Cabinet of President Joe Biden. (Adam Schultz, White House)
When President Joe Biden’s cabinet gathered for its first assembly on the White House, about half had been women, together with Janet Yellen as the primary feminine secretary of the treasury. It was a exceptional second for gender equality on the prime of our authorities.
Until 1933, no girl had been referred to as Madam Secretary. That ended when Franklin Roosevelt appointed Frances Perkins as his secretary of labor. It took one other 20 years till the second girl, Oveta Culp Hobby, was appointed secretary of well being, training and welfare by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1953. In newer years, President Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama appointed extra women, paving the way in which for Biden’s feminine majority.
A pair miles up Pennsylvania Avenue, the Congress additionally has been a males’s membership for many of its historical past with an occasional girl, together with one who served sooner or later within the Senate earlier than resigning. This 12 months, the Senate convened with 24 feminine members of 100, and with 131 women within the House. It has been an fascinating journey.
Within our lifetimes, we went from no girl ever within the Cabinet, a pair within the House, and none within the Senate. Labor leaders, all male, who had supported Roosevelt, weren’t glad along with his selection of Perkins, offended that she had taken a person’s job. They grew extra accepting when she curtly instructed Alfred Sloan, the top of General Motors, who was resisting negotiating with the UAW, “When you die, you will go to Hell.” Perkins was additionally central to the event of Social Security and established the She-She-She Corps to complement the all-male Civilian Conservation Corps, the CCC.
She paved the way in which for appointments of women, though it took some time. The second feminine cabinet secretary was appointed 20 years later by Eisenhower.
The Senate additionally moved at breakneck velocity. In 1948 Margaret Chase Smith was elected after serving for a decade within the House of Representatives. She served within the higher chamber for 4 phrases till she retired. For most of these years she was the one girl within the Senate.
Her most illustrious second got here when she took on Sen. Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin, a fellow Republican, a drunken demagogue and a rabid ant-Communist who discovered them the place they didn’t exist.
While all of the male senators stood silent, Sen. Smith took him on. Her “Declaration of Conscience” speech, given whereas McCarthy was current, was the turning level in an terrible time. He was later censured by the Senate. It is possible that with out her braveness, it will not have occurred.
Our authorities and nation could be rather a lot totally different right now had it not been for 2 women who made the Biden cabinet possible. With luck, there might be a Frances Perkins or Margaret Chase Smith amongst them.
Norman Sherman of Coralville has labored extensively in politics, together with as Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s press secretary, and authored a memoir “From Nowhere to Somewhere.”