A matter of simple justice: The untold story of Barbara Hackman Franklin and A few good women by Lee Stout.

Author:Friedman, Barry
Position:Book review

Stout, Lee. A Matter of Simple Justice: The Untold Story of Barbara Hackman Franklin and A Few Good Women. University Park, Penn.: Pennsylvania State University Libraries, 2012. 232 pages. Cloth, $24.95.

Richard M. Nixon was elected president of the United States in 1968, at a time when black and female Americans were conceiving of previously unattainable levels of opportunity. Initially, policymaking positions in Nixon's administration, as in those of his predecessors, were filled with men. When a variety of women reporters, Republican activists, and women's-rights activists brought the inequity to his attention, Nixon recognized that he could make history by bringing more women into his administration. In 1969, he appointed a Task Force on Women's Rights and Responsibilities, whose report, "A Matter of Simple Justice," advocated an agenda of facilitating the progress of women's civil rights in the United States. The last of five recommendations suggested that Nixon "[e]nd sex discrimination in the executive branch by appointing more women to positions of top responsibility and ensure that women were treated equitably in all matters of hiring and promotion" (p. 31).

Published in the summer of 1970, the report became a political football in the White House, as Nixon's aides attempted to influence the response to the task force's recommendations. In a September 1970 memorandum to Robert Finch, former California lieutenant governor who was serving as counselor to the president, Nixon wrote, "We have failed to grab the ball on the whole women's business and we need to do some things to see that women are properly recognized and we get credit for the things we do carry out with women" (p. 48). Finch, who had developed a record of being outspoken on women's rights, replied, "The Administration should take steps to recognize and engage the increasing competence and importance of women so that they will work for and in the Administration, rather than against it" (p. 49). Finch paved the way for the April 1971 appointment of Barbara Ann Hackman Franklin, then 31 years old, to be staff assistant to the president for executive manpower and to be responsible for the recruitment of women to serve in policymaking positions in the administration. Franklin was a 1962 graduate of Pennsylvania State University, earned an M.B.A. degree from the Harvard Business School in 1964, and was a vice president at First National City Bank (now known as CitiBank) in...

To continue reading