Armstrong, Anne L. (1927—)
Armstrong, Anne L. (1927—)
American politician. Born Anne Legendre in New Orleans, Louisiana, on December 27, 1927; daughter of Armant (a coffee importer) and Olive (Martindale) Legendre; attended Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia, valedictorian of 1945 graduating class; graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar College, 1949; married Tobin Armstrong, on April 12, 1950; children: John, Katharine, Sarita, and twin boys, Tobin, Jr., and James.
First woman to be national co-chair of the Republican Party (1971–73); first woman to deliver the keynote speech at a major party's national convention (1972); first woman to have full Cabinet status as counselor to the president (1972).
Anne Armstrong tested the political waters as a campaign worker for Democratic President Harry S. Truman in 1948, while she was still in college. Four years later, she emerged as a Republican, supporting the candidacy of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Insisting that the switch in party affiliation had nothing to do with her marriage to wealthy rancher Tobin Armstrong, she said the decision was prompted by her belief in "freedom and liberty, as against the intrusion of big governments." By 1956, Armstrong was a woman to watch in the GOP.
Committed to her rapidly expanding family (five children, including a set of twins), at first Armstrong attempted to limit her political involvement to the local level, but her speaking and administrative skills soon led to a larger arena. After holding a number of executive positions in the Texas Republican Party, she attended the Republican national conventions of 1964 and 1968 as a delegate and platform committee member, and, from 1968 to 1973, served as Republican national committeewoman for Texas. In 1971, President Richard M. Nixon suggested that she and Delaware national committeeman Thomas B. Evans join with Senator Robert Dole of Kansas to co-chair the Republican National Committee. Interested in recruiting women and young people for the GOP, Armstrong became a champion of women in the Republican Party, lending her support to the Equal Rights Amendment and announcing that the president was interested in appointing women to important jobs.
At the 1972 Republican National Convention, Armstrong was spotlighted as the first woman in either political party to deliver a keynote address. Her tireless campaigning for the Nixon-Agnew team—including a 32-day cross-country bus tour—coupled with a growing dismay among women's groups at Nixon's failure to name women to high-ranking posts, resulted in her appointment as counselor to the president, with full Cabinet status and an annual salary of $42,500. As the first woman ever named to that post, she established the Office of Women's Programs in the White House, which by 1973 boasted 130 women in government policy-making positions, a three-fold increase over the number in previous administrations. In her post, Armstrong also chaired the Federal Property Council.
Fluent in Spanish, Armstrong acted as Nixon's liaison with Hispanic Americans and was a member of the Cabinet committee for opportunities for Spanish-speaking people. She was a member of the Council of Wage and Price Stability, the Domestic Council, and the Commission on the Organization of Government for the Conduct of Foreign Policy. She was also the president's liaison with the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission.
During the dark days of the Watergate crisis, Armstrong defended the president so adamantly that someone remarked that she "sounded like the cruise director on the Titanic." In March 1974, she was still holding firm in her prediction that Nixon would not be impeached. Armstrong did not join the call for his resignation until the tapes directly implicating Nixon were released.
After Nixon left office, Armstrong was mentioned as a prospect for vice president, just as she had been when Vice President Spiro T. Agnew had resigned in October 1973. Though president Gerald Ford did not name her, he did ask her to stay on as counselor. In October 1974, she served as a delegate to the United Nations food conference in Rome. A month later, however, citing "unforeseen and pressing family responsibilities" (her mother's ill health and a suicide attempt by her younger brother), she resigned. Out of office, she served on the boards of several major U.S. corporations, but the excitement and involvement of political life still beckoned. In 1975, Redbook magazine, after polling 700 political experts, named Armstrong as one of the women most qualified to serve as president of the United States.
In December 1975, Ford asked Armstrong to become the United States ambassador to Great Britain, an opportunity she almost dismissed because she did not want to leave her husband. But after her eldest son offered to return home to take charge of the Armstrong ranch, she agreed to accept the post. Although Britons knew little about their new ambassador, they were intrigued by her Texas background, as well as her ability to ride a horse and shoot a gun. The Daily Mail called her "the most romantic diplomat that America has ever had."
Armstrong was chair of the Advisory Board Center for Strategic and International Studies and chair of the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. She also served as a member of the board of overseers of the Hoover Institute from 1978 to 1990 and co-chaired the Reagan-Bush presidential campaign in 1980. Armstrong was named to the Texas Women's Hall of Fame in 1986 and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1987.
Moritz, Charles, ed. Current Biography 1976. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1976.
Read, Phyllis J., and Bernard L. Witlieb. Book of Women's Firsts. NY: Random House, 1992.
Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts