Mrs President? A woman president probably not in the cards (1956)

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1956 Woman for President

‘Mrs President’ is not in the cards, a survey of future voters indicates

By Eugene Gilbert, President of the Gilbert Youth Research Co

You’ll wait a long time for a woman president if teenagers — the voters of tomorrow — have their way.

Nine tenths of high school boys feel the job is too tough and too complex for a woman. And while many girls in the same age bracket believe a woman could handle the office all right, 58 percent say — for various reasons — that the ladies had better direct their political ambitions elsewhere.

To governorships, for example. Many more youngsters say women could make good governors. Or to the Supreme Court of the United States. Fifty-seven percent of the boys and 73 percent of the girls believe women could serve capably on the high tribunal.

These reactions turned up in our nationwide survey on the youngsters’ views of woman’s place in the higher spheres of public life and business.

The question of a woman president is often batted around in election years. Former President Harry S Truman has said that a woman may well occupy the White House someday. And President Eisenhower has said that women are competent for the office — though too smart to seek it.

Too temperamental?

But 92 percent of the boys we queried disagree sharply. They’re convinced the presidency is a job well beyond a woman’s capacities.

“Dames,” as one Chicago youngster expressed it, “are too temperamental. The first thing you know they lose their tempers. Boy, the country will be in a real mess the day a woman president takes office.”

Our survey indicates that many boys strongly suspect a woman’s place is in the home — not on the political hustings. Here’s how a lad from Minneapolis, speaking in the authentic voice of the 19th century, viewed things:

“When women stop rearing children to go into politics, we will be in a sorry state. What will happen to the home without the mother influence? I don’t want to see it.”

Of course, women have been entering politics in increasing numbers. Sixteen served in the last session of Congress, including Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, the Maine Republican. They’ve held Cabinet posts and been ambassadors.

With this in mind, apparently 42 percent of the teen-aged girls we queried expressed themselves in favor of a woman President — provided the candidate was of the caliber of Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt, Senator Smith, or Clare Boothe Luce, the United States ambassador to Italy.

Girls fear war

In fact, many of the girls feel the country might be better off with a woman at the helm.

“If women were running the country,” a New Jersey girl said, “there wouldn’t be so much talk of wars.”

Distrust for male pugnacity was implied also in this response by a Kansas high school girl: “Women don’t want to go out and conquer the world. When we have a woman President, she will concentrate on ‘domestic tranquility’ and not on producing atom bombs.”

While most of the girls believe women are perfectly capable of handling presidential chores, 58 percent turned thumbs down on the idea. Among these, the thought predominated that ingrained male prejudices would make a feminine bid for the presidency largely a waste of time.

While no woman has ever been nominated for the presidency or the vice presidency by any major party, there have been women governors. The first was Nellie Tayloe Ross, elected in Wyoming in 1924.

Business women OK

And a much larger percentage of young people in our survey professed no objection to lady governors. Thirty-three percent of the boys and 55 percent of the girls thought women might make good chief executives of their states.

A Missouri girl said: “Women are especially good at the personal approach. I think that heading a state would require lots of this talent. Nothing is as important as getting on friendly terms with the inhabitants. And in this a woman could really excel.”

While youths are somewhat bearish on the talents of women for high public office, they’re apparently prepared to allow them greater latitude in the business world.

Some 76 percent of the teenagers, of both sexes, said the fact that a woman ran a company that employed them would not cause them to lose enthusiasm for their job.

Having a woman for an immediate superior, however, was a different question. But even here, 66 percent of the girls and 63 percent of the boys said they could see no objection.

One fervent minority report came from a 17-year-old youngster who had summer job experience with a lady boss. “That woman was the hardest taskmaster I’ve ever run into,” he complained. “No man would be that tough with us. I’ll take a man giving the orders any day.”

But if there was no strenuous opposition to women running business firms, there was marked division of opinion on their service on the boards of large corporations.

The girls — 75 percent of them — thought that women should be represented on the boards of every major corporation, particularly in view of women’s extensive stock ownership. Seventy-one percent of the boys failed to see much sense in this argument.

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