Image from Penn State University Libraries

Born: 1949 (New Orleans)

Died: 2008 (Houston)

Noted For: Anne Legendre Armstrong was a diplomat and politician who was the first woman to deliver a keynote address at the Republican National Convention.

Like many of the women featured in the Count Her In series, Anne Legendre Armstrong claimed a place in history by punching through glass ceilings and earning the distinction of  “first woman to”—on more than one occasion.

The New Orleans native and Vassar graduate began her career as a journalist, then headed into politics in the late sixties after moving to Texas. Serving initially as a precinct worker, she quickly rose through the leadership ranks of the Texas Republican Party, and in 1971 she was elected co-chairman of the Republican National Committee.  That same year, Anne became the first woman in U.S. history to deliver a keynote address at a Republican National Convention (and one of only a handful of women to keynote a convention for either party to date).

Anne once again made history the following year, when she became the first woman to hold the cabinet-level post of Counselor to the President, serving under both Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. During her tenure, Anne advocated for equal rights for women, and also founded the first White House Office of Women’s Programs, which later became the White House Council on Women and Girls.

Anne also served as Nixon’s liaison to Hispanic Americans and was a member of a Cabinet committee on opportunities for Spanish-speaking people. Other White House roles included service on the Domestic Council, the Council on Wage and Price Stability, and the Commission on the Organization of Government for the Conduct of Foreign Policy.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford appointed Anne to the post of U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, the first woman to hold the position. In her obituary, The Independent described her tenure (though cut short by Ford’s defeat later that year) as making a “… notable impression, combining glamour, engaging directness and a patented Texan outdoorsiness, with keen political instincts.”

Reportedly, both Ford and Ronald Reagan considered asking Anne to join them on their respective presidential campaign tickets, but she wasn’t interested. In 1986, she was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame, and in 1987 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Reagan.

In addition to serving on a number of corporate boards (including American Express, Boise Cascade, General Motors and Halliburton), Anne chaired the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and was a trustee of Southern Methodist University and the Smithsonian Institution. She died in 2008 following a battle with cancer.

Additional Learning:

“Anne Armstrong Obituary”: From The Associated Press