In the run-up to the 1972 presidential election, the Republican Party had a "woman problem" -- or at least, that's what staffers in the Nixon Administration believed. Previously confidential memos released on Wednesday by the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum give a glimpse of top staffers' anxiety about attracting woman voters. As Barbara Franklin, who was in charge of recruiting more women to high-level positions in government, put it, "Polls show we're in trouble with women voters. We simply cannot afford a mistake!" The challenge was clear, she said. "We need to create the image that women are very important to the Republican Party."
As it turns out, Franklin later became an important Republican figure herself: She served as the U.S. secretary of commerce under George H.W. Bush. But before she was a cabinet-level official, she was the unofficial ambassador to the White House from the women's liberation movement. "I had an interesting experience today," she wrote to Fred Malek, a special assistant to Nixon, on June 18, 1971. She had just spoken at a conference about the status of women in politics, and about 100 women were there -- "'establishment' women," she called them.
And then something radical happened: Betty Friedan spoke.
Note Franklin's commentary on the crowd's growing reaction below.
What Franklin was surprised by, she said, was that regular women who represented government commissions could get so riled up about women's equality.
All images courtesy of the Nixon Presidential Library