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Lady Lobbyist at the White House, Harper's Weekly

Unidentified Artist1866

Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
Washington, D.C., United States

Punitive postwar measures thrust women into lobbying the government for relief. By the fall of 1866, there was a dramatic increase of women lobbyists, especially in the South. At that time, southerners approached President Johnson to plea for a pardon—as well as a pension—if their property exceeded $20,000 in value.

Women lobbyists made sensational news. The rare sight of women holding discussions at the White House was illustrated on the front page of Harper’s Weekly on October 27, 1866. Formally dressed in elaborate, tiered dresses with trimmings, rounded shoulders, and ceinture waists, the women are the picture of modesty and dignity. Lady Lobbyists posits that women were more than capable of persuading the President. Indeed, the article above it declares, “It has come to be quite a common remark of late when a difficult job is on hand, ‘Get a woman to work.’”

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