Virtual Museum of Public Service

Women in the Public Service: D-5

"And in my own life, in my own small way, I've tried to give back to this country that has given me so much. That's why I left a job at a law firm for a career in public service, working to empower young people to volunteer in their communities. Because I believe that each of us - no matter what our age or background or walk of life - each of us has something to contribute to the life of this nation." 
- Michelle Obama
Women have been serving in public service roles since before the American Revolution, but they have always faced stiff challenges from gender discriminatory policies and practices. The women featured in this gallery are renowned because they succeeded regardless of such obstacles. Many of them are first timers, from as far back as the 18th Century, whose determination enabled them to emerge as leading and innovative women in the public service. Among them is Clara Burton, a woman in the public service whose face appears on a United States postage stamp. Clara Burton was the first female federal clerk to receive the same remuneration as the male clerks. She went on in her career in public service to be the founder of the American Red Cross. This important nongovernmental organization provides assistance to the public through disaster relief, supporting military families, providing health and safety training and education, and organizing the receipt of blood donations.
Other women celebrated here are Mary Katherine Goddard, the first female Postmaster (1775), Fanny Jackson Coppin, the first African American Principal (1869), Jeanette Rankin (1916) the first woman to be elected to the United States Congress, and Mercedes O. Cubria, the first Cuban born female to serve in the United States Army. Many other women in the public service are acknowledged here and demonstrate that women have always sought to work in the public service at all levels. They include elected and appointed officials as cabinet members, state governors, mayors, and Supreme Court justices.