March 10, 2009 / Uncategorized

Jarrett to lead White House Women’s Council

Valerie Jarrett

Valerie Jarrett

Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Obama during his run to be President, will be named tomorrow to oversee a newly created White House Women’s Council.

Now I know the reactions here will be mixed. Those of us who voted for President Obama will think this is a fabulous choice. Those of us who were fans of SOS Clinton when she ran will view a certain irony that Jarrett is given a top spot in the area of promoting women’s issues. Those of us who voted for Sen McCain will likely fall into the latter category.

But I personally view this as a positive development. I say, let’s give Valerie Jarrett a chance to do some good. This is, after all, what we have been asking for in a sense — even if Jarrett is not everybody’s first choice (and who would be).

The New Agenda has been speaking out since Election Day and demanding better representation in Obama’s administration. TNA was the only national women’s rights group to continually speak out against Larry Summers. TNA was the only national women’s organization to consistently speak out about the lack of women in Obama’s cabinet (see our Cabinet Watch tab). TNA was the only national women’s organization to continually demand better representation for women and better treatment in the Stimulus Package (see our Media section).  So maybe, just maybe, our voices have been heard. We said in our CNN interview that “Obama does not take this constituency (e.g. women) very seriously.” Maybe, just maybe, he realized that he does need us after all!

Our friends at WomenCount have been asking for something like this all along. They note:

In 1961, as the nation grappled with the issue of women in the workplace, President John Kennedy convened the first Presidential Commission on the Status of Women and appointed Eleanor Roosevelt as its chair. Kennedy recognized the moment was right.

That was 48 years ago, and it’s time to do it again.

Well, is Valerie Jarrett the next Eleanor Roosevelt? I’m not so sure. But I am hoping that Jarrett will come in and do some good for the women of this country. And if she does not, you bet your organization will be speaking out once again loudly and clearly.

What do you think?

Join Our Email List

Be the first to know the latest initiatives from The New Agenda to improve the lives of women and girls.

Thank you for joining our list! Check your inbox to confirm your subscription.

  • SantaFeK

    I want to be positive and hope that Ms Jarrett will take the high road and do whatever she can. She does have her detractors, and is a highly? or lowly regarded slum landlady from Chicago. So maybe she knows how to twist some arms for the women? Mazel Tov. I hope.

  • Lori Lee

    This woman does not deserve to be the point person for women. She smeared Hillary and then Sarah. Give me a break! How can your organz support her?

  • SantaFeK

    Lori Lee,
    I understand how you feel, as I am whipsawed about this appointment. I want the precedent of a WH Council on Women. TNA has been pushing such a council, and we all can be vociferous about issues to the council too. I hope. But the woman is a major arm twister type. Please get on her.. er.. rear side and make your desires known…

  • MaryL

    My concern with Valerie Jarrett is that I don’t think she has been “kicked to the curb” enough to understand the depth and breadth of the problems that women in this country face when they try and try again to succeed on “merit.”
    Her life story seems to be one success story after another….it’s been pretty easy for her.
    Maybe her luck will take us all far this time?

  • Sibelius opposed a first woman president — but she did have some credits in health care. What credits on womens issues does Jarrett have?

  • TB


    Recent postings here by you and your editiors have demonstrated a smart move away from reflexive Obama bashing, to a more balanced approach of hailing his good moves and attacking ones you don’t agree with. I commend you on that, and I hope the trend continues. There is a much greater chance of TNA expanding if people who voted both for and against the President feel welcome here.

    The creation of a White House Women’s Council is a very good step, one which we haven’t seen in many years, even during the Clinton administration.

    Of course, the woman picked to head it was naturally going to be an Obama supporter, which means some of the posters here will naturally hate her, since they think the litmus test for being a true feminist is hating Obama. Congratulations for beginning to move past this sort of knee-jerk thinking. I hope most TNA members follow suit.

  • Thia Lawson

    Hmmm… I never saw The New Agenda as reflexive Obama bashers, I pat him on the back when he does something I like and I bash him unashamedly when he mucks it up. That said, you have a very good point that it would be unreasonable to expect him to pick someone that didn’t support him. So with that in mind, I intend to “hold my nose and clap” as I have done before and will no doubt do again.

    See the photo in this article…

  • TB said, “Of course, the woman picked to head it was naturally going to be an Obama supporter.”

    Hm? I thought you didn’t like Obama-bashing. 🙂

    Half the voters in the Democratic primaries supported Hillary; so did 9.4 million of McCain’s voters in Nov exit polls. That’s plenty to choose from.

  • SomeHopeyChangey

    Documents Connecting Valerie Jarrett to Chicago Real Estate Scandals

    Chicago Department of Housing and Illinois Secretary of State documents:…state-scandals

  • Madeline

    Flora: May I ask, do you really view any woman who supported Obama so negatively? Sebelius supported the candidate whom she believed would make the best leader. Why should that reflect negatively on her? Should the black people who supported Hillary during the primaries because they believed that she would make the best leader be ashamed that they did not support the black candidate? You have every right to vote solely for female candidates (regardless of ideology) as a strategy. But I do not think you should look down on those who voted for the candidate they considered most qualified, regardless of gender.

    Please forgive me if I am misinterpreting or overreacting to your statements. It can be difficult to decipher nuance and intent over the internet sometimes.

  • Adrienne Grey

    TB said, “Of course, the woman picked to head it was naturally going to be an Obama supporter.”

    Oh, I don’t know. He did after all choose Hillary Clinton to be his Secretary of State. Surely if he wanted to signal how important the White House Women’s Council is to him, he could have found someone with more apparent credentials in supporting women than Ms. Jarrett.


  • Sasha, CA

    What credits on womens issues does Jarrett have?

    I’ve been trying to find the answer to this question myself. Can anyone point to any work Jarrett has done to advance women’s equality? Has she been involved with any women’s rights organizations? Does she even consider herself a feminist? What — besides her gender which I’ve consistently maintained is insufficient by itself — qualifies her for this position?

  • Adreinne,

    Even if Jarrett did have credits on women’s issues, for Obama to choose someone so close to him is not good for his credibility on this sensitive issue. It might suggest that he wants a sock puppet — or alternatively, that no other woman would take the job.


    Some people here advocate voting for any woman, regardless of qualifications, but I’m not among them. I favor the best qualified, which includes having a good record on women’s issues.

  • Madeline

    My apologies, Flora, I misremembered your previous statements. But my other questions about your thoughts on women who supported Obama still stand, and I would be very curious about your answers, if you care to share them.

  • Madeline,

    The question of gender voting has come up often in different threads. I _feel_ a burst of fresh air at the thought of “Just vote for the woman” but my logical mind always adds “when in doubt” or “other things being equal” or some such major limiter. And i remember the military rule: “The first duty of a prisoner is to escape.” So my first duty when in doubt, is to try to become less in doubt — ie to further research one or both candidates.

    As for your other questions, I fear that discussion would become a bit off-topic for TNA, and divisive. I’ve started a blog of my own,, where I can discuss just about anything, if you’ d care to take it up there.

  • Amy,

    Why can’t we say that we are glad to see the office created, but there are other women more qualified to head it, or simply reserve judgment on Jarrett? Why must it be treated as a single issue?

  • John Horning

    Is it feasible for TNA to formally request that Ms. Jarrett state her position on the TNA goals?

  • Kevin


    I agree with TB, a very good approach and tone. I call it “optimistically critical” – applaud positive steps, be willing to serve as a partner in fostering women’s rights but be very critical of action and demand results.

  • SomeHopeyChangey

    Re: John Horning’s comment on requesting Ms Jarrett to state her position on goals:

    John, this is a very good idea, I think. And fair. She has no background in women’s issues, other than being a successful business woman and prima slum landlady, as an example.
    I think it would be fair for any appointee.

  • Kevin

    John, good idea. The request should also offer up a partnership is ensuring results.

    SomeHopeyChange, “other than being a successful business woman and prima slum landlady” statement appears to belittle being a successful businesswoman – which is a significant accomplishment. And is being a real estate developer/owner/property manager the same as “prima slum landlady?” Finally, being a lawyer, having a BA in psychology and chairing the Chicago Stock Exchange, Ms. Jarrett appears to have excellent credentials.

  • Fannie

    Jarrett needs to walk away from this poistion, come back another day! The too cozy relationship she has with the Obama’s is the only reason she is put into place. I realize he/her/they are still campaigning for 2012, she’s had a vital role there, and she ought not waste her time in the women’s movement. We need a woman who has been in the fight and in the organizations we’ve been working on for years.

    Let her know, the best of our years are to come, and it won’t be from a woman that sat in silence during this election. It will
    come from the voice of women who put pressure on the media and those who participated in sexism, including women against women, that was wrong, and we did somethiing about it ………we started the New Agenda, we started many internet sites deciated to anchoring a system for women.

  • Kevin


    So despite Ms. Jarrett’s lifelong accomplishments where she probably had to deal with the slings and arrows of sexist men, her friendship with and work for the President disqualifes her.

    While a history of involvement in the women’s rights movement would definitely be a plus, distance from and a lack of association with the President would not be a positive in a job where you want the President’s ear, action and support.

  • Fannie

    Kevin – Acoomplishments? Hire Michelle Obama, linked to Rezko
    real estate deals, managing housing project deemed unliveable
    where thousands of women and babies lived horribly.

    Totally and nothing but a crony appointment, pay to play crap, which will do nothing more than further divide women, she is the right side of his brain………..

    She’s not out to win for women, but for Obama in 2012.