Katharine E. White was born in 1906. Her father was appointed to be the United States Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. She lived in Constantinople while her father was ambassador there from 1916 to 1919. The family later settled in Red Bank, New Jersey.
Katharine E. White became involved in local Democratic politics and unsuccessfully ran for Red Bank Borough Council in 1933, losing by thirteen votes.
In 1950 she ran for Mayor of Red Bank, as the Democratic candidate in a predominantly Republican town. She defeated her Republican opponent, Stanley O. Wilkins, and was sworn in on January 1, 1951 as Red Bank’s first female mayor and the first Democrat to serve in more than twenty years. She was re-elected twice, remaining Mayor until 1956.
From 1955 to 1964 she became chairman of the New Jersey Highway Authority. She held the position for nearly ten years, and was the first woman in the United States to head a toll road body.
Katharine E. White was appointed Ambassador on March 4, 1964. It was at a Women’s National Press Club dinner, President Lyndon Johnson announced Katharine’s appointment as U.S. Ambassador to Denmark. At the same time Johnson also named nine other women to federal posts, pledging an end to “stag Government”. Katharine E. White served as Ambassador until 1968, where she returned to Red Bank and worked with local and national organizations.
More information about Ambassador White
- Relevant chapter from “Past and promise: lives of New Jersey women
- Harry S. Truman Library and Museum
- Red Bank Register. March 20 1964. Articles discussing Ambassador Whites nomination as Ambassador to Denmark. (PDF 15.3 MB)
- heinonline.org. Article mentioning Ambassador White’s first election as mayor. Taken from “Women Lawyers Journal” (PDF 15 MB)