The Year of the New Female Political Leader

This week in Women’s History: July 24–30

Hillary Clinton

It looks like 2016 will become the year of the new female political leader. Hillary Clinton is the presumed presidential nominee at the Democratic National Convention on July 28. She is the first female to clinch the U.S. presidential nomination of a major party. Clinton has promised to name women to half her Cabinet posts. Recently women have occupied a quarter to a third of the positions. Seven of Obama’s 16 Cabinet members are female. Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau showed that you don’t have be female to be a feminist and support women’s equality. He fulfilled his promise to appoint a record 50 percent (15 of 30) women to his Cabinet because “it’s 2015.”

Britain’s new 54th Prime Minister, Theresa May, is expected to appoint a record number of females to senior Cabinet positions and champion women in politics. Margaret Thatcher, the first British woman Prime Minister, who served from 1979 to 1990, appointed only one woman in 11 years. In fact, Thatcher declared, “I owe nothing to women’s lib.” Anyone who’s seen the “Suffragette” film knows British women sacrificed and risked their lives and prison to finally earn equal voting rights in 1928 for all adults over 21. It took another 26 years since Thatcher’s resignation in 1990 to install May as the second female British PM. Her chief rival, the female Energy Minister, Andrea Leadsom, dropped out of the race. May appointed her Secretary of the Environment.

Prime Minister May will be negotiating constitutional arrangements following Brexit with Scotland’s and Northern Ireland’s female First Ministers, Nicola Sturgeon and Arlene Foster, respectively. Both are the first female to assume their position, Sturgeon in 2014 and Foster in January.

David Cameron’s final 22-member Cabinet had seven women; Tony Blair had eight. Angela Merkel in 1991, at 36, was sworn in as Germany’s Federal Minister for Women and Youth. The Equal Opportunities Act was adopted. Currently, her 16-member Cabinet has five females. Virginia Ragg, 37-year-old attorney, was just elected the first woman mayor of Rome.

New women politicians defy, not define, gender stereotypes.

Certainly, gender does not identify or prescribe political or any type of leadership. Indeed, David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, described Golda Meir as the “only man” in his Cabinet. Meir was the only female foreign minister in the world in 1956. She was elected Israel’s fourth Prime Minister and served from 1969 to 1974.

A record number of women currently serve as presidents, prime ministers, or heads of state. If Hillary Clinton is elected President, along with May and Merkel, three of The Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized countries, will be headed by women. Parity is promising at the pinnacle in the global political pipeline.

Doris Bures became interim co-president of Austria in July. Thai Ing-wen became the first female president of the Republic of China in May. Hilda Heine is the first female president of the Marshall Islands in January. Dame Patsy Reddy will be sworn in as Governor General of New Zealand in September.

Rep. Shirley Chisholm became the first African-American woman elected to Congress in 1968. She became the first major-party African-American candidate for U.S. President and the first female to run for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 1972. Chisholm was the second female after Sen. Margaret Chase Smith was the Republican Party presidential candidate in 1964.

It took 72 years for American women to be granted suffrage. From the First Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848, and 19 successive Congressional campaigns, to the 1920 ratification of the 19th Amendment. The “Susan B. Anthony Amendment” granted all American women the right to vote. Geraldine Ferraro, in 1984, and Sarah Palin, in 2008, blazed the trail to the top the ticket, as Veep nominees for the Democrats and Republicans, respectively. Hillary Clinton voters shattered the highest and hardest ceiling to gender equality to grant her the Presidential nomination.

In 1776, Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, John, as he attended the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. As the men constructed the laws for the new country, she admonished him:

“Remember the ladies, and be more generous to them than your ancestors.”

Hence, my goal is to document women’s history, often missing from traditional textbooks and media coverage, and connect to current news and events. See my “Women Make News and History Every Day Database” at www.beverlywettenstein.com.

Herewith, 240 years later, in Philadelphia and across the nation, let us honor the ladies who made herstory this week. I note that two modern pioneer political women leaders, born this week, were presidential contenders. Democratic Rep. Patricia Schroeder ran briefly in 1988 and Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole in 2000. See “This Week in Women’s History” below. My mission is to “Celebrate Women Every Day and Make History!” Onward and upward!


This Week in Women’s History: July 24–30

Jacqueline Kennedy at the White House

July 24

1897 Amelia Earhart born. “Lady Lindy” raised new heights for women. First female to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic on fifth anniversary of Lindberg’s flight (1932). A women’s advocate, she organized The Ninety-Nines for female pilots and supported the Equal Rights Amendment. Disappeared on flight over the Pacific (1937).

1920 Bella Abzug born. Rep., NY (1973–1977). Civil rights lawyer graduated from Columbia Law School, class of 1945, as one of three women in the class. She was rejected from Harvard Law School because women were not accepted until the class of 1953. Abzug first sought public office, at 50, with the slogan “This woman’s place is in the House — the House of Representatives.” She was the first female elected to Congress on a women’s rights platform. Abzug initiated the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues. She co-authored historic bills, including Title IX and the first law banning discrimination against women seeking credit. In 1976, Abzug was the first female to run for the Senate from New York. She lost the race by less than one percent. (Hillary Clinton was elected the first woman senator from New York and served 2001–2009). Abzug presided over the first federally-funded National Conference on Women in Houston in 1977. Her legacy continues in The Bella Abzug Institute, to mentor and train middle school, high school and college women (www.abzuginstitute.org).

1963 Julie Krone born. First female to win a Triple Crown, at Belmont Stakes (1993). First female inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame (2000).

July 25

1920 Rosalind Franklin born. Molecular biologist’s contributions to DNA discovery were recognized after her death, at 37.

2007 Pratibha Patil, 72, took office as India’s first female and 12th president.

July 26

1990 Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues introduced Women’s Health Equity Act to address women’s health problems,including $50 million for additional research.

1956 Dorothy Hamill born. Figure skater, at 19, won Gold Medal at 1976 Olympic Winter Games.

1935 Charlotte Beers born. First female vice-president at J. Walter Thompson ad agency in 106 years in 1970’s. Chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather ad agency (1992–1997). Succeeded by Shelly Lazarus. Featured on cover of the first Fortune “Most Powerful Women” issue (1997). In 1988, she was the first female in the 99 years of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4 A’s), to be named Chairman.

1945 Helen Mirren born. There is nothing like a Dame! Actress has achieved Triple Crown: Academy Award for Best Actress, “The Queen,” 2007; Tony Award, Best Actress and Emmy Awards. Appointed DBE (Dame of the British Empire) in 2003.

1961 Anne X. Alpern became the first female to sit on the Pa. Supreme Court. She was the first female in that position and the first female State Atty. General. Graduated University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 1927.

July 27

1928 Genevieve Rose Cline, 49, became the first female appointed a U.S. federal judge, appointed by President Harding, at U.S. Customs Court. She served 25 years in New York City.

1948 Peggy Fleming born. Figure skater won Gold Medal in 1968 Olympics.

July 28

1866 Congress voted to commission Vinnie Ream, 18, to create a marble statue of Abraham Lincoln, to be in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. She was the first female and youngest artist to receive such an honor.

1879 Lucy Burns born. Suffragist graduated Vassar College in 1902. Graduate studies at Oxford led to meeting the English suffragists, Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters. Following protests, at a police station in London, she met Alice Paul. They co-founded the National Woman’s Party in America in 1916, with the primary goal of passing a federal suffrage amendment. Burns led protests outside the White House and was imprisoned seven times and staged hunger strikes. Ultimately, she lobbied in Tenn. for final ratification of the 19th Amendment.

The landmark Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, the home and headquarters for the National Woman’s Party, in Washington, D.C., was declared America’s newest national park site, by Presidential Proclamation, in April (www.sewewallbelmont.org).

1932 Sen. Nancy Landon Kassbaum born. First female elected to full-term in Senate not preceded by husband in Congress (1978–1997). First female elected to Senate from Kansas.

1929 Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis born. As First Lady (1961–1963), Jacqueline Kennedy focused on White House history and preservation. She created the first official White House guidebook and the White House Historical Association, to raise private funds in 1961, to furnish, restore and preserve the White House with authentic furnishings. Thanks to her leadership and initiative, today the White House is an accredited museum. The guidebook she conceived and edited herself in 1962 marked its 50th year in print. Since she created the WHHA, more than $45 million has been raised to support White House projects.

Following the president’s assassination, she moved to New York City. When Grand Central Terminal was threatened with demolition in 1975, she actively led the preservation effort. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Landmarks Law, which saved Grand Central. A plaque commemorating her leadership to preserve public spaces and historic landmarks is mounted inside the terminal’s 42nd Street entrance.

July 29

1936 Sen. Elizabeth Hanford Dole born. First female Secretary of Transportation (1983–1987); Secretary of Labor (1989–1990); president, American Red Cross (1991–1999). She was the first female senator from North Carolina (2003–2009). Dole ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000. She graduated Harvard Law School in 1965, as one of 24 women in class of 550 students.

1930 Nancy Hays Teeter born. First female governor, Federal Reserve Bank (1978–1984).

1906 Mary G. Roebling born. First female head of a major American bank, the Trenton Trust Company, in 1937, at 30. She was the first female governor at the American Stock Exchange (1958–1962).

July 30

1956 Anita Hill born. Yale Law School (1980) graduate accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, of sexual harassment. He had been her boss at the Dept. of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). She was called to testify at public televised confirmation hearings. Now she is University Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women’s Studies, at Brandeis University.

1939 Eleanor Smeal born. Women’s advocate, political analyst and organizer was three-term president of the National Organization for Women (1977–1987). Co-founded the Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher ofMs.magazine, in 1987.

1942 U.S. Naval Reserves women (WAVES: Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) branch authorized by president. Naval Reserve accepted women as enlistees and commissioned officers to release men for sea duty.

1940 Rep. Patricia Schroeder born. First female elected to Congress from Colorado (1973–1997), at 32. She was the first femaleto serve on the House Armed Services Committee and was original sponsor of the Family & Medical Leave Act of 1993. After serving 12 terms, Schroeder explained she had “spent 24 years in a federal institution.” She briefly entered the 1988 presidential campaign but withdrew.

The chairman of the Armed Services Committee insisted Schroeder and the African-American congressman share one seat because they were each worth “half of one member” on the Committee.


Credit source: Beverly Wettenstein’s “Women Make News & History Every Day Database” at www.beverlywettenstein.com

Beverly Wettenstein

Written by

Women’s Advocate, Speaker, Journalist, Author, Historian, Media Monitor. Founder of Women Make History Every Day Database. www.beverlywettenstein.com

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