Virginia Knauer

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Virginia Harrington Knauer
EHD & Mrs Knauer.jpg
Knauer (right) with Elizabeth Dole
1st Director of the Office of Consumer Affairs
In office
January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Esther Peterson
Succeeded by Ann Windham Wallace
In office
February 24, 1971[a] – January 20, 1977
President Richard Nixon
Gerald Ford
Preceded by Position created
Succeeded by Esther Peterson
3rd Special Assistant to the President for Consumer Affairs
In office
April 19, 1969 – February 24, 1971
President Richard Nixon
Preceded by Betty Furness
Succeeded by Position abolished
1st Director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Consumer Protection
In office
January 1, 1968 – April 19, 1969
Governor Ray Shafer
Preceded by Position created
Succeeded by Bette Clemens[b]
Member of the Philadelphia City Council from the At-Large District
In office
January 4, 1960 – January 1, 1968
Preceded by Seat created
Succeeded by W. Thacher Longstreth
Personal details
Born (1915-03-28)March 28, 1915
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died October 16, 2011(2011-10-16) (aged 96)
Washington, D.C.
Spouse(s) Wilhelm Knauer
Children Two
Alma mater University of Pennsylvania
a.^ Though the Office of Consumer Affairs was originally created by an Executive Order in February of 1971,[1] it was not backed by statutory law until Congressional approval was given in October of that year.[2]
b.^ Richard W. Richards served as Acting Director from the date of Knauer's departure until August of 1969.[3]

Virginia Harrington Knauer (née Wright; March 28, 1915 – October 16, 2011) was an American Republican politician. She served as the Special Assistant to the President for Consumer Affairs and Director of the U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs (1969–1977 and 1981–1989). In 1960 she became the first Republican woman to be elected to the Philadelphia City Council, in which she served for eight years. She was appointed to the newly created post of chief consumer advisor to Pennsylvania Governor Ray Shafer. She was also the mentor and good friend of former North Carolina Senior Senator Elizabeth Dole. Knauer died on October 16, 2011 in Washington, D.C., at age 96.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Knauer was born Virginia Harrington Wright on March 28, 1915, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[5] She grew up in Philadelphia, where her father was a professor of accounting at Temple University. She was educated at the Philadelphia High School for Girls, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the University of Pennsylvania (graduated 1937); she also attended the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, Italy.[6]

During the 1950s, Knauer was one of the country's top breeders of Doberman Pinschers. She served as president of the Doberman Pinscher Club of America.[5]

Political career[edit]

A Republican party operative, Knauer was elected to the Philadelphia City Council in 1959. Later, she was the head of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Consumer Protection.[5] She became Richard Nixon's special assistant for consumer affairs in 1969. At the time, she was the highest-ranking woman in the administration. She also became the director of the U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs, where she became an energetic supporter of consumers' rights. In 1970, she told The Washington Post, "I've been a feminist for 20 years, and I'm all for advancing women in public office."[5] Her top assistant was a lawyer named Elizabeth Hanford, whom she introduced to her future husband, Robert Dole.[5]

In office, Knauer promoted recycling and nutritional labeling, unit pricing of groceries, and other consumer-friendly features. She predicted that, because of domestic automakers' reluctance to install safety and environmental improvements, among other advances, foreign manufacturers would increase their share of the U.S. auto market.[5] She also headed the Office of Consumer Affairs under the Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan administrations.[5]


Knauer married Wilhelm F. Knauer, a lawyer, in 1940.[5] Wilhelm Knauer served as Pennsylvania Deputy Attorney General.[7] He died in 1976.[5] The Knauers had one son, Judge Wilhelm F. Knauer, Jr. (died 1986[5]), one daughter, Valerie Knauer Burden, and three granddaughters, Virginia Burden, Frances Burden, and Nancy J. Knauer.[7] Virginia Knauer died October 16, 2011, of congestive heart failure, in Washington, D.C.[5]


  1. ^ Morris, John D. (February 25, 1971). "President Urges U.S. Set Product Safety Standards; Forms Consumer Affairs Office in White House Under Mrs. Knauer Nixon Urges Product Safety Standards". The New York Times. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Buyers bill voted in House". The Baltimore Sun. October 15, 1971. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 
  3. ^ Sennett, William (December 27, 1969). "Big Strides In Consumer Protection". The Beaver County Times. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Virginia Knauer, Consumer Advocate, Dies at 96", by William Grimes, The New York Times, October 27, 2011
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Schudel, Matt, "An early, energetic voice for consumers", Obituary, The Washington Post, Oct. 30, 2011, p. C8.
  6. ^ Naedele, Walter F. (October 19, 2011). "Virginia Wright Knauer, 96, U.S. consumer official". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Morrison, John F. (October 18, 2011). "Virginia Knauer, 96, hot-dog watchdog". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 

External links[edit]