Kirkpatrick, Jeane (1926—)

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Kirkpatrick, Jeane (1926—)

American diplomat, political scientist and scholar, who was the first woman U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Name variations: Mrs. Evron M. Kirkpatrick. Born Jeane Duane Jordan in Duncan, Oklahoma, on November 19, 1926; eldest of two children and only daughter of Welcher F. Jordan (an oil contractor) and Leona (Kile) Jordan; Stephens College, Columbus, Missouri, A.A., 1946; Barnard College, A.B., 1948; Columbia University, M.A., 1950; postgraduate studies at the Institut de Science Politique of the University of Paris, 1952–53; Columbia University, Ph.D., 1967; married Dr. Evron M. Kirkpatrick (a political science professor), on February 20, 1955 (died 1995); children: Douglas Jordan; John Evron; Stuart Alan.

A political scientist, scholar, and the first woman to serve as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick is a woman of outstanding achievement. She was born Jeane Duane Jordan in Duncan, Oklahoma, in 1926, the daughter of an independent contractor who drilled oil wells for large petroleum companies. Education was important to her parents, and she excelled in her studies and at her piano lessons. After high school, Jeane attended Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, for a couple of years, then went on to Barnard College in New York City, where she received her B.A. in 1948. She received a master's degree in 1950, and a Ph.D. in 1968, both from Columbia, and also sandwiched in a year of graduate study at the University of Paris. Political science, however, was not Kirkpatrick's first love, and it took her years to fully embrace the field. "In college, I was originally interested in literature and philosophy," she has said. "As time went by, I got into political philosophy, and this finally developed into my focus of political science." While pursuing her education, Kirkpatrick worked variously as a research analyst at the Department of State, as assistant to the director of the Economic Cooperation Administration history project under the Governmental Affairs Institute, and as a research associate with the Human Resources Research Office at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. In 1955, Jeane married Evron M. Kirkpatrick, a political science professor who later served as the executive director of the American Political Science Association. Jeane blended her professional role with a traditional one, putting her career on hold for nine years to raise her three sons. "I felt it was important for my children—they're very dear to me—so I stayed at home," she said. When asked whether she regrets the years she lost to home and family, she claimed that she would do it all again. "I think it made me stronger to stay home, as a matter of fact."

In 1962, after her sons had grown, Kirkpatrick began her academic career as an assistant professor of political science at Trinity College. Five years later, she joined the faculty at Georgetown University, becoming a full professor in 1973. Between 1955 and 1972, Kirkpatrick also served intermittently as a consultant to the American Council of Learned Societies and to the departments of State, of Defense, and of Health, Education, and Welfare. A prolific writer, Kirkpatrick contributed to a number of political science journals and edited the volume The Strategy of Deception: A Study in World-Wide Communist Tactics (1963). With her books Political Woman (1974) and The New Presidential Elite: Men and Women in National Politics (1976), she began to attract a more general readership.

A lifelong Democrat, Kirkpatrick became politically active in response to the antiwar movement of the 1960s, which she viewed as a shift away from traditional American culture and institutions. In 1972, she helped found the Coalition

for a Democratic Majority, whose members, mostly writers and scholars, became known as "neoconservatives." She told The New York Times that the goal of the Coalition was to rescue to Democratic Party from the "antiwar, antigrowth, antibusiness, antilabor activists."

Kirkpatrick remained active within the party throughout the 1970s and, in 1977, became a resident scholar of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy, a conservative think tank in Washington. Although she had supported Jimmy Carter in the 1976 presidential campaign, she became increasing critical of his administration's foreign policy. When he failed to adopt a stronger anti-Soviet stance, she threw her support behind Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign, becoming a member of one of his advisory committees and serving on his interim foreign policy advisory board following his election victory. As president, Reagan appointed her U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations. She served until 1985, during which time she was also a member of the Cabinet and the National Security Council.

Following her service at the United Nations, Kirkpatrick was a member of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (1985–90) and the Defense Policy Review Board (1985–93). Her many honors include the Medal of Freedom and two Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Medals. Jeane Kirkpatrick has remained a voice of conservatism and has occasionally been considered a prospective presidential or vice-presidential candidate on the Republican ticket.


"Kirkpatrick Headlines ISCS Luncheon," in Las Vegas Business Press. Vol. 15, no. 20. May 18, 1998, p. 20.

Moritz, Charles, ed. Current Biography. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1981.

Selle, Robert. "Current Issues: People in the News," in World & I. Vol 13, no. 8. August 1998, pp. 56–57.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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Kirkpatrick, Jeane (1926—)

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