Biography and History

Ann Whitman (1908-1991) was personal secretary to President Dwight D. Eisenhower during both of his administrations and later served as chief of staff to Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller. She attended a year of secretarial school at the Spencerian School in Cleveland and then entered Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio in 1926, majoring in accounting and literature. The school's schedule alternated six weeks of class with six weeks of working. During her sophomore year, she worked as a typist at the New York Institute for Child Guidance in New York City, and when she was promoted to secretary of the director of the Institute, Dr. Lawson Lowry, she decided not to return to college. Whitman worked there until the Institute was closed in 1933, and soon obtained employment as personal secretary to Dr. Levy's wife, Adele Rosenwald Levy, a philanthropist and daughter of the owner of Sears, Roebuck & Company. She left the position in 1949, but the two remained friends. During the early 1950s, Whitman worked for the Committee for a Free Europe, which ran Radio Free Europe.

Whitman was working as a secretary at Citizens for Eisenhower in New York in 1952 when she was asked to work in Dever for two weeks to help organize Eisenhower's headquarters, three weeks before the Republican National Convention. Due to the illness of Eisenhower's secretary, Whitman was pressed into service in this position. The two developed a working rapport, and she remained his personal secretary for the rest of the presidential campaign and through both of Eisenhower's administrations. As his personal secretary, Whitman's role was to run his office, a job which routinely required twelve hour workdays, often seven days a week. Her main responsibility was supervising the President's responses to correspondence, numbering hundreds of thousands of letters a year. Letters were either dictated to her by Eisenhower, written by her to be signed by the President, or answered by her on behalf of Eisenhower. She also supervised the typists who typed the final letters, listened in on his phone conversations to take notes (a common practice at the time), and took dictation for his speeches and prepared notes for use in delivering them. She also traveled with him around the world as he attended meetings with national leaders and on his three "international goodwill tours," and accompanied him on trips to his Gettysburg farm and to Camp David. Her first trip to Europe was in 1955 for the Geneva Conference. Whitman continued to work for him for two years after he left the White House, until 1961. She worked briefly for Republican Citizens, in Washington, and then return to New York.

Whitman obtained a job with George L. Hinman, political advisor to Nelson A. Rockefeller, Governor of New York, in 1961. She became the Governor's personal secretary in 1965, and later his executive assistant. When Rockefeller was named Vice President by President Gerald R. Ford in 1974, he made Whitman his chief of staff, making her the first woman to ever hold that position. She found herself in a difficult role; accustomed to speaking frankly and with her previous experience working for Eisenhower, she frequently warned Rockefeller that he was attempting to do things that were the domain of the president. She also faced tension in working with other White House staff, being female and working for the unpopular Rockefeller. Rockefeller replaced Whitman as chief of staff with Susan Herter in June 1975, six months after they had come to the White House. Whitman returned to New York, still working for Rockefeller by handling his personal affairs, until she retired in June 1977.

Whitman was born Ann Elizabeth Cook in Perry, Ohio on June 11, 1908 to Willis Wood and Esther Few Cook. Whitman married Clarence Willard Moore in 1933, and the marriage ended amicably in divorce after seven years. Whitman married Edmund S. Whitman, public relations executive and later vice-president of United Fruit Company, in 1940 and they divorced in 1961. Whitman died on October 15, 1991 at the age of 83.

Source: From the finding aid for MC172

  • Ann Whitman Papers on John Foster Dulles. 1952-1959 (inclusive).

    Call Number: MC172

    Ann Whitman (1908-1991) was personal secretary to President Dwight D. Eisenhower during both of his administrations and later served as chief of staff to Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller. Whitman's Papers on John Foster Dulles consist of photocopies of a portion of Whitman's files concerning secretaries of state John Foster Dulles and Christian A. Herter. The majority of the files consist of correspondence of John Foster Dulles, often with President Eisenhower or United States government officials, and also include a small amount of similar material of Christian A. Herter.