VA was the first federal agency to have a woman executive officer.
In August 1965 Irene Parsons became the first woman executive in the government when she was appointed as VA's Assistant Administrator and Director of Personnel by President Lyndon B. Johnson. She oversaw 170,000 employees--50,000 of them women--in the 3rd largest government agency, behind DOD and the Post Office. Equal opportunities for everyone was her personal platform. Her salary was $22,000 per year.
Born in North Carolina, Irene Parsons came to Washington, DC, in 1941 to pursue a master's degree at George Washington University. In 1943 she was part of the first class of women Coast Guard SPARS to attend the Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT. After her discharge in 1946, she went to work at the Veterans Administration Central Office in Washington, DC. She spent her entire career at VA, retiring in 1975 after nearly 30 years of service.
Parsons received the Federal Woman's Award, the Civil Service League Award, a commendation for distinguished service from President Richard Nixon, the GWU Distinguished Alumnae award, and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, her alma mater.
Ms. Parsons died last week on March 10, 2011 and was buried at the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church Cemetery in North Wilkesboro, NC.
In honor of Women's History Month, the VASNHCS is proud to profile Irene Parsons as a distinguished American. She will be missed!