Hillary Clinton has promised to fight for a fairer society for ordinary Americans, staking out a place on the left to cut off any budding challenge for the Democratic nomination.

In the first major rally of her campaign for the November 2016 presidential election, the Democratic presidential hopeful on Saturday pressed many of the buttons that energise liberal Democrats.

She highlighted her support for gay marriage, women's rights, income equality, clean energy, and regulating Wall Street.

Speaking on New York's Roosevelt Island, within close view of Manhattan's skyscrapers, Clinton, 67, promised to "make the economy work for everyday Americans, not just those at the top" if elected president.

Clinton, a former secretary of state, praised working families for leading America's economic recovery after the financial crisis of 2008.

"You brought our country back. Now it's time - your time to secure the gains and move ahead," she told a crowd of several thousand supporters.

'Inclusive' speech

Al Jazeera's Kimberly Halkett, reporting from Roosevelt Island, said despite being well-attended, it was not the full audience the Clinton campaign expected.

"The event was well-attended, by official estimates, roughly 5,500 people, but not the full crowd that Hillary Clinton's campaign staff was expecting," she said.

Hillary Clinton's bid to become first female US president

"The overflow area with viewing monitors was empty.

"Still, her supporters seemed to enjoy the event. Those I spoke to said they enjoyed the speech because they believe it was 'inclusive' and addressed the needs of all Americans, something they hope to hear more of."

The clear front-runner to win the Democratic nomination, Clinton nevertheless has some competition from the left, especially from liberal Bernie Sanders.

The independent senator from Vermont has drawn larger crowds than expected at recent campaign events in Iowa, the state that has the first say in picking the party's candidate when the nominating contests starts early next year.

Clinton, who is running to be the country's first woman president, said she was a defender of women's rights and talked about her mother's tough upbringing.

"I may not be the youngest candidate, but I will be the youngest woman president in the history of the United States," Clinton said.

The outdoor rally marked a change in gear for Clinton, who launched her election campaign in low-key fashion in April and has so far held small events with selected participants.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies