Remarks to Women Administration Appointees on Women's Equality Day

August 26, 1984

Welcome to the White House. I want to thank each one of you for joining us here today, and I want all of you to know how grateful I am -- as George expressed it so well -- me, too -- for all that you've meant and all your contributions to our administration.

Now, I know it's a little warm, and I know it's August, and here we are, and that reminds me of a sweltering, hot day in my boyhood on a Sunday morning going to church. And the preacher handled the situation very well. He said, ``I'm going to preach, because of the heat, the shortest sermon you've ever heard.'' And he said just seven words: ``If you think it's hot now -- wait.'' [Laughter]

So, I'll follow his example. I'll do a little more than seven words -- [laughter] -- but I'll try to keep it short.

Today, on this Women's Equality Day, we remember the history of women in America. We celebrate all the gains that women have made. During our early years, women cooked, cleared fields, harvested crops, raised the children who would go on to make this the greatest Nation on Earth.

Yet while in those early, difficult days women were partners in hard work, in many other respects their value and dignity was ignored. In many States it was difficult for women to get a public education. In the working world, women were prevented from holding most jobs. Worst of all, women were denied our most fundamental right, the democratic right to vote.

As America became a more mature and thoughtful nation, all this began to change. The suffrage movement at the turn of the century had a profound effect. World War II broke down many of the barriers that women used to confront in the workplace. And the 1960's gave rise to a women's movement that has made all of us aware of the rightful role of women in our society, a role that includes full access to the professions and complete equality before the law.

We still have a long way to go, but already American women are finding opportunities that their forebears never dreamed of. Today two-thirds of women between 25 and 44 work in paid positions. Half our college students are women, and growing numbers of women are doctors, lawyers, police, and military officers.

You know, I can't help thinking that women like you -- women who have accepted the burdens of government service and worked so successfully to give our country a new birth of freedom and vitality -- show clearly just how much American women can accomplish.

For example, take a certain woman -- I think her name is Maureen. [Laughter] Maureen has worked in radio and television, she's promoted overseas trade, has run for political office, and today she's helping her old man communicate to women all that our administration is trying to accomplish. [Laughter]

Now, not related but very close, is our Ambassador to the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick. Ambassador Kirkpatrick has raised three sons, written five books, and holds a professorship at Georgetown University. And in her own words, let me quote: ``My experience demonstrates to my satisfaction that it is both possible and feasible for women in our times to successfully combine traditional and professional roles. All that is required is a little luck and a lot of work.''

Well, one of my proudest days in office came when I appointed Sandra Day O'Connor to be the first woman on the United States Supreme Court. And she, too, illustrates all that the modern American woman can achieve. Justice O'Connor has brought up three sons, pursued a brilliant legal career that has ranged from private practice to service as the assistant attorney general of Arizona. Today she's setting an example for all our daughters as one of the highest ranking women in American history.

Because of the sweeping and exciting social changes our country has undergone, it no longer makes sense to talk about a great divide between women and men. There are no longer any men's issues or women's issues, just issues that concern each of us as Americans. That's why it's our policy to benefit all Americans, and to do so not by raising taxes, or multiplying regulations, or fattening the Federal bureaucracy, but by promoting economic growth. Growth is good for everybody.

And tomorrow morning -- I can't tell you the details, it isn't fair -- tomorrow morning there will be some information that will be released with regard to growth in our economy. And believe me, it will be continued good news.

The economic expansion that our policies produced has already distinguished itself as the strongest sustained economic expansion in America since 1949. And not even during the boom years of the fifties, when our nation was providing millions of new jobs and achieving unparalleled industrial strength -- not even then was our economy so vital, or our progress so rapid. And as this expansion provides new opportunities for all Americans, it's giving American women a powerful lift.

Last year, women filled almost three-quarters of all the new jobs in managerial, professional, and technical fields. Today the number of women-owned businesses is growing three times faster than the number of those owned by men. And over the next 4 years, we'll work to promote still more economic growth and still more opportunities for women.

I just have to believe that, together, we can make America a place where women are free to pursue careers, raise families, or both -- a place where women not only succeed, but do it with style.

You're probably wondering why I didn't stop at seven words, but I couldn't get in all I wanted to say if I had. [Laughter] But now, thank you for being here again, and God bless all of you. And I guess it's time to picnic now -- after we have our picture taken.

Note: The President spoke at 5:53 p.m. on the South Grounds of the White House following remarks by Maureen Reagan, Vice President George Bush, and the First Lady.

Proclamation 5227 of August 16 proclaimed August 26 as Women's Equality Day.