As a 10-year member of Congress, Lynn (Morley) Martin (born 1939) sat on the powerful House Rules, Armed Services and Budget committees. She was also vice chair of the House Republican Conference—the first woman ever elected to a congressional leadership post. As secretary of Labor in the Bush Administration, Martin was outspoken on workplace reform—a subject about which she continues to lecture and write extensively while serving on the boards of several large corporations.
Lynn Martin was born Lynn Morley in Evanston, Illinois, on Dec. 26, 1939, the second of two daughters of Lawrence William Morley, an accountant, and Helen Catherine (Hall) Morley. She grew up on Chicago's North Side and graduated in 1957 with honors from William Howard Taft High School in Chicago.
An English major, Morley graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1960 from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana with a teaching certificate. During college she switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party, expressing the sentiment that the Democrats had abandoned individual rights in favor of the rights of groups.
In the spring of 1960 she married engineering student John Martin. After the birth of their daughter Julia, she taught English, economics, and government at Wheaton Central and Saint Francis high schools in Du Page County, Illinois. The Martins' second daughter, Caroline, was born in 1969.
Starting her political career in 1972, Martin served four years on the Winnebago County Board, sitting on the Finance and Public Works committees. She unseated a Democratic incumbent to win a seat in the Illinois House of Representatives, serving from 1977-79. With the support of the House Republican leader, she was assigned to the Appropriations Committee, where she became known as a fiscal conservative. Martin moved from the Illinois House to the Senate, winning a seat on that body's Appropriations Committee and continuing to press for reduced government spending.
Her marriage to John Martin ended in divorce in 1978, and in 1980 she left state government to run for Congress. During her campaign to represent Illinois' 16th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, Martin presented a platform that pleased conservatives by backing business deregulation, a smaller central government, and lower taxes. At the same time she appealed to liberals by supporting the Equal Rights Amendment and the pro-choice position on abortion.
Lynn Martin was the first freshman in Congress to be assigned to the powerful House Budget Committee. In 1982, she became the first woman to be elected to a congressional leadership post—vice chair of the House Republican Conference. Although Martin supported and helped shape the Reagan administration's budget policy, which included a military buildup, she maintained her commitment to what she called "underfunded domestic needs programs." She sided with the administration on a number of defense issues, voting for the MX missile and the space-based missile defense system known as "Star Wars," but also supported a nuclear freeze and federal funding of abortions for poor women. Over President Ronald Reagan's veto, she voted to impose economic sanctions against South Africa in retaliation for that government's policies of apartheid. Her congressional tenure would run from 1981 to 1991.
Martin was chosen to stand in for Geraldine Ferraro during mock debates with Vice President George Bush prior to the 1984 election. Martin's sharp wit and quick thinking so impressed the vice president that he selected her to deliver the vice presidential nominating speech at the Republican convention in Dallas. As the national co-chairperson of Bush's 1988 presidential campaign (the only woman so honored), Martin again gained national exposure when she gave one of the speeches nominating Bush for president.
In 1987 she married Judge Harry Leinenweber of the United States Court of the Northern District of Illinois—making her the mother of two and stepmother of five. In 1990 she lost her bid for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Paul Simon. But President Bush appointed her to succeed Elizabeth H. Dole as secretary of labor, and she was sworn in February 22, 1991. As head of the labor department, Martin pushed for greater representation of women and minorities in America's executive suites, attacked the "glass ceiling" as a discriminatory practice that prevents women from rising to positions of corporate power, and fought against corporate sexual harassment and drug use. She led by example, putting many of her ideas into practice at the department.
Martin criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA, a pact intended to loosen restrictions on trade between the U.S., Canada and Mexico), warning that it would cost 150,000 jobs, and questioned the effectiveness of state Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) programs. On Nov. 12, 1991, Martin appeared (with future Secretary of Labor Robert Reich) in the nationally broadcast teleconference Educating to Compete, a discussion of the impact of the quality of schools on the nation's ability to compete on the world stage.
Under Martin's leadership, the labor department also researched legislation that would allow workers to transfer pensions when they switch jobs.
Following Bush's 1992 defeat by Bill Clinton, Martin continued to be outspoken upon her return to private life—lecturing and writing extensively on contemporary politics and labor policy. In a 1993 New York Times article, she proposed a welfare system that places pregnant girls under the age of 16 into group homes. That year, she became a professor in the J.J. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University's business school, teaching public policy. She has also been a fellow at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and consulted for the international accounting firm Deloitte & Touche. She serves on the boards of several large corporations, including Ameritech. In 1993 she was named to the short list of candidates for commissioner of Major League Baseball. In 1996, Mitsubishi Motors asked her to lead a panel investigating allegations of sexual harassment within the company.
Opening the way, observers believed, for a possible Republican Party presidential run in 1996, Martin established her own political action committee as a source of funding and expressed her desire to contribute to the debate on the Republican Party's future. ABC-TV news anchor Ted Koppel called Martin "one of the most skilled politicians in the Republican party."
Martin's interest in more business opportunities for women was reflected in "Can the Feds Bust Through the 'Glass Ceiling'?" Business Week (April 29, 1991).
Martin explained the U.S. Department of Labor's anti-sexual harassment policies in "A Model Program Against Sexual Harassment at the Department of Labor," Employment Relations Today (Winter 1991).
Martin elaborated on her small business anti-drug stance in "Drug-Free Policy: Key to Success for Small Businesses," HR Focus (Sept. 1992).
Martin discussed the social aspects of the legislative process, and the role women play, in "The Senate is a Bastion of Stubborn Men," Los Angeles Daily Journal (Feb. 8, 1993).
Details of Martin's proposal for placing pregnant girls age 16 and under into group homes can be found in "For Children Who Have Children," New York Times (Sept. 8, 1983).
For a broad array of her positions on issues see Lynn Martin, "We Who Have Dared to Dream," a speech delivered at the Republican National Convention, Houston, Texas, Aug. 19, 1992, in Vital Speeches (Sept. 15, 1992). See also Judy Mann, "Martin in '96?" Washington Post (July 14, 1993); and "Out in Right Field," Washington Post (Oct. 29, 1993). □