On February 6, 1969 President Nixon held his second news conference in the East Room of the White House, which was broadcast on television and radio. Among the many journalists who had questions for the President, there was a woman reporter who wanted to know more about women’s role in the new administration. Vera R. Glaser of the North American Newspaper Alliance asked: “Mr. President, in staffing your administration, you have so far made about 200 high level Cabinet and other policy position appointments, and of these, only three have gone to women. Could you tell us, sir, whether we can expect a more equitable recognition of women’s abilities or are we going to remain a lost sex?” The President replied amid laughter, “Would you be interested in coming into the Government?” He continued, “Very seriously, I had not known that only three had gone to women, and I shall see that we correct that imbalance very promptly.”
President Nixon and his staff forged an action plan that would bring in more women into the government than in the past. After a period of research, the Presidential Task Force on Women’s Rights and Responsibilities sent a memorandum dated December 15, 1969 to the President about the administration’s role in providing leadership to promote the advancement of women in government.
Barbara Hackman Franklin, a rare female business graduate from Harvard University, was recruited by Fred Malek as staff assistant from 1971 to 1973 to lead the successful recruitment of qualified women into upper level government jobs. Malek, then Deputy Undersecretary for the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, had been a classmate of Ms. Hackman while at Harvard University. During President George H. W. Bush’s administration Mrs. Franklin was appointed U.S. Secretary of Commerce from February 1992 to January 1993. She donated her Commerce papers to Penn State University, her alma mater. Her acute interest in the advancement of women in government positions led to her becoming chairman of an advisory board at Penn State that gathered oral histories from women who had been recruited to government posts during the Nixon administration hence, the exhibition A Few Good Women: Advancing the Cause For Women in the U.S. Government, 1969 – 1974. This poster exhibition showcases interviews from individuals who took part in that oral history project spear-headed by Barbara Franklin and supported by the President’s daughter Julie Nixon Eisenhower who was also interviewed for the project.
On display are interview clips that form part of the Richard Nixon Oral History Project. The clips first include Frederic V. Malek, White House personnel chief from 1970 to 1973, who was interviewed on September 17, 2007; second is Barbara H. Franklin, White House staff assistant, 1971 to 1973, who was interviewed on March 7, 2007, and third is Bobbie Kilberg, White House fellow from 1969 to 1970, interviewed on November 19, 2007.
For more information about the oral history project, contact the The Special Collection Library at The Penn State University Libraries or follow this link