On February 6, 1969, the East Room was packed with male reporters and just a few female reporters. The press briefing consisted of questions surrounding US-European relations and what President Nixon hoped to achieve in his upcoming trip to Brussels, Paris and Rome—among other major cities in Europe. In the second row, front and center, a woman in a yellow sweater sat among the bulk of male reporters, writing unassumingly on her notepad.
As the press conference approached half an hour, the woman abruptly rose, changing the line of questioning, asking what could now be known as ‘The Question’:
“Mr. President, in staffing your administration, you have so far made about 200 high-level Cabinet and other policy position appointments, and of these only three have gone to women. Can you tell us, sir, whether we can expect a more equitable recognition of women’s abilities, or are we going to remain a lost sex?”
The woman would later be recognized as Vera Glaser, reporter for the North American Newspaper Alliance.
Glaser’s simple question raised consciousness on the lack of women in high-level federal positions. It is important to acknowledge, however, that Glaser spoke on behalf of women who hoped the new Nixon administration would resolve the stagnation of women appointments.
Twenty days after the question was asked, Representative Florence Dwyer wrote to President Nixon recommending the establishment of a special task force on women’s rights and responsibilities. Glaser began to correspond with Representative Dwyer, Arthur Burns and Charles Clapp, all of whom would be responsible for forming the President’s Task Force of Women’s Rights and Responsibilities. The task force was officially announced on October 1,1969.
Vera Glaser would remain an activist for women’s advancement in government, contributing to the Nixon administration’s creation of the task force and selection of more highly qualified women for available positions.