Susan Brown: All the Presidents’ Women
At least Romney had binders. Binders full of qualified women to fill cabinet positions, that is. Democrats mercilessly pounded Romney for the binders comment he made during the 2012 presidential campaign, but I’ll bet the Obama campaign now wishes Romney had passed the binders on to Obama, since it seems he’s having a hard time picking women to fill his second-term cabinet positions.
The recently released official White House photo of a predominately pale-faced and testosterone-filled cabinet (which I have no problem with) is enough to cause any misinformed voter into wondering what has become of the so-called party of women.
To be fair, women fill about half the White House staff positions, but the highest- level cabinet positions are currently extremely male and predominantly white. This seems a bit odd, considering the media narrative over the past 50 years has painted Republicans as the party of rich white men. But that’s not the case, if you look at the actual highest-level cabinet positions women were appointed to since Franklin D. Roosevelt.
FDR appointed Frances Perkins as the first female cabinet member in 1933. Democrat presidential successors Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson, appointed zero.
Republican president Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Oveta Culp Hobby as the first secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Republican president Richard M. Nixon, zero.
At that point in history, after four Democrat and two Republican presidents, two female cabinet members were appointed, one per party.
Republican president Gerald Ford appointed Carla Anderson Hills as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and then Democrat president Jimmy Carter appointed Shirley Ann Mount Hufstedler as Secretary of Education, Patricia Roberts Harris as Health and Human Services secretary, and Juanita Morris Kreps as Commerce secretary. The score: Democrats 4 and Republicans 2.
Republican Ronald Reagan appointed Margaret Heckler as HHS secretary, Ann McLaughlin Korologos as secretary of labor, and Elizabeth Dole as transportation secretary. Reagan’s successor, Republican president George H.W. Bush, appointed Elizabeth Dole as labor secretary, Lynn Morley Martin as his second labor secretary, and Barbara Hackman Franklin as secretary of commerce. Democrats 4, Republicans 8.
Democrat president Bill Clinton, who thoroughly enjoyed women in the White House, only appointed five women to his cabinet during both terms. Clinton appointed Hazel Reid O’Leary as energy secretary, Alexis Margaret Herman as labor secretary, Madeleine Albright as secretary of state, Janet Reno as attorney general, and Donna Shalala as HHS decretary. Democrats: 9.
And then there was George W. Bush, God love him. Bush haters may want to take a deep breath before reading how many women he appointed to his cabinet. Gale Ann Norton was the first female secretary of the interior, Condoleezza Rice became the first female African-American secretary of state, Elaine Chao enjoyed two terms as labor secretary, Ann Veneman was appointed as U.S. secretary of agriculture, Margaret Spellings as education secretary, Maria Cino served as acting transportation secretary until another woman, Mary E. Peters, was nominated to that position. Christine Todd Whitman was appointed as EPA administrator and, for a total of nine female appointees, Bush appointed Susan Carol Schwab as U.S. trade representative in 2006. Republicans: 17.
This takes us to President Obama, who, in his first term appointed to his cabinet six women: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. So far, Obama’s appointed zero new women for his second.
Since FDR, the Democratic Party has governed over 12 presidential terms with seven presidents, who combined, accounted for 15 female nominees as compared to the GOP’s nine terms, six presidents and 17 female nominees. It seems the “Party of Women” is actually the Republican Party, which doesn’t fit the mold cast by Democrats of a party filled with pregnant, barefoot soccer moms who forgot to pay for their birth control.
Susan Stamper Brown writes about politics, the military, the economy and culture. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.