Oveta Culp Hobby, the second child and second daughter of a country family, was born with unusual intellectual gifts. The girlís parents permitted her to develop her gifts organically, and by early adulthood she launched herself into the world of Texas politics and business. She augmented her self-education by seeking the example and guidance of intelligent and educated women, veterans of the suffrage movement in Texas. She married her employer, a newspaper publisher and former Texas governor, and proceeded to educate herself in the minutia of the newspaper business. Over time, her efforts contributed to the financial success of the paper. While still a young adult, she concurrently pursued a second career in volunteer associations and public projects, activities in which she exhibited proficiency. The War Department drafted her to help quell a querulous public, then, recognizing her problem-solving skills, drafted her again to organize the new womenís branch of the United States Army.
Following four years of service in Washington, D.C., she resumed her careers in business and public life. A member of the commercial and professional leadership of her city and state, she turned her attention to partisan politics, supporting Dwight Eisenhower as an electable Republican alternative to Democratic presidential candidates whom she thought too liberal. Eisenhower returned the favor by naming her the first woman in the cabinet of a Republican administration. A blue-ribbon panel recommended reorganizing the nationís executive branch. Eisenhower assigned Hobby to implement the most far-reaching of the reorganization steps, the establishment of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Successes and failures marked her tenure; some are still debated.
Hobby returned to her media company after her second stint of service in Washington and built it into a larger regional influence, ultimately selling the components. She lived a public life in fast-moving times: the booming 1920s, the Depression 1930s, the wartime 1940s, and the threatening 1950s. She influenced the outcomes of many events during the periods.