Who is better qualified to answer this than the current Treasurer of the United States, Mary Ellen Withrow? This is where the tradition began:

“The Honorable Georgia Neese Clark of Richland, Kansas, was appointed to be the first woman to be Treasurer of the United States on June 4, 1949, by former President Harry Truman, Former Secretary of the Treasury John W. Snyder called her appointment ‘a proper recognition of the prominent role women are playing in the public life of our nation.’”

We don’t know what motivated Truman, nor why future presidents kept up the tradition, but they have been consistent: The next fifteen treasurers since Clark have all been women.

Becky Lowenthal, of the Treasury’s public relations department said that critics have contended that the placement of women at the helm of the Treasury has smacked of tokenism, a way of forestalling carping about the lack of progress of women in other government positions. Lowenthal counters that regardless of the motivation, having a woman lead the Treasury has facilitated the progress of other women in the department, more so than other governmental offices.

Lowenthal mentioned that Ms. Withrow was heavily involved in marketing and in overseeing the manufacturing process, both of which are stereotypically male-oriented tasks, particularly since the world of money and finances has traditionally been dominated by men. Yet, at any time, the one female stronghold of upper-echelon government service could be yanked away, as treasurer Withrow concedes:

“The appointment of Georgia Neese Clark was the beginning of a tradition that has lasted forty-two years. Keep in mind, this tradition is not written in stone and is subject to change in the future.”

(Submitted by Michael Krawczak, United States Navy)

 

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