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Each March, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management honors Women’s History Month by recognizing the invaluable contributions of women who have inspired and shaped our Nation through civil service. Women’s History Month honors and celebrates the struggles and achievements of women throughout the history of the United States.
Since the passage of the Pendleton Act of 1883, it has been a fundamental value of civil service to draw from all segments of society, where selection and career advancement of Federal employees are “determined solely on the basis of relative ability, knowledge and skills.” The second person ever to be appointed to the U.S. Civil Service, and first ever woman, was Mary F. Hoyt. Miss Hoyt earned her job because of the score she received on the first official competitive examination. On September 5, 1883, Miss Hoyt was appointed to the Treasury Department as a clerk for a salary of $900 a year.
While you don’t need to look back over 130 years to find incredible examples of leadership, service, and innovation from women in public service, I would like to highlight a few for you. Each one is a pioneer in her own way, but all have displayed the courage and determination it takes to break barriers on the way to greatness.
Frances Perkins was the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet and was the Secretary of Labor for 12 years – the longest tenure in the history of that agency. During that time, Perkins fought for laws to set minimum wages, pensions, unemployment insurance, restrictions on child labor practices, and contributed to the creation of the Social Security Act of 1935.
Betty Mae Tiger Jumper lived a life of firsts: the first Seminole to graduate high school, read and write English, and get certified as a public nurse. She went on to initiate the beginnings of the Indian Health Care Program. Jumper became the first female elected tribal Chief in the U.S. and served on the National Congress on Indian Opportunity, where she created the United Southeastern Tribes coalition, which today consists of more than 26 tribes.
Ellen Ochoa became the first Hispanic American woman to fly in space, where she logged nearly 1,000 hours on four missions. She is the current Director of the Johnson Space Center – the first Hispanic and second woman to hold that position. Ochoa is a co-inventor on three patents, and her research has led to critical developments in optical systems for automated space exploration.
During my 25 years as a civil servant, I have had the opportunity to work for and with many amazing Federal employees, many of whom have been women. Merit System Principles are honored and the United States is well-served when agencies select employees based on merit, and not gender. The Federal government continues to aspire to be the model employer where, regardless of gender, employees are afforded the opportunity for a challenging and rewarding career in service of our country.
As we prepare for the future challenges facing our country, let us pause and reflect on the women who have inspired us all to go further, take risks, and do more good. I invite you to join us in honoring those women who inspire you as we observe Women’s History Month, whether they are famous historical figures or those who work in the cubicle next to you.
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