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A Matter of Simple Justice

Richard Nixon a feminist? So argues former Secretary of Commerce and Staff Assistant to President Nixon, Barbara Hackman Franklin.

She was in Yorba Linda Monday with author Lee Stout to discuss A Matter of Simple Justice: The Untold Story of Barbara Hackman Franklin and a Few Good Women, his new book about how the Nixon administration recruited more women to government than its predecessors.  A Few Good Women, a special poster exhibit on the subject, is also now on display in the Nixon Library lobby.

Secretary Franklin started her career in government after a series of unexpected events early in RN's first term, the first of which came during a February 6, 1969 press conference when Vera Glaser, a reporter with the North American Newspaper Alliance and the only woman in the White House briefing room, asked the newly inaugurated 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. Can 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 responded, "very seriously, I had not known that only three had gone to women, and I shall see that we correct that imbalance very promptly.”

And he did. In 1970, RN created the Task Force on Women's Rights and Responsibilities, which would subsequently release a report entitled "A Matter of Simple Justice," with the progressive mission of ending employment discrimination against women throughout all levels of the executive branch - including cabinet and White House posts, Federal commissions, as well as in civil service and government contracts.

In 1971, Secretary Franklin was brought to the White House to lead the effort.

"It was management by objective," Secretary Franklin explained, "in a year we tripled the number of women in the higher level [executive appointments], and the most important thing about it ... was that more than half of them were in jobs that women have never held before."

Most significant was the fact that 1,000 women were promoted as the government was cutting back new hires, giving them the opportunity to assume high-level executive positions in succeeding administrations.

"It changed the conversation about equality for women," Secretary Franklin said about the effect the initiative had on what had been the loud and left wing character of the women's rights movement.

"This would not have happened without Presidential leadership."

Click here to order your signed edition of A Matter of Simple Justice.

Jonathan Movroydis is the Director of Communications at the Richard Nixon Foundation.