List of female United States Cabinet Secretaries

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Madeline Albright wearing a dark blouse and coat, with an eagle badge on her left shoulder
Condoleezza Rice smiling with thickly applied red lipstick wearing a dark blue jacket over a patterned blouse. The United States flag is in the background.
Hillary Clinton wearing a dark jacket over an orange blouse. The United States flag is in the background.
Madeleine Albright (left), Condoleezza Rice (center), and Hillary Rodham Clinton (right) are the highest-ranking women in the history of the Cabinet, having held the post of Secretary of State, the most senior cabinet position.

The United States Cabinet has had 31 female officers. No woman held a Cabinet position before the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920, which prohibits states and the federal government from denying any citizen the right to vote because of that citizen's sex.[1]

Frances Perkins was the first woman to serve in the Cabinet; she was appointed Secretary of Labor in 1933 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.[2][3] Oveta Culp Hobby became the second woman to serve in the Cabinet,[4] when she was named head of the then newly formed Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1953.[5] This department was subdivided into the departments of Education and Health and Human Services in 1979.[5] Patricia Roberts Harris, who was Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare before the department split and had earlier served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 1977, became the first female Secretary of Health and Human Services in 1979. Harris was also the first African-American woman to serve in the Cabinet.[6]

Former North Carolina Senator Elizabeth Dole is the first woman to have served in two different Cabinet positions in two different administrations. She was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as Secretary of Transportation in 1983, and was the Secretary of Labor during the tenure of George H. W. Bush—Reagan's successor.[7] Czechoslovakia-born Madeleine Albright became the first foreign-born woman to serve in the Cabinet when she was appointed Secretary of State in 1997.[a][8] Her appointment also made her the highest-ranking female Cabinet member at that time.[b][8] Condoleezza Rice was appointed Secretary of State in 2005, and thus became the highest-ranking woman in the United States presidential line of succession in history.[9] In 2006, Nancy Pelosi replaced Rice as the highest-ranking woman in line when she was elected Speaker of the House.[10][11]

In 2009, President Barack Obama named four women to the Cabinet—former Arizona governor Janet Napolitano as Secretary of Homeland Security, former First Lady and New York Senator Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, former California Representative Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor, and former Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services.[12][13][14][15] Clinton became the only First Lady to serve in the Cabinet and the third female Secretary of State.[13] Napolitano became the first female Secretary of Homeland Security.[12] President Barack Obama has appointed eight women to Cabinet-level positions, the most of any Presidency.

The Department of Labor has had the most female Secretaries with seven.[16] The Department of Health and Human Services has had five, the departments of State and Commerce have had three, and the departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development and Transportation have each had two.[16] The defunct Department of Health, Education, and Welfare has also had two female Secretaries.[16] The three existing departments of Defense, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs have not had women Secretaries.[17][18][19]

Female Secretaries[edit]

Current departments[edit]

Frances Perkins was the first woman to hold a Cabinet-level position.
Frances Perkins was the first woman to hold a Cabinet-level position.
Woman with greying dark hair wearing a white turtleneck
Patricia Roberts Harris was the first African-American woman to serve in the Cabinet.
Woman with light-brown hair wearing a red top
Elizabeth Dole is the first woman to serve in two different Cabinet positions in two different administrations.

Numerical order represents the seniority of the Secretaries in the United States presidential line of succession.

 *  denotes the first female secretary of that particular department
# Secretary Position Year
appointed
Party Administration References
1 Albright, MadeleineMadeleine Albright*[b] Secretary of State 1997 Democratic Bill Clinton [20]
1 Rice, CondoleezzaCondoleezza Rice Secretary of State 2005 Republican George W. Bush [9]
1 Clinton, Hillary RodhamHillary Rodham Clinton Secretary of State 2009 Democratic Barack Obama [13]
2  —[c] Secretary of the Treasury  —[c]  —[c]  —[c]  —
3  —[d] Secretary of Defense  —[d]  —[d]  —[d]  —
4 Reno, JanetJanet Reno* Attorney General 1993 Democratic Bill Clinton [21]
5 Norton, GaleGale Norton* Secretary of the Interior 2001 Republican George W. Bush [22]
5 Jewell, SallySally Jewell Secretary of the Interior 2013 Democratic Barack Obama [23][24]
6 Veneman, AnnAnn Veneman* Secretary of Agriculture 2001 Republican George W. Bush [25]
7 Kreps, Juanita M.Juanita M. Kreps* Secretary of Commerce 1977 Democratic Jimmy Carter [26]
7 Franklin, Barbara HackmanBarbara Hackman Franklin Secretary of Commerce 1992 Republican George H. W. Bush [27][28]
7 Blank, RebeccaRebecca Blank Secretary of Commerce (acting) 2011 Democratic Barack Obama [29]
7 Pritzker, PennyPenny Pritzker Secretary of Commerce 2013 Democratic Barack Obama [30]
8 Perkins, FrancesFrances Perkins* Secretary of Labor 1933 Democratic Franklin D. Roosevelt [2][3]
8 McLaughlin, Ann DoreAnn Dore McLaughlin Secretary of Labor 1987 Republican Ronald Reagan [31]
8 Dole, ElizabethElizabeth Dole Secretary of Labor 1989 Republican George H. W. Bush [7]
8 Martin, Lynn MorleyLynn Morley Martin Secretary of Labor 1991 Republican George H. W. Bush [32]
8 Herman, AlexisAlexis Herman Secretary of Labor 1997 Democratic Bill Clinton [33]
8 Chao, ElaineElaine Chao[a] Secretary of Labor 2001 Republican George W. Bush [34]
8 Solis, HildaHilda Solis Secretary of Labor 2009 Democratic Barack Obama [14]
9 Harris, Patricia RobertsPatricia Roberts Harris* Secretary of Health and Human Services 1979 Democratic Jimmy Carter [6]
9 Heckler, MargaretMargaret Heckler Secretary of Health and Human Services 1983 Republican Ronald Reagan [35]
9 Shalala, DonnaDonna Shalala Secretary of Health and Human Services 1993 Democratic Bill Clinton [36]
9 Sebelius, KathleenKathleen Sebelius Secretary of Health and Human Services 2009 Democratic Barack Obama [15]
9 Burwell, Sylvia MathewsSylvia Mathews Burwell Secretary of Health and Human Services 2014 Democratic Barack Obama [37]
10 Hills, Carla AndersonCarla Anderson Hills* Secretary of Housing and Urban Development 1975 Republican Gerald Ford [38]
10 Harris, Patricia RobertsPatricia Roberts Harris Secretary of Housing and Urban Development 1977 Democratic Jimmy Carter [6]
11 Dole, ElizabethElizabeth Dole* Secretary of Transportation 1983 Republican Ronald Reagan [7]
11 Cino, MariaMaria Cino Secretary of Transportation (acting) 2006 Republican George W. Bush [39]
11 Peters, MaryMary Peters Secretary of Transportation 2006 Republican George W. Bush [39]
12 O'Leary, Hazel R.Hazel R. O'Leary* Secretary of Energy 1993 Democratic Bill Clinton [40]
13 Hufstedler, ShirleyShirley Hufstedler* Secretary of Education 1979 Democratic Jimmy Carter [41]
13 Spellings, MargaretMargaret Spellings Secretary of Education 2005 Republican George W. Bush [42]
14  —[e] Secretary of Veterans Affairs  —[e]  —[e]  —[e]  —
15 Napolitano, JanetJanet Napolitano* Secretary of Homeland Security 2009 Democratic Barack Obama [12]

Defunct departments[edit]

The departments are listed in order of their establishment (earliest first).

 *  denotes the first female secretary of that particular department
# Secretary Position Year
appointed
Party Administration References
1  —[f] Postmaster General  —[f]  —[f]  —[f]  —
2  —[g] Secretary of the Navy  —[g]  —[g]  —[g]  —
3  —[h] Secretary of War  —[h]  —[h]  —[h]  —
4  —[i] Secretary of Commerce and Labor  —[i]  —[i]  —[i]  —
5 Hobby, Oveta CulpOveta Culp Hobby* Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare 1953 Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower [4]
5 Harris, Patricia RobertsPatricia Roberts Harris Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare 1979 Democratic Jimmy Carter [6]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  • a Elaine Chao became the second foreign-born woman to serve in the Cabinet when she was appointed Secretary of Labor in 2001.[34]
  • b The Secretary of State, as the most senior Cabinet position, is the first Cabinet member in the line of succession and the fourth overall.[11] Albright was ineligible to serve in the line of succession due to her foreign birth.[11][43]
  • c The Department of the Treasury was established in 1789; no woman has served yet.[17]
  • d The Department of Defense was established in 1947; no woman has served yet.[18]
  • e The Department of Veterans Affairs was established in 1989; no woman has served yet.[19]
  • f The Postmaster General ceased to be a member of the Cabinet when the Post Office Department was re-organized into the United States Postal Service, a special agency independent of the executive branch, by the 1970 Postal Reorganization Act. No woman had ever served while it was a Cabinet post.[44]
  • g The Secretary of the Navy ceased to be a member of the Cabinet when the Department of the Navy was absorbed into the Department of Defense in 1947. No woman had ever served while it was a Cabinet post. Susan Livingstone was the first woman to serve in that post from 2001 to 2003 when it is a position beneath the Secretary of Defense.[45][46]
  • h The position of Secretary of War became defunct when the Department of War became the Department of Defense in 1947. No woman had ever served while it was a Cabinet post.[45]
  • i The position of Secretary of Commerce and Labor became defunct when the Department of Commerce and Labor was subdivided into two separate entities in 1913. No woman had ever served while it was a Cabinet post.[47]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Constitution of the United States: Amendments 11–27". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved November 14, 2008. 
  2. ^ a b "Frances Perkins, The First Woman In Cabinet, Is Dead". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). May 15, 1965. Retrieved November 9, 2008. 
  3. ^ a b Villard, Oswald G. (December 8, 2008). "Roosevelt to Appoint First-Ever Female Cabinet Member". The Nation. Retrieved February 22, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Barron, James (August 17, 1995). "Oveta Culp Hobby, Founder of the WACs And First Secretary of Health, Dies at 90". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved November 14, 2008. 
  5. ^ a b "Historical Highlights". United States Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved November 14, 2008. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Patricia Roberts Harris". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved November 14, 2008. 
  7. ^ a b c "Dole, Elizabeth Hanford, (1936 – )". United States Congress. Retrieved January 13, 2009. 
  8. ^ a b "Albright: Lift 'Foreign' Presidents Bar". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). September 19, 2000. Retrieved November 14, 2008. 
  9. ^ a b "Condoleezza Rice". White House. Retrieved November 14, 2008. 
  10. ^ "Pelosi, Nancy, (1940 – )". United States Congress. Retrieved November 16, 2008. 
  11. ^ a b c "U.S. Code: Title 3, 19. Vacancy In Offices of Both President and Vice President; Officers Eligible to Act". Cornell University Law School. Retrieved November 16, 2008. 
  12. ^ a b c Hulse, Carl (January 20, 2009). "Obama Is Sworn In as the 44th President". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). p. 2. Retrieved January 21, 2009. 
  13. ^ a b c Stout, David (January 21, 2009). "Clinton Is Approved, But Vote on Holder Is Delayed". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved January 21, 2009. 
  14. ^ a b "Senate Confirms Solis as Labor Secretary". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). February 25, 2009. Retrieved February 25, 2009. 
  15. ^ a b Pear, Robert (April 28, 2009). "Senate Confirms Sebelius as Health Secretary". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved April 28, 2009. 
  16. ^ a b c "Women Appointed to Presidential Cabinets" (PDF). Center for American Women and Politics, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Retrieved February 22, 2011. 
  17. ^ a b "History of the Treasury: Secretaries of the Treasury". United States Department of the Treasury. Retrieved November 8, 2008. 
  18. ^ a b "Histories of the Secretaries of Defense". United States Department of Defense. Retrieved November 8, 2008. 
  19. ^ a b "Fact Sheet: Facts About the Department of Veterans Affairs". United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Archived from the original on April 30, 2008. Retrieved November 9, 2008. 
  20. ^ Mitchell, Alison (December 6, 1996). "Albright to Head State Dept.; Republican in Top Defense Job". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved November 9, 2008. 
  21. ^ Berke, Richard L. (February 12, 1993). "Clinton Picks Miami Woman, Veteran State Prosecutor, to Be His Attorney General". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved November 9, 2008. 
  22. ^ Alvarez, Lizette (January 31, 2001). "Senate Confirms Nominees For E.P.A. and Interior Posts". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved November 9, 2008. 
  23. ^ Broder, John M. (March 21, 2013). "Senate Panel Approves Obama’s Choice for Interior Dept.". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 14 June 2014. 
  24. ^ Broder, John M. (April 29, 2013). "New Interior Chief Savors a Steep Learning Curve". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 14 June 2014. 
  25. ^ "Press Release: Secretary-General Appoints Ann M. Veneman, United States Secretary of Agriculture, as Executive Director of United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)". United Nations. Retrieved November 9, 2008. 
  26. ^ Charlton, Linda (December 21, 1976). "Juanita Morris Kreps". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved November 9, 2008. 
  27. ^ Bradsher, Keith (December 27, 1991). "Bush Picks Nominee For Commerce Post". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved November 18, 2008. 
  28. ^ "The Honorable Barbara Hackman Franklin" (PDF). United States Securities and Exchange Commission. May 2006. Retrieved November 18, 2008. 
  29. ^ "Obama's Commerce Secretary Is Taking A Leave Of Absence After Having A Seizure And Causing Two Car Accidents". Business Insider. June 12, 2012. Retrieved July 12, 2013. 
  30. ^ "Senate Easily Confirms Penny Pritzker as Commerce Secretary". The Washington Post. June 25, 2013. Retrieved July 12, 2013. 
  31. ^ "Panel Backs McLaughlin". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). December 10, 1987. Retrieved January 10, 2009. 
  32. ^ Lewis, Neil (December 15, 1990). "Woman in the News: Judith Lynn Morley Martin; For Labor, a Bush Loyalist". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved January 10, 2009. 
  33. ^ Gray, Jerry (May 1, 1997). "After Impasse, Senate Confirms Clinton's Choice for Labor Post". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved January 10, 2009. 
  34. ^ a b "Hall of Secretaries - Elaine L. Chao". United States Department of Labor. Retrieved May 30, 2014. 
  35. ^ "Margaret Heckler Takes Oath as U.S. Secretary of Health". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). March 10, 1983. Retrieved January 10, 2009. 
  36. ^ Toner, Robin (January 16, 2001). "Before Leaving Health Agency, Shalala Offers a Little Advice on a Big Job". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved February 22, 2011. 
  37. ^ Goldstein, Amy (June 5, 2014). "Senate Confirms Sylvia Mathews Burwell as New Secretary of HHS". The Washington Post. Retrieved 6 June 2014. 
  38. ^ Madden, Richard L. (March 11, 1975). "Ford Praises Mrs. Hills as Oath is Administered". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved November 9, 2008. 
  39. ^ a b Hauser, Christine (September 5, 2006). "Bush Nominates New Transportation Secretary". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved January 10, 2009. 
  40. ^ Ifill, Gwen (December 21, 1992). "Clinton to Select Woman as Energy Secretary, His Aides Say". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved November 9, 2008. 
  41. ^ "Secretary of Education Is Confirmed by 81 to 2". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). December 1, 1979. Retrieved November 9, 2008. 
  42. ^ Schemo, Diana Jean (November 18, 2004). "Bush Nominates a Close Adviser for Top Education Post". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved January 10, 2009. 
  43. ^ "The Constitution of the United States: A Transcription". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved November 16, 2008. 
  44. ^ "The United States Postal Service — An American History 1775 – 2002". United States Postal Service. September 2003. Retrieved May 30, 2014. 
  45. ^ a b "Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved November 15, 2008. 
  46. ^ "Secretaries of the Navy". Department of the Navy. Retrieved November 16, 2008. 
  47. ^ "General Records of the Department of Commerce". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved November 15, 2008.