Women Unite for Ike!

The 1952 presidential election demonstrated the power of the women's vote; just 32 years after the passage of the 19th Amendment, women made up over half the electorate. Women liked Ike! Meet the women of the Eisenhower Administration.

I Like Ike Fashions ( Mrs. Ike's Hairdo ) (1952-04) by Nina LeenLIFE Photo Collection

Campaign commercials, clothing, and accessories emphasized the importance of women's votes.

By Edward ClarkLIFE Photo Collection

The 19th Amendment & women of the Eisenhower Administration

The elections of 1952 and 1956 showcased the impact and importance of the women’s vote. In an unprecedented turnout of the 1952 election, nearly 17.6 million women voted for Dwight D. Eisenhower out of the nearly 34 million votes cast in his favor. Never before had a political campaign gone so far to court the women’s vote as did the Eisenhower campaign. In response to the overwhelming support he had received from women, he nominated more women to fill positions in his administration than any of his predecessors.

Young Women with Official Eisenhower Nixon Bandwagon and Jeep (1952) by UnknownU.S. National Archives

Joining the bandwagon

Dressed in their finest “Ike Gear,” women joined the Eisenhower Nixon Bandwagon to propel Ike to landslide victories in 1952 and 1956.

Young Women with Ike Buttons (1952) by UnknownU.S. National Archives

In one of 29 cities, local women displaying “Let’s Back Ike” buttons join the Eisenhower Nixon Bandwagon in 1952.

Young Hispanic or Latina Eisenhower Campaign Workers (1952) by UnknownU.S. National Archives

Latina women sport matching "Ike" dresses as they gather around a photo of their favorite candidate.

Young Woman with Lipstick and Ike Balloons (1952) by UnknownU.S. National Archives

An Ike supporter touches up her lipstick as she prepares for an event.

Her button proclaims, "I'M For IKE"

Mamie Eisenhower Meets Reporters (1953-02-11) by International News ServiceU.S. National Archives

Women of the Eisenhower Administration

During his two terms, President Eisenhower appointed more women to positions across the administration than any previous president.

Oveta Culp Hobby (ca. 1956) by UnknownU.S. National Archives

Oveta Culp Hobby became the first Secretary of the newly created Health, Education, and Welfare Agency (HEW).

Oveta Culp Hobby is Sworn In As HEW Secretary (1953-04-11) by National Park ServiceU.S. National Archives

First Secretary of HEW and second female cabinet member

Oveta Culp Hobby led the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) in WWII, overseeing its transition into the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). The WAC gained full military status and trained thousands of women to fill non-combat roles.

Hobby later worked on Eisenhower’s 1952 presidential campaign. She became the first secretary of the newly created Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and only the second woman in U.S. history to hold a cabinet post. 

By Wallace KirklandLIFE Photo Collection

Clare Boothe Luce was an author, journalist, and U.S. Representative from Connecticut.

Clare Boothe Luce (1954-01-06) by National Park ServiceU.S. National Archives

Author, U.S. Representative, and Ambassador to Italy

Clare Boothe Luce campaigned for Eisenhower in the 1952 election, giving more than 100 speeches throughout the country. Ike appointed her U.S. Ambassador to Italy, the first woman to be posted to a major ambassadorial position abroad. She helped negotiate a solution to a border dispute between Italy and Yugoslavia. 

Southern Politics- Womanpower For Ike Meeting & Sam Rayburn (1952-10) by John DominisLIFE Photo Collection

Bertha Adkins' interest in public affairs led her to life in politics.

By Edward ClarkLIFE Photo Collection

Bertha and "Breakfast with the President"

Bertha Adkins, noted for her organizational abilities, was appointed Executive Director of the Women’s Division of the Republican National Convention in 1952.  She encouraged women to become active in politics and arranged for women to meet Ike during “Breakfast with the President” events. In 1958 Eisenhower appointed Adkins Under Secretary of Health Education and Welfare. 

Mary Pillsbury Lord (1954-07-22) by UnknownU.S. National Archives

Mary Pillsbury Lord's interest in philanthropy led her to politics and government service.

Mamie Eisenhower with Mary Pillsbury Lord and Katherine Howard (1954-07-22) by Associated PressU.S. National Archives

Women's votes and human rights

Mary Pillsbury Lord began her career working with charity and welfare organizations. As co-chairman of Citizens for Eisenhower, she played a major role in encouraging women to vote for Ike in 1952. After Ike's election, Lord became the U.S. Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Commission when Eleanor Roosevelt retired.

Eleanor Lansing Dulles (1956) by UnknownU.S. National Archives

Eleanor Lansing Dulles, PhD, pursued a career in academia and government service.

Eleanor Lansing Dulles at a Microphone (1958-04) by H Urbschat, H J FischerU.S. National Archives

A leader in economics

Eleanor Lansing Dulles, described as fierce and determined, earned a doctorate in Economics from Harvard in 1926. During the 1950s, she worked in the State Department, an agency she described as hostile to women. Despite this discrimination, her efforts helped revitalize Berlin’s economy. Dulles’ 13 books on economics and foreign policy remain a lasting legacy.

Ann Whitman (ca. 1956) by UnknownU.S. National Archives

Ann Cook Whitman took a job as Eisenhower's personal secretary during his 1952 campaign.

Ann Whitman at Her Desk (1958-09-18) by U.S. NavyU.S. National Archives

"The most important person..."

Ann Cook Whitman was Eisenhower’s personal secretary from 1952 until 1961. She worked 12 hour days, except on weekends when she “only” worked 10 hours per day. The files maintained by Whitman are considered an “extraordinary resource.” One of 30 archival collections covering the "presidential years," it contains over 276,000 pages. In June 1953, Ike acknowledged Ann’s indispensable role in a birthday note to her, stating, “You are the most important person in the life of this office.” 

Mary Jane McCaffree (1956) by UnknownU.S. National Archives

Mary Jane McCaffree handled the critical intricacies of White House protocol and social life.

Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower Speak with Mary Jane McCaffree (1954-11-10) by National Park ServiceU.S. National Archives

Protocol extraordinaire

Mary Jane McCaffree held several White House positions, occasionally at the same time. She became Ike’s Social Secretary and then served as both Press and Personal Secretary to Mamie Eisenhower. Later she held the title of Protocol Specialist in the Office of Chief of Protocol. McCaffree turned her extensive knowledge into "Protocol: The Complete Handbook of Diplomatic, Official, and Social Usage" in 1977. 

Katherine Howard (1954-07-22) by UnknownU.S. National Archives

Katherine G. Howard pursued a life in public service and government.

Mamie Eisenhower Attends Luncheon for Katherine Howard (1954-07-22) by UnknownU.S. National Archives

Civil defender

Katherine G. Howard was one of the highest ranking female appointees in Eisenhower’s administration. She served as the Deputy Administrator for the Federal Civil Defense Administration from 1953 until 1957. Howard graduated from Smith College the same year the 19th amendment became law and suffrage became a driving force in her public service. 

"On Being a Woman" by Katherine G. Howard (1957-02-10) by Katherine G. HowardU.S. National Archives

Emergence of women into full participation...

“Those of us who as women, take our voting privilege so lightly should remember the fight made by the valiant women who made it possible for us today to vote, to help form party policy, to hold the highest administrative positions in our government.” – Katherine Howard, “On Being a Woman” speech, February 10, 1957, Springfield, Massachusetts.

Portrait of Ida Eisenhower (ca. 1940) by Jeffcoat Studio, Abilene, KansasU.S. National Archives

Ida Elizabeth Stover Eisenhower taught her son Dwight the importance of mastering his temper.

By Myron DavisLIFE Photo Collection


Ida lived to see her third son return from World War II as General of the Army and hailed as a hero. Although she did not live to see him become president, Ida's influence continued to be felt, as Ike, and his five brothers, all hailed "Mother" as the guiding influence and moral compass of their lives. Orphaned at a young age, Ida Stover lived with relatives who stressed hard work and a basic education. At age 15, she moved to Staunton, Virginia, to find work and attend high school. When she turned 21, she moved to LeCompton, Kansas, to attend Lane University, where she met and married David Eisenhower.

Ida was 50 when women in Kansas gained the right to vote in all elections. Ida, who claimed to have worn sweaters “before it was a woman’s right,” believed in women’s rights. As a powerful and influential mother she passed on the importance of education and hard work to her sons. 

David and Ida Eisenhower Family Portrait (1902) by UnknownU.S. National Archives

Ida Stover Eisenhower, lower right, with her husband David, and her six surviving sons, in 1902.

Ida Eisenhower in Her Kitchen (1942) by UnknownU.S. National Archives

Ida Stover Eisenhower preparing food in her kitchen. Dwight learned cooking skills from his mother.

Mamie Eisenhower Meets Reporters (1953-02-11) by International News ServiceU.S. National Archives

Mamie Geneva Doud Eisenhower gives a press conference in 1953.

Mamie Eisenhower smiles as she faces a crowd of reporters.

Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower Celebrate 40th Wedding Anniversary (1956-07-01) by U.S. NavyU.S. National Archives

The perfect partner

Mamie Doud Eisenhower turned 24 in 1920, coming of age when women were claiming the right to make their own choices. This suited Mamie, who considered herself an equal partner to Dwight in their married life. However, states did not allow absentee voting so she (and Dwight) were unable to vote during his early military career.

By Joe ScherschelLIFE Photo Collection

Mamie gets out the vote

Mamie Eisenhower recalled campaign “meet and greets” were exhausting. Her smile and positive attitude never wavered, however, and she was energized when she saw “hopeful” faces in the crowd.

As election day neared in November 1952, she emphasized the importance of voting in a Good Housekeeping article titled, “Vote for My Husband or for Governor Stevenson, But Please Vote.”

Mamie Eisenhower Receives Officers of the National Council of Negro Women (1953-11) by National Park ServiceU.S. National Archives

Role model

Mamie Eisenhower is best remembered as a loving partner to her husband: wife of a General and a President. She often said that Ike was her career. She made it look easy, whether trying to make ends meet on a lieutenant’s salary, being in the spotlight as the wife of the Supreme Allied Commander, or acting as a role model for the nation while First Lady.

Mamie Eisenhower Holds "Help Your Heart" Sign (1958) by National Park ServiceU.S. National Archives

Mamie lends her influence to heart health, one of many health-related causes she championed.

Mamie Eisenhower Christens Pan Am Jet Clipper "America" (1958-10-16) by National Park ServiceU.S. National Archives

Mamie christens a new mode of transportation: a jet airplane.

Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower at the "Salute to Eisenhower" Dinner (1956-01-20) by National Park ServiceU.S. National Archives

Mamie and Dwight Eisenhower attend a "Salute to Eisenhower" dinner on January 20, 1956.

Female Supporters Surround Dwight D. Eisenhower (1952-07) by Associated PressU.S. National Archives

Ike admits he could have done more, but led by example...

The Equal Rights Amendment was
first introduced in Congress in 1923. It was reintroduced in every session of
Congress until 1970, but seldom made it out of committee to the floor of either

a 1956 campaign speech at Madison Square Garden, Ike stated, “we shall seek, as
promised in our Platform, to assure women everywhere in our land equality of
rights.” By the end of his administration, however, no further progress had been made. While acknowledging the lack of success for the country as a whole, Ike nevertheless led by example in the fight for equality. Eisenhower was asked during his presidential campaign if he
planned on appointing women to serve in his Cabinet if he were elected. He
answered, “You may be assured that if it should be my destiny to serve as Chief
Executive, I would utilize the contributions of outstanding women to the
greatest extent possible.” President
Eisenhower appointed 42 women to high-level positions in his Administration—in
his Cabinet, as U.S. Ambassadors, and as representatives to the United Nations.
Many other women served in positions of lesser prominence, but equally
important to advancing Ike’s goals of peace and prosperity. 

Female supporters surround Ike during the 1952 Republican National Convention.

Credits: Story

This exhibition was created by the staff of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas.


Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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