“Oh, if I could but live another century and see the fruition of all the work for women. There is so much yet to be done.” – Suffragist Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)
The consumer movement, trust-busting, the women’s movement, and the work of the FTC have traveled parallel (and often intersecting) paths. Women’s History Month offers us a chance to consider the contribution women have made to the mission of the FTC and the unprecedented moment in women’s history we’re witnessing at the FTC today.
At the start of the 20th century – before women won the right to vote – managing the household budget was the first step many women took toward economic empowerment. Their efforts fueled the drive for safer products and fair dealing.
From the beginning, the FTC has been committed to encouraging a competitive marketplace where truth prevails. Skim the first volume of FTC Decisions and you’ll see a surprising number of “shopping cart” cases – inferior coffee beans sold as mocha java, sweetheart deals that kept competing household goods off store shelves, and misleading testimonials for health products, to name just a few. Our law enforcement actions continue to target practices that hit Americans in the wallet.
How has the FTC maintained its consistent focus on unfair and deceptive practices that affect the day-to-day dollars-and-cents interests of consumers? We think some part of that may be due to the leadership of outstanding women.
Appointed in 1964 by President Johnson, Mary Gardiner Jones was the first woman to be named an FTC Commissioner. Since then, 14 women have served as Commissioners. Janet D. Steiger was the first woman to be named Chairman, a position she held from 1989 to 1995.
And now to that moment of living history. We note that for the first time, all four sitting Commissioners – Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, Commissioner Julie Brill, Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen, and Commissioner Terrell McSweeny – are women. What’s more, the FTC’s three bureaus have women at the helm: Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Jessica Rich, Bureau of Competition Director Deborah Feinstein, and Bureau of Economics Director Ginger Zhe Jin.
We think their efforts to protect the interests of all consumers give us a special reason to celebrate March as Women’s History Month.