FEBRUARY 16, 1962
PARIS—Before coming over here my last two days in the United States were spent largely in Washington, D.C., and I want to tell about them before writing about my current month-long trip.
On last Monday morning in the White House the President opened the first meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women. After very brief preliminaries and upon being introduced by Secretary of Labor Arthur Goldberg, President Kennedy put us all at ease by starting the conference off on a note of levity by remarking that he had appointed the commission in self-defense—self-defense against an able and persistent newspaper woman, Miss May Craig. No other lady of the press has waged a longer or more persistent battle for the rights of women than has May Craig, and I am sure she is flattered by the President's recognition of her tremendous interest in the field of women's equality.
After the morning session we had lunch in a downstairs restaurant that did not exist in my day there but which must be a tremendous convenience for those working in the White House today. A guide showed us around the White House, telling us about certain things that have been changed under Mrs. Kennedy's direction and which she explained to the American people over two television networks this week.
The basement floor and the first floor for entertaining have certainly been made far more attractive than ever before. Mrs. Kennedy has succeeded in having presented to the White House some really very beautiful pieces of furniture and decorative pictures, which add enormously to the interest of these rooms.
We kept ourselves strictly on schedule all day and opened our afternoon meeting promptly at two o'clock at 200 Maryland Avenue, below the Capitol, where the Commission on the Status of Women will have its permanent office.
We soon began to discuss the best way to organize to achieve the maximum of work not only on the six points laid down in the President's directive to the commission but in other situations which will certainly arise. The commission will try to make its influence felt concerning women's problems not only in the Federal area but in state and local areas and in industry as well as in women's [unclear term marked] home responsibilities.
The effort, of course, is to find how we can best use the potentialities of women without impairing their first responsibilities, which are to their homes, their husbands and their children. We need to use in the very best way possible all our available manpower—and that includes womanpower—and this commission, I think, can well point out some of the ways in which this can be accomplished.
I was glad to hear brought up the question of part-time work for women and of better training in certain areas because the possibilities available to women could be more widely publicized and education could be directed to meet and prepare for these new openings.
The Vice-President and Mrs. Johnson gave a delightful reception at their home in the late afternoon for the members of the commission.
The meetings continued through Tuesday morning and into early afternoon, and I felt that the discussions had brought us to a point where we could get the staff to continue with the organization and start some of our subcommittees to working very shortly.
I was back at my home in New York City by 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday and a few people came in to say goodbye at six o'clock and then I packed and dressed and was ready to leave the house a little after 10 o'clock. My secretary, Miss Maureen Corr, and I left by Air France for Paris at midnight and had a most delightful trip—smooth and comfortable. We are now at the Crillon Hotel, where I always feel at home because of the many months I've stayed here when we used to hold meetings of the General Assembly of the United Nations in Paris.
Henry Morgenthau III met us at Orly Airport and told us of the plans made for doing two educational television programs, and a little later we were joined at the hotel by Professor Alfred Gorsser for discussion of our joint responsibilities on the programs. By this time it was 7 p.m. Paris time, though only 1 p.m. New York time, and after a delightful dinner we felt well adjusted to the change and feel well prepared for busy days ahead.