A few women held important positions in politics in the 1950s.
Most visible was Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican from Maine and the only woman in the U.S. Senate.
In 1950 she gave a courageous speech denouncing Senator Joseph McCarthy and his growing witch hunt for anyone who expressed “un-American” beliefs or communist sympathies.
Smith called on all senators to uphold such basic democratic principles as “the right to criticize; the right to hold unpopular beliefs; the right to protest; the right of independent thought.”
In the same year Representative Helen Gahagan Douglas of California, who had earlier issued a similar statement, was defeated in her race for a Senate seat when her opponent, Richard M. Nixon, attacked her as a communist sympathizer.
Several women served as ambassadors, most prominently Clare Boothe Luce as ambassador to Italy.
In addition, Oveta Culp Hobby became the second woman cabinet officer, as secretary of health, education, and welfare under President Dwight David Eisenhower.
In 1954 Democrats Edith Starrett Green of Oregon and Martha Wright Griffiths of Michigan were elected to the House of Representatives. Both helped write laws to improve women’s rights.