The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book A Matter of Simple Justice

A Matter of Simple Justice

The Untold Story of Barbara Hackman Franklin and a Few Good Women Lee Stout
  • Copyright: 2012
  • Dimensions: 7 x 10
  • Page Count: 200 pages
  • Illustrations: 100 illustrations
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-9839478-0-6
  • Distributed by the Penn State Press
    for Penn State University Libraries

Hardcover Edition: $24.95Add to Cart

“The words ‘untold story’ always pique my interest, since those stories often contain wonderful surprises. A Matter of Simple Justice is just such a story. I am thrilled that our friend Barbara Hackman Franklin—along with President Nixon—is finally getting the credit she deserves for advancing the cause of women in the workplace.”
“[This] book is important for the light it sheds on a chapter of our history that was largely overshadowed by President Nixon's fall from grace.”
“The book is an educational read, and an inspirational one for women graduating from high school or college. It will remind them of what they can accomplish more easily now, thanks to their female forebears.”
A Matter of Simple Justice is an outstanding resource for information on women and politics in the 1970s, a window into the extensive oral history resources housed at Penn State, and a source for the background and chronology of women’s political history since World War II.”

In August 1972, Newsweek proclaimed that “the person in Washington who has done the most for the women’s movement may be Richard Nixon.” Today, opinions of the Nixon administration are strongly colored by foreign policy successes and the Watergate debacle. Its accomplishments in advancing the role of women in government have been largely forgotten. Based on the “A Few Good Women” oral history project at the Penn State University Libraries, A Matter of Simple Justice illuminates the administration’s groundbreaking efforts to expand the role of women—and the long-term consequences for women in the American workplace.

The book focuses on Barbara Hackman Franklin, a staff assistant to the president who was hired to recruit more women into the upper levels of the federal government. Franklin, at the direction of President Nixon, White House counselor Robert Finch, and personnel director Fred Malek, helped bring more than one hundred women into executive positions in the government—almost four times more than in any previous administration. She also created a talent bank of over 1,000 names of qualified women and became the administration’s de facto spokesperson on women’s issues. In addition, the administration expanded the numbers of women on presidential commissions and boards, changed civil service rules to open thousands more federal jobs to women, and expanded enforcement of antidiscrimination laws to include gender discrimination. These advances were not limited to the public sector. Federal contractors and higher education institutions with federal grants needed to formulate action plans for hiring and promoting women, too, and during this time, Congress approved the Equal Rights Amendment and Nixon signed Title IX of the Education Amendments into law.

Although largely unknown today, the story of Barbara Franklin and those “few good women” shaped the opportunities available to women for generations to come. Through both a historical narrative of this effort and fascinating interview excerpts, A Matter of Simple Justice shows how the advances that were made in this time by a Republican presidency both reflected the national debate over the role of women in society and took major steps toward equality in the workplace for women.

Lee Stout is Librarian Emeritus at the Penn State University Libraries. His recent book Ice Cream U: The Story of the Nation’s Most Successful Collegiate Creamery (2009) is also distributed by Penn State Press.

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