The White House Correspondents' Dinner is always an entertaining event, where the president, politicians, and media professionals get to let loose for an evening and often just laugh at themselves. But for all its comedic chops, the annual event is still very much an old boys' club — women were not even allowed to attend the dinner until 1962. This reminder of enduring sexism in both politics and the media certainly accounts for how few times the White House Correspondents' Dinner has actually been hosted by a woman, a coveted gig that seems to be practically (and unjustly) reserved for men. So has a woman ever hosted the Correspondents' Dinner?
Yes, but they serve as practical blips on the radar compared to the number of men who have secured the gig since the event's inception in 1920. Women have hosted the dinner on their own just a mere five times in the event's near 100-year history.
The first time wasn't until 1992, when comedian Paula Poundstone hosted. She was followed by comedian Elayne Boosler a year later, but the dinner wouldn't receive another solo female host until 1999, when singer Aretha Franklin took the stage in a rare moment (the gig is usually reserved for comedians, not singers). It would be another 10 years before the D.C. event got a female host in Wanda Sykes, who also became the first black lesbian for the role.
And then, finally, there was actress Cicely Strong, who hosted the annual dinner in 2015. With this year's event featuring comedian Larry Wilmore, guests hopefully won't have to wait several more years before getting another female host.
The inclusion of women in the White House Correspondents' Dinner can in large part be credited to Helen Thomas, the first female journalist to ever cover the White House. In 1962, she pressured President John F. Kennedy into boycotting the annual dinner until women were allowed in. President Kennedy agreed to boycott alongside Thomas, which led to women being given access to the event for the first time that year. Without Thomas making a stand, who knows how long the White House Correspondents' Association would have allowed the event to be a men's-only affair (despite the fact that some of the White House Correspondents' Association's dues-paying members were women).
The White House Correspondents' Dinner, with both its comedy and prestige, could always benefit from a female voice. Thankfully, the women who have hosted have been a great representation for that voice.