same work. The ”Bush” Supreme Court rejected her lawsuit seeking restitution. “Equal pay for equal work is a fundamental American principle,” she said. “We need leaders in this country who will fight for it.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), just before the convention, pushed through the House her “Paycheck Fairness Act” a measure to guarantee equal pay for equal work. DeLauro told convention delegates that “Barack Obama was right there, applauding the bill’s passage.” But McCain, she said, “continues to say he doesn’t believe there is a wage gap. But what would you expect from a man who cannot keep track of how many houses he owns?”

The Women’s Caucus convened a session on the theme, “Women Making and Shaping History: Every Woman Counts.” Blue tambourines were handed out celebrating the 88th anniversary of women winning the right to vote. The nearly 2,000 women in the crowd jingled the tambourines and cheered every call for a massive women’s vote Nov. 4 to elect Obama.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood and daughter of the late Ann Richards, first woman governor of Texas said Obama has been a 100 percent defender of women’s rights. John McCain, she said, “has voted 125 times on the wrong side of women’s health issues” including against funding family planning and comprehensive sex education.

“Five men in black robes don’t know better than women what’s best for their health care,” she said. “My mother would have said that a woman voting for John McCain would be like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders.”