Amplifying the power in HER voice because today’s woman is #BeyondCapable

Amplifying the power in HER voice because today’s woman is #BeyondCapable
PWR Story

January 2, 1890: The White House Welcomed its First Woman Staffer


Some become pioneers because of circumstance while others earn the distinction. Alice B. Sanger was the latter.

Back in January 2, 1890, Sanger became the first woman to ever be a staffer of the White House. She was chosen to be the secretary of then-US President Benjamin Harrison and also ended up being an assistant of his wife, Caroline.

According to, when Sanger was hired for the job, the women’s suffrage movement was picking up steam. Two of the most influential groups dedicated to the cause–the American Woman Suffrage Association and the National Woman Suffrage Association—joined forces to become the National American Woman Suffrage Association and they were clamoring for various reforms. Included in their demands were stronger property rights, employment and education opportunities, better divorce and child custody laws and reproductive freedom for women. The site, after stating this, said that Harrison’s appointment of Sanger indicated a careful step towards improving female representation in the government. But regardless of this, Sanger is said to be quite qualified for the job.

In an old article of The Kentucky Leader, she was said to be quite skilled as both a typist and a stenographer, capable of taking shorthand dictations at 200 words per minute. Her spelling is also said to be “absolutely perfect” and the paper also noted that she “can keep quiet with an industry that is rare among her sex.” Such sweeping comments aside, she is a trusted figure in the presidential circle as both the commander-in-chief and his wife worked with her constantly.

As written in an article by Fall River Daily Evening News, Sanger was best known for assisting both the president and his wife in answering letters. Her involvement in this task was such that hers ended up becoming the most popular woman’s signature in the United States, one that reached many of those who have written to the White House—particularly to the first lady. The paper also mentioned that she was a keeper of many secrets; that no person knew more about the president save for his private secretary, Elijah Walker Halford. She worked with him at this level until his term ended. After that, she moved to the United States Post Office Department.

Born to Joseph Sanger Jr. and Susan Webster Smith, Sanger was an only child. Apparently both cultured and “noble-looking,” so Fall River Daily Evening News said, she completed her high school education at 15 and was set to go into college. However, the publication reported that her father, a traffic manager for a railroad company, suffered health problems forcing Sanger to study typewriting and stenography.

She eventually found work with these skills and while taking court reports one day, she met William H. H. Miller of the law firm Harrison, Miller, and Elam. He was looking for a stenographer and got Sanger to join their firm. There, she met Harrison, won his trust and eventually earned the right to call herself a pioneer.

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