“I believe in the innate goodness of the American people. I believe in the values that made this country what it is; courage, perseverance, generosity, faith, and a commitment to service.”
A native of North Carolina, Elizabeth Dole received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Duke University, graduating with distinction as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Following her success as an undergraduate, Dole pursued post-graduate work in education at both Oxford and Harvard. She earned a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Harvard University and a Doctorate of Law from Harvard Law School, where she was one of only 24 women in her graduating class of 550.
Dole launched her career in public service in 1960, working on the Kennedy-Johnson presidential campaign, and subsequently served in the Johnson, Nixon, and Ford administrations.
Senator Elizabeth Dole’s list of achievements demonstrates her lifelong commitment to service, made even more impressive by the fact that she was often among the first, if not the first, woman to hold her positions, starting with her appointment to the Federal Trade Commission in 1973. She was later appointed by President Ronald Reagan to become the first female Secretary of Transportation. Because the Coast Guard was part of the Department of Transportation during her service, she has the distinction of being the first woman to head a U.S. military branch. Following this appointment, she served as Secretary of Labor under President George H.W. Bush, becoming the first woman to hold two different Cabinet positions in two different Presidential administrations.
In these national leadership roles, Dole focused on public safety and health. In her capacity as Secretary of Transportation, she made significant safety improvements. Most notably, she’s credited with the historic “trifecta” of regulations that went into effect on the same day in 1984. This resulted in safety belt use laws in 49 states, air bags in cars, and a national drinking age of 21. These regulations are credited with saving close to half a million lives to date and continue to save an estimated 20,000 lives annually.
As Secretary of Labor, Dole focused on protecting Americans from workplace injuries and created initiatives that helped at-risk-youth find employment. Within this role, she negotiated a raise in the minimum wage and created the Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills to encourage a high-performance economy characterized by high-skill, high-wage employment. Through these accomplishments, she was an instrumental force in the effort to break the glass ceiling for women in high federal executive positions.
Dole assumed the presidency of the American Red Cross in 1991, the first woman to hold the position since founder Clara Barton more than a century prior. Under her guidance, the American Red Cross restructured and reorganized after the chaos of blood donation during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Additionally, she played an instrumental role in her husband’s 1996 presidential campaign before running her own campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000. Dole returned to her home state and became the first woman to win North Carolina’s Senate seat in 2002.
In 2012, Dole founded the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to support military caregivers after witnessing the hardships these spouses, parents, siblings, and friends of wounded, ill, and injured veterans and service members face while she was caring for her husband, Bob, during an extended stay at Walter Reed Hospital. Since the Foundation’s launch, she has led the way in exposing the military caregiving crisis and bringing crucial resources to help these hidden heroes.
Awards and Honors
Due to her incredible record of public service, Senator Elizabeth Dole has been honored with a multitude of prestigious awards and high honors, including:
- Induction into the Safety and Health Hall of Fame
- Humanitarian Award from the National Commission Against Drunk Driving,
- Lifetime Achievement Award from Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety,
- “Flame of Life Award” from the National Safety Council
- Military Family National Service Award from the Military Officers Association of America
- William O. Douglas Award from Public Counsel
- Andrus Award from the AARP
- Civic Statesmanship Award from the Former Members of Congress Association
- Induction into Indiana Wesleyan University’s Society of World Changers
- July 29, 1936
Born in Salisbury, North Carolina
- June 2, 1958
Graduated Duke University
Graduated Harvard Law School
Appointed to Federal Trade Commission
Marriage to Senator Bob Dole
Secretary of Transportation under President Ronald Reagan
Secretary of Labor under President George H.W. Bush
Head of the American Red Cross
Senator Bob Dole’s Presidential Campaign
Candidate for Republican Presidential Nomination
North Carolina’s 1st Female Senator
Founded the Elizabeth Dole Foundation