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Texas Originals

Oveta Culp Hobby And Her Leading Role In Government

She was the first woman to lead the Women’s Army Corps.



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Photograph of Oveta Culp Hobby,
Photograph of Oveta Culp Hobby, first secretary of the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare, first commanding officer of the Women’s Army Corps, and chairman of the board of the Houston Post. Photo taken in 1953.

Oveta Culp Hobby
January 19, 1905– August 16, 1995


As a young girl, Oveta Culp Hobby was fascinated by the world of government. Later in life, she took a leading role in that world. She was born in Killeen in 1905, the daughter of state legislator Ike Culp.

Oveta Culp received her law degree in 1925 from The University of Texas at Austin. While studying, she served as the state's legislative parliamentarian. I n 1931, she married former Texas Governor William P. Hobby. The Hobbys published the Houston Post, and had two children. But when the United States entered World War II, Oveta Hobby was asked to organize a women’s support section for the Army. She agreed, and through her efforts, more than 150,000 women served in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps during the war. In January 1945, Hobby was awarded the Army's Distinguished Service Medal for her work.

After the war, Hobby returned to Houston. But in 1953, President Eisenhower appointed her to lead the newly created Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, where she once again organized an entirely new agency of the federal government.

Col. Oveta Culp Hobby (right) talks with Auxiliary Margaret Peterson and Capt. Elizabeth Gilbert at Mitchel Field

Oveta Culp Hobby died in 1995, leaving an inspiring record of civic service. Today, her words about women and the war effort are inscribed on the World War II memorial on the National Mall in Washington. The inscription reads "Women who stepped up were measured as citizens of the nation, not as women … This was a people's war, and everyone was in it."


Hobby, William P., Jr. "Hobby, Oveta Culp." Handbook of Texas Online.

Rice University Fondren Library. "Oveta Culp Hobby and the Women’s Army Corps."

This episode first aired April 21, 2012.