Famous Women in Postal History
The first woman ever hired to work for the United States Postal Service was Mrs. Adeline K. Evans, hired in July of 1862. She would go on to work in the Dead Letter Office for over thirty years. At the time of her hire, the Civil War had been going on for well over a year. Wars often times provided opportunities to women that were not previously available. As more and more men were enlisted in the military, employers began to seek out a new work force – in women. While at first they typically earned about 35% less than men who held equal positions, in 1870, federal legislation would be passed to grant pay based on class grade, rather than gender. This was not enforced until 1895, when a lawyer named Belva Lockwood took up the fight for women’s rights.
Vinnie Ream, hired around the same time as Mrs. Evans, was a fifteen year old from poor origins. She took the job to help out her family, and soon after, had a chance encounter with a sculptor at the U.S. Capital. She picked up a piece of his clay, and made a medallion of an Indian Chief’s head. It was so impressive, that she became an over night success and was soon creating sculptures of generals and congressmen. These people would later convince President Lincoln to sit for her. The finished product was so realistic, that in 1866, at age 18, she would become the youngest artist and first women to receive a congressional commission. The life-size statue that she sculpted of President Lincoln was unveiled at the U.S. Capital in 1871.
Alice B. Sanger began her career working in Benjamin Harrison’s law office. Two years later, he would become the 23rd President of the United States. As President, he appointed her as a clerk to work in his office, making her one of the first women to serve at the White House in that capacity. Later, in 1925, she would become the first woman to be named as Assistant Chief Clerk of the Post Office Department. Two years later, she would claim another first when she was put in charge of the Appointment Division of the Post Office Department. What she is most remembered for is her love of American flags. She created a collection of flags that consisted of one from each state in the Union, and they were displayed at the Post Office Department in Washington, DC. This led Postmaster Hays to ask her to design a flag for the Postmaster General’s office. She became affectionately known as the “Betsy Ross of the Post Office,” and is responsible for having designed the first official Post Office flag.
In 1985, Jackie Strange became Deputy Postmaster General, the highest position ever held by a woman in the Post Office. To date, more than ten women have held the position of Governor of the U.S. Postal Service, with more than forty women serving as officers. During any given year, almost 61% of postmasters around the nation are women. It seems as if the last uncharted territory for women in the United States Postal Service is the position of Postmaster General. I imagine that isn’t too far away.
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