bookcoverA Matter of Simple Justice

The Untold Story of Barbara Hackman Franklin and
A Few Good Women

By Lee Stout


Afterword by Barbara Hackman Franklin

Published by Penn State University Libraries

Distributed by Penn State Press



The 1970s and the Nixon Administration are remembered for many reasons but the advancement of women in government is not one of them. A Matter of Simple Justice reveals how “A Few Good Women” cracked the glass ceiling and opened up opportunities for generations to come.


In August 1972, Newsweek magazine 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. Little remembered are its accomplishments in recruiting women to executive-level government positions.

A Matter of Simple Justice focuses on Barbara Hackman Franklin who was hired by the White House in 1971. She recruited more than 100 women into upper-level positions—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. A pioneer in her own right, Franklin went on to serve as Vice Chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, an advisor on U.S. Trade, and Secretary of Commerce for President George H.W. Bush.

In the second part of the book, archivist and historian Lee Stout highlights the personal stories of other trailblazing women, such as Ambassador Anne Armstrong, Senator Elizabeth Dole, Judge Cynthia Hall, and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Carla Hills.

Based on the “A Few Good Women” oral history project at Penn State University Libraries, the book features excerpts from interviews with prominent women and men who describe their experiences during “The Gender Revolution.”  Interviewees talk about early influences, breaking down barriers, the impact on family, the role of networking, and the particular challenge of gaining entry to the legal profession.

Although largely unknown or forgotten today, the story of Barbara Franklin and a few good women shaped the opportunities available to women for generations to come. A Matter of Simple Justice shows how the advances that were made by a Republican presidency both reflected the national debate over the role of women in society and took major steps towards equality in the workplace for women.


“When I see the words, ‘untold story,’ my interest is always piqued, since they often contain wonderful surprises. A Matter of Simple Justice is just such a story, about the women who worked in the Nixon Administration and became part of the women’s movement. I am thrilled that Barbara Hackman Franklin–along with President Nixon–is finally getting the credit she deserves for advancing the cause of women in the workplace.” –Barbara Bush


A Matter of Simple Justice recounts a momentous chapter in women's history: namely, the efforts to advance the role of women in government. As an eyewitness to those exciting times, I saw many women breaking through barriers, earning jobs never before held by women, and establishing successful careers. I am delighted this important story has been told at last.”
–Julie Nixon Eisenhower


“Many younger people may not realize what a significant cultural change in women’s rights began with Nixon, and I hope they will find it an illuminating bit of history.”
—Henry A. Kissinger, former Secretary of State

“Every great movement and advancement in society is built upon a foundation of courageous, passionate and tireless leaders. A Matter of Simple Justice is a fascinating look at a tipping point moment in American history and the visionaries like Barbara Hackman Franklin who helped create it. It is a timely read as we journey into a decade of unprecedented opportunity for women leadership in business, government and civil society all around the world.”
–Muhtar Kent, Chairman and CEO,
The Coca-Cola Company


“Each generation produces visionary pioneers who recognize existing injustices and strive to change them. A Matter of Simple Justice chronicles how with the leadership of one of these pioneers, Barbara Hackman Franklin, my father and the Nixon Administration were instrumental in opening doors previously closed to women. Thanks to their efforts, women have made enormous contributions to our nation in government, business, military, academics, sports and medicine.”
–Tricia Nixon Cox