Women and the GOP
A History of Leadership

Women and the GOP

The Beginnings of the NFRW


For more than 150 years, women have been an active and vital force in the Republican Party.

Because it seems only natural for men and women to work together on matters that affect the nation, the GOP has focused not so much on advertising what they are “doing” for women, but instead on simply utilizing the talents and energies of any individual who wants to share in the work for the benefit of our country.

Through the utilization of the unique talents of individual Republican women – as well as the combined energies of multitudes of Republican women – the Republican Party has proven itself to be the party of opportunity, the party of true equality. Following are highlights of the role of women in the Republican Party and examples of the unique and vital contributions women have made to our Party:

1854
Three women attend the founding meeting of the Republican Party in Ripon, Wis., and women actively campaign for Republican presidential candidate John Fremont.  

1860
Journalist Jane Grey Swisshelm becomes known as the "mother of the Republican Party" in Minnesota.

Republicans win the White House for the first time with the election of Abraham Lincoln, whose campaign was aided by prominent women such as suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

1860s
Anna Dickinson of Pennsylvania becomes the "star" of the Republican Party by campaigning in state and national races across the country.

1872
The first official recognition of women in a major party platform appears in the Republican Party platform.

1876
Sara Andrews Spencer, who ran a school of penmanship with her husband in Washington, D.C., becomes the first woman to address a committee at the Republican National Convention when she presents a "woman suffrage memorial" written by Susan B. Anthony.

1878
At the request of Susan B. Anthony, Sen. A.A. Sargent (R-CA) introduces the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Congress.

1888
Judith Ellen Foster of Iowa establishes the Women's National Republican Association, the first woman's partisan organization formally recognized by the Republican Party.

1892
Therese A. Jenkins and Cora Carleton, alternates from Wyoming, are the first women to be officially seated at a Republican National Convention.

The first woman to address the Republican National Convention, J. Ellen Foster, declares in her speech, "We are here to help you, and we have come to stay."

1894
Republican Estelle Reel of Wyoming is the first woman elected to state office when she becomes Wyoming's second superintendent of public instruction.

1895
Republicans Clara Cressingham, Carrie C. Holly, and Frances S. Klock of Colorado are sworn in as first women to serve in a state legislature in U.S. history.

1896
The first equal rights of women plank carried in any major party platform is contained in the Republican Party platform.

1908
The first two women seated at a Republican National Convention as full delegates are Lucy Clark and Susa Young Gates, both of Utah.

1916
The first woman elected to Congress is a Republican – Jeannette Rankin – elected member-at-large from Montana.

The first major party to favor federal woman suffrage is the Republican Party.

1918
The Republican National Committee appoints Ruth Hanna McCormick of Illinois to head a new women's organization, the Republican Women's National Executive Committee, which was renamed the Women's Division in late 1919.

1919
The first act after regaining Republican control of Congress is passage of the Equal Suffrage Amendment.

The Women’s Division of the Republican National Committee is established.

1920
Lenna Lowe Yost becomes the first woman tally clerk at a Republican National Convention. She later becomes Republican National Committeewoman from West Virginia, vice chair of the Republican Executive Committee, and Director of the Republican National Committee Women’s Division.

Eight women are appointed members of a Women’s Executive Committee of the National Committee.

1924
For the first time, women are given equal representation on the Republican National Committee with a rule change providing for a national committeewoman and committeeman from each state.

1928
The first woman to serve as chairman of a convention committee is Mabel Walker Willenbrandt, assistant attorney general of the United States, who chairs the Credentials Committee.

1932
The first woman to serve on the Resolutions Committee is Dr. Martha Robert de Romeu of Puerto Rico.

1933
Minnie Davenport Craig (R-ND) is first woman elected to be Speaker of the House in a state legislature.

1937
The first woman to hold the title of assistant chairman of the Republican National Committee is Marion E. Martin, founder of the National Federation of Republican Women.

1938
The National Federation of Republican Women is founded to educate, inform and motivate women to become political activists.

1940
The Republican Party becomes the first major political party to endorse an equal rights amendment for women in its platform.

Passage of Rule 29 gives women equal representation on all committees of the Republican National Committee.

Gladys Pyle of South Dakota is the first woman to nominate a Republican presidential candidate at a national convention. She nominates Gov. Harl Bushfield.

1944
For the first time, women are given equal representation with men on the Resolutions Committee of the Republican Party.

1945
Mrs. Dudley C. Hay of Michigan becomes the first woman elected secretary of the Republican National Committee.

1948
Judy Weis of New York – second NFRW president – becomes the first woman to run a Republican nominee’s headquarters. She subsequently becomes the first woman to hold a high office in a presidential election campaign, serving as Associate National Director of the Thomas E. Dewey campaign.

1952
For the first time, there is an organized effort to mobilize the American woman’s vote – for Republican presidential candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ivy Baker Priest, later treasurer of the United States, leads the drive.

1953
The first woman named Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare is Oveta Culp Hobby, appointed by President Eisenhower.

The first woman named U.S. ambassador to a major power – Italy – is Republican Clare Booth Luce, also appointed by President Eisenhower.

1956
The first woman parliamentarian at the Republican National Convention is Republican Congresswoman Katherine St. George (R-NY).

1960
Conseulo Northrop Bailey of Vermont is the first woman to serve as chairman of one of the four convention committees when she chairs the Committee on Call.

The first campaign is launched featuring a presidential candidate’s wife as a vote-getter in her own right. Clare B. Williams Shank, assistant chairman of the Republican National Committee, directs the “Pat (Nixon) for First Lady” campaign.

For the first time in the history of any political convention, a woman – Republican Josephine Good – serves as executive director of the Convention.

1964
The first woman to have her name placed in nomination for the U.S. presidency by either of the two major parties is Republican Margaret Chase Smith of Maine (also the first woman elected to both the House and the Senate). She comes in second to Barry Goldwater at the Republican National Convention in San Francisco.

1965
The first woman chairman of a state committee of any major political party is a Republican – Elly Peterson of Michigan.

1971
The first woman in political history to be elected to the national co-chairmanship of either party is a Republican – Anne Armstrong of Texas.

1972
The first woman to be the keynote speaker at a national convention of any major political party is a Republican – Anne Armstrong of Texas.

1974
Mary Louise Smith of Iowa becomes the first woman chairman of the Republican National Committee.

1975
The first woman to be appointed Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development is a Republican – Carla Hills – appointed by President Gerald Ford.

1978
Republican Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas is the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate without first having been preceded by her husband in Congress or first being appointed to fill an unexpired term.

1981
For the first time, two women members of the U.S. Senate – Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-KN) and Sen. Paula Hawkins (R-FL) – serve concurrently in their positions without first being appointed to fill an unexpired term.

The first female Supreme Court justice – Republican Sandra Day O’Connor – is appointed by President Ronald Reagan. 

President Reagan appoints the first woman U.S. Representative to the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick. 

President Reagan also appoints the first female director of presidential personnel, Helene von Damm. 

1982
In his first two years in office, President Reagan appoints more women to serve in top policy-making positions than any other president for a comparable period of time (105 positions). 

1983
The first woman appointed Secretary of the Department of Transportation is a Republican – Elizabeth Dole of Kansas. She is appointed by President Reagan.

The first time in history three women serve concurrently in a president’s cabinet – Elizabeth Dole, Secretary of Transportation; Margaret Heckler, Secretary of Health and Human Services; and, Jeane Kirkpatrick, U.S. Representative to the United Nations. They serve in a Republican administration. 

1984
The first female head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission is Susan Meredith Phillips. 

Janet McCoy becomes the first woman high commissioner of the U.S. Trust Territories. 

Faith Evans of Hawaii is the first woman appointed U.S. Marshall. 

1986
Pat Saiki is the first Republican woman elected as a U.S. representative from the State of Hawaii, and the first Republican Asian-American woman to serve in the U.S. Congress.

The first time in history five Republican women receive the party nomination for governor – Kay Orr of Nebraska, Julie Belaga of Connecticut, Norma Paulus of Oregon, Arliss Sturgelewski of Alaska, and Patty Cafferata of Nevada. 

The first Republican woman elected governor is Kay Orr of Nebraska. 

1987
In his two terms, President Reagan selects women for more than 1,400 high-level, policy-making positions. 

1989-92
President George Bush appoints approximately 2,500 women to high-level positions, including Surgeon General Antonia C. Novello, Secretary of Labor Elizabeth Dole, Secretary of Transportation Lynn Martin, Secretary of Commerce Barbara Franklin and U.S. Trade Rep. Carla Hills. 

1995
A woman holds the top staff position of the Republican National Committee, and women head six of the RNC’s divisions and departments. 

On January 25, 1995, New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman becomes the first woman to respond to the President’s State of the Union Address. 

Robin Carle becomes the first woman to serve as Clerk of the House of Representatives while Cheryl Lau becomes the first woman to serve as House Counsel. 

A historic number of women gain appointment to prominent committees and leadership positions in the 104th Congress. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-KS) becomes the first woman to chair a Senate committee.

As chairman of the House Small Business Committee, Jan Meyers (R-KS) becomes the first woman to chair a House committee since 1976. 

1998
Republican women chair a record seven House subcommittees and three Senate subcommittees. Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) becomes the first female veteran and the first Air Force Academy graduate elected to the House of Representatives. Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-WA) becomes the first woman to seek a House senior leadership post when she runs for Majority Leader. As vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, Rep. Tillie Fowler (R-FL) is the highest-ranking woman in the U.S. House and the first Floridian to hold a position in the elected Republican majority leadership.

2000
Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-WA) assumes a prominent position when she is named deputy permanent co-chairman of the Republican National Convention.

Judy Martz is the first woman elected governor of Montana, while Melissa Hart (R-PA), Jo Ann Davis (R-VA) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) are the first Republican women elected to the U.S. House from their respective states.

As vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-OH) is the highest-ranking woman in the U.S. House. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) is vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

2001
President George W. Bush appoints several women to key positions in his administration, including Condoleezza Rice, the first female National Security Adviser; Gale Norton, the first female Interior Secretary; and, Ann Veneman, the first female Agriculture Secretary. 

Just days before her 105th birthday, Emma Schweer is re-elected tax collector of Crete Township, Ill. Most likely the nation's oldest elected official, Schweer serves more than 35 years in that office before her death in July 2001.

2002
Congresswoman Deborah Pryce of Ohio is elected chairman of the House Republican Conference, making her the highest-ranking Republican woman ever to serve in the majority party in Congress.

Jennette Bradley is elected lieutenant governor of Ohio, thereby becoming the first African-American Republican woman in the nation to serve in that office.

2004
President George W. Bush appoints Dr. Condoleezza Rice to serve as U.S. Secretary of State, making her the first African-American woman nominated to that position.

Becky Skillman becomes the first woman elected lieutenant governor of Indiana, while Betty Ireland is the first woman elected to serve in West Virginia's executive branch of government. Sarah Steelman is the first Republican woman elected state treasurer in Missouri.

2006
Michele Bachmann is the first Republican woman elected to Congress from Minnesota. Sarah Palin is the first woman elected governor of Alaska.

2008
Sarah Palin, who was elected the first woman governor of Alaska in 2006, makes history again by becoming the GOP's first woman vice presidential nominee.
Sarah Palin

2010
In an election year that becomes known as the "Year of the Republican Woman," three Republican women become the first women governors of their states: Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma and Nikki Haley of South Carolina. Nine Republican women are newly-elected to the U.S. House and one Republican woman is newly-elected to the U.S. Senate. More than a dozen are newly-elected to statewide executive office.

2012
Although 2012 proved to be a challenging year for many Republican women candidates, the State of Indiana elected three Republican women to office: Sue Ellspermann as lieutenant governor, and Jackie Walorski and Susan Brooks to the U.S. Congress.


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