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100 Women Who Have Helped Shape America

The Honorable Elaine L. Chao

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao is close to beating a record.

Chao, who served as George W. Bush’s Labor secretary for eight years, could soon beat the record for longest duration served in the Cabinet by a female official.

The reigning title was last set by former Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, the first woman to hold a Cabinet position in the United States who served 12 years in Franklin Roosevelt’s administration.

Chao has served a combined 11 years in the Cabinet under two administrations. Should President Trump win a second term in November, and if Chao stays on, she would supplant Perkins’s record.

Chao, born in Taiwan to Chinese parents who immigrated to the United States when she was 8, has held a number of other senior positions in the U.S. government. Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush appointed her to top roles including chair of the Federal Maritime Commission, the deputy secretary of Transportation and director of the Peace Corps.

She is also the first Asian American woman in U.S. history to be appointed to a president’s Cabinet. Between her government posts, she served as chief executive of the United Way of America. She has been awarded 36 honorary doctorate degrees from schools around the world.

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