Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Federal Woman's Award Ceremony

March 02, 1965

Ladies and gentlemen:

I am very proud and pleased to welcome you ladies to the White House this morning.

You illuminate your surroundings not only with your talent--but with your beauty as well.

Our country has come a long way since the first woman government employee was appointed postmaster at Baltimore in 1773. She was Mary Goddard.

Miss Goddard faced rather formidable opposition. At that time, no less a person than Thomas Jefferson was saying, and I quote: "The appointment of a woman to office is an innovation for which the public is not yet prepared."

Today we can safely say that attitudes have changed among the public, and I believe among the Presidents.

More than 600,000 women are employed today by the Federal Government--in four-fifths of the job classifications. More women than men are engaged in personnel administration, in accounting, in budgeting, in mathematics, in statistics, and in several other fields.

At no time in the history of this Nation have there been so many women holding so many positions in the highest grades of the Civil Service--at salaries of $100,000 or more. And in just a little over a year that I have been President I have promoted more than 2,000 women drawing more than $100,000 per year, and I have made almost a hundred Presidential appointments to women.

So I am especially proud of your record. I believe it is true that there is no more accurate measure of a society than its attitude toward women. So in welcoming women to offices of highest public trust, we do far more than just honor an individual woman--we honor ourselves and we also keep a trust with society.

All Americans together constitute barely 6 percent of the entire world's population. So the challenges that we face require the commitment and require the participation of that full 6 percent, and that includes all the Women.

The women of America represent a reservoir of talent that is still underused. It is too often underpaid, and almost always under-promoted.

The Federal Government is our Nation's biggest employer. I believe it should also be the Nation's best employer. I hope that we can set an outstanding and inspiring example for all employers by entrusting top positions to women of top potential.

There is one example from the past that I never forget. On the first civil service examination that was ever given, the highest score was made by a woman--and she got the second job.

The day is past in private employment, as in public employment, when discrimination against able women can be condoned. I wouldn't think of trying it for a moment, but if I did I would have to move my cot into the Cabinet Room instead of going back to the Mansion.

Equal pay for equal work is important-although my wife doesn't get it; she has to work for nothing--but more important is equal opportunity and equal recognition for equal, and sometimes quite superior, ability. And both of us are doing our best to see that the Government recognizes superior ability in whatever sex, whatever race, whatever region may be involved.

So as winners of these awards for outstanding service, you six women have proved your superior abilities. You have done so in difficult and you have done so in trying tests. I admire your talent but I admire more your perseverance and your patience and your pioneering.

By these awards I hope that we may emphasize that there is no more appreciative employer than your Federal Government. Your success will encourage more and more young women to seek careers in the Federal Service.

A few months ago I thought that if the Civil Service Commission was capable of selecting hundreds of thousands of employees for our Government it could make a decided contribution to helping the President select a few dozen. So I asked the Chairman of the Civil Service Commission to set up some conferences with me where I could outline the people that we needed, and one of the great sources of strength I have had has come from the very able Chairman of the Civil Service Commission.

He told me Sunday, I believe it was, that in the dozens of people that we had selected he had been able, I believe, to get about 60 percent of them from the career service. These are 60 percent of the people from the career service that have been promoted to Presidential appointees.

I was talking the other day about what happens right in the service that we don't know about. I haven't met you women before. I didn't know, for instance, that Jim Webb, who now directs this great scientific adventure, the Space Agency, could have been located--if any of you people had been wanting to see him--as an assistant clerk in the Rules Committee of the House of Representatives many years ago, later over here in the State Department, and later in the Budget Bureau.

Also that Jack Connor, the new Secretary of Commerce, who became one of the Nation's outstanding managerial persons and now heads the Commerce Department, was for a while an assistant to an assistant of Jim Forrestal's and worked for the War Production Board.

Also that the former President of the Ford Motor Company left a job in the Pentagon as Director of Statistics to draw $540,000 a year from Ford--and he is now Secretary of Defense.

So all of these people are around us, and some day one of those great industrial enterprises will be led by some of you women.

Mrs. Mary Bunting is blazing the trail now in one of our new scientific fields-the former President of Radcliff. When I first suggested her name there were 100 people told me all the reasons why I shouldn't even talk to her and why she couldn't serve and why she wouldn't serve, and all those things. I said, "I need you. Please come help me." And she is here today and she is making a great success of her work.

So to Katie and Esther and the rest of you that help me in finding good women, I want to express my gratitude and I want to encourage more and more women to seek careers in the Federal Service.

You have earned these awards. You have earned the thanks and gratitude of all Americans-and as a man who lives in a family where I am outnumbered three to one by women, I congratulate each of you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:22 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. During his remarks he referred to James E. Webb, Director, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, John T. Connor, Secretary of Commerce, James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 1945-1947, and later Secretary of Defense, and Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense. He also referred to Mrs. Mary I. Bunting, member of the Atomic Energy Commission, Mrs. Katie S. Louchheim, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Community Advisory Services and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Woman's Award, and Mrs. Esther Peterson, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Labor Standards and Chairman of the President's Committee on Consumer Interests.

The recipients of the Federal Woman's Award were: Ann Z. Caracristi, Senior Intelligence Research Analyst, National Security Agency, Dr. Elizabeth B. Drewry, Director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Mrs. Dorothy Morrow Gilford, Director of Mathematical Sciences Division, Office of Naval Research, Carol C. Laise, Deputy Director, Office of South Asian Affairs, Department of State, Dr. Sarah E. Stewart, Head of the Human Virus Studies Section, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, and Dr. Penelope Hartland Thunberg, Deputy Chief, International Division, Office of Research and Reports, Central Intelligence Agency.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Federal Woman's Award Ceremony Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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