Helen Thomas - First Female Member of the White House Press Corps
Veteran journalist Helen Thomas served in the White House press corps under ten presidents, and became the first female member of the group during President Kennedy’s administration. An advocate for women’s rights, Thomas convinced President Kennedy not to attend annual dinners for White House correspondents and photographers if women were not invited.
Pictured: President Kennedy speaks with Thomas in the Rose Garden, April 1963.
-from the JFK Library
Jeanne Holm, Special Assistant for Women’s Affairs
President Ford appointed Jeanne Holm, Major General USAF (Retired), as Special Assistant to the President for Women on March 8, 1976. She succeeded Patricia S. Lindh, who had resigned to become Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.
Jeanne Holm enlisted in the armed services during World War II and later became the first woman to attend the Air Command and Staff College. She went on attain the rank of Major General in the Air Force, and at the time of her retirement in June 1975 had the distinction of being the highest ranking woman ever to serve in the U.S. armed forces.
As Special Assistant, Holm served as a liaison with women’s organizations and provided the President and White House staff members with advice on legislation, regulations, and executive orders. Her office also developed programs supporting women’s civil rights and encouraged recruitment of women for top-level government positions.
I’m not fancy. I’m what I appear to be.
Today in history, March 11, 1993, Janet Reno was appointed as the first woman Attorney General of the United States by President Clinton. She served from 1993-2001, longer than any other Attorney General in the 20th century.
Today marks the 90th anniversary of the first time the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was introduced in Congress in 1923. Both Gerald and Betty Ford were strong supporters of this constitutional amendment that stated, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
When the ERA was again introduced in the early 1970s, Congressman Ford voted in favor of it. Just over 30 states had ratified the amendment by the time he entered the White House. As President, Ford urged “those States who have not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment to give serious consideration to its ratification and the upholding of our Nation’s heritage.” He hoped that the requisite goal of ratification by 38 states would be reached in the Bicentennial year of 1976.
First Lady Betty Ford staunchly and vocally supported the ERA. “It is my personal opinion that ratification of the ERA is the single most important step that our nation can take to extend equal opportunity to all Americans,” she said.
Here is one of her statements explaining why she was firmly in favor of this amendment.
I think there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.
Madeleine Albright, 2006
On this day in history — December 5, 1996 — Madeleine Albright was nominated for U.S. Secretary of State by President Bill Clinton. She was the first woman to hold the post.
Today in history: 32 years ago, Sandra Day O’Connor becomes the first woman to be sworn in as Supreme Court Justice.
President Ronald Reagan had nominated O’Connor to the Court one month earlier on August 19, 1981.
Photo: Sandra Day O’Connor being sworn in by Chief Justice Warren Burger. Her husband John O’Connor looks on. 9/25/81. U.S. Supreme Court.
-from the Reagan Library
"…affirming the right of girls to play Little League baseball."
Located in President Gerald R. Ford’s legislation case files is a recommendation to approve the bill H.R. 8864 and amend the Federal charter of Little League Baseball, allowing girls to play.
Did you know JFK had a formal White House visit with a troll? It’s true! Pictured, President Kennedy meets pilot Betty Miller (who completed the first solo flight by a woman across the Pacific Ocean) and “Dammit,” the troll doll who joined her for the trip!
Mrs. Miller received the Federal Aviation Agency’s Decoration for Exceptional Service from the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Agency, Najeeb Halaby (right). (Credit: Abbie Rowe/JFK Library)