“I believe in the American system of entrepreneurial capitalism. It is this system, coupled with our democracy and rule of law, which has made the U.S. economy the largest and most dynamic in the world and brought our country unprecedented prosperity. It is this system which makes the American dream a reality.”
– Barbara Hackman Franklin
Franklin first began her work in public service when she was recruited from Citibank in New York to spearhead a White House effort on behalf of President Nixon. She was charged with bringing women into the upper echelons of government service. In a year, this effort resulted in tripling the number of women in appointive positions. This achievement is documented through a collection of oral histories, A Few Good Women…, housed at the Pennsylvania State University Libraries. In order to further document this watershed era for women, a relationship with the Richard M. Nixon Library and Museum has been developed.
Franklin went on to hold Presidential appointments in the administrations of five U.S. Presidents. She was one of the original commissioners of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and later, the 13th woman to serve in the U.S. Cabinet, as the 29th Secretary of Commerce, nearly twenty years after her efforts to advance women. Franklin was the first Republican woman to serve as Secretary of Commerce. She has received numerous leadership awards and honors and has been a leader in the Republican Party throughout her career.
When President Richard M. Nixon held a press conference shortly after his inauguration to announce appointments, reporter Vera Glaser asked why there were only 3 women among the first 200 appointments. This was, after all, the era of women’s liberation. Only two women had ever been appointed to Cabinet positions – Frances Perkins to Labor by President Franklin Roosevelt and Oveta Culp Hobby to Health, Education & Welfare by President Dwight Eisenhower. Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME) was the lone woman in the Senate and there were only 12 women in the House.
The numbers have changed dramatically since that time and the public service contributions of many talented women are evident throughout the government, from the local level to the federal level. Barbara Franklin was among the earliest wave of women to break those barriers in the early 1970s. She went on to serve in the administrations of five U.S. presidents.
Full-Time Presidential Appointments
29th U.S. Secretary of Commerce, 1992-93**
An original Commissioner, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commissioner, 1973-79**
Vice-Chairman, 1973-74; 1977-78
Staff Assistant to the President, 1971-73
for the recruitment of women to high-level positions in government
Part-Time Presidential Appointments
Member, President’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy & Negotiations, 1982-86; 89-91
Chairman, Task Force on Tax Reform, 1985-86
Member, North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Task Force, 1991
Alternate Representative & Public Delegate, UN General Assembly, 44th Session, 1989-90**
Other Part-Time Governmental Appointments
Member, Consultant Panel for the Comptroller General of the U.S., 1984-92; 1994-96
Member, Board of Visitors, Defense Systems Management College, 1986-89
Member, Business Research Advisory Council, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department
of Labor, 1968-71
**Senate Confirmation Required