We have all heard about the actors who became politicians, but what about the actresses? A number of women who are former entertainers have entered the realm of politics, some to great acclaim, and some not.
Most of us have heard of Shirley Temple, beloved child star, but how many know about her grown-up career as a U.S. ambassador and diplomat? Or what about Sheila Kuehl, who first made her mark in 1960s television, and later went on to become an attorney and member of the California state senate?
Here’s a look at how some former actresses turned to politics later in life.
Helen Gahagan Douglas, 1900-1980: She’s probably the most famous former actress-turned-politician of the 20th century, and will go down in history as the person who gave Richard Nixon his unforgettable nickname “Tricky Dick.”
Douglas, who appeared on Broadway during the 1920s and ’30s, married actor Melvyn Douglas in 1931. She became involved in politics in the 1940s after the couple settled in California, and was known for her progressive stance on such issues as equal rights for women, African Americans and labor.
In 1944, Douglas was the first woman Democrat to be elected to Congress from California. She served in the House of Representatives for three terms; during this time she met Lyndon Johnson, with whom she had an affair for some years.
Douglas then ran for a Senate seat against Nixon in 1950 and lost after a bitter battle in which Nixon’s campaign called her “The Pink Lady” and smeared her as a Communist sympathizer. That was the end of her political career.
Shirley Temple Black, born in 1928: It’s hard to think of Shirley Temple without visualizing the ringlets and dimpled cheeks, yet long after her entertainment career was over, she stayed in the public eye for her political contributions.
One of the best-known child stars of all time, for films like “Little Miss Marker” and “Curly Top,” her movie career dwindled as she grew older. She married Thomas Black in 1950, but after raising a family, decided on politics as a new career. After running for Congress unsuccessfully, she was appointed as a United Nations representative in 1969 and served on several important UN committees.
Black was appointed as U.S. Ambassador to Ghana in 1974 by President Gerald Ford and served for two years. She then served as the Chief of Protocol of the United States from 1976-77 and helped arrange the inauguration ceremony of President Jimmy Carter.
In 1981, Black helped found the American Academy of Diplomacy, and from 1989-1992, served as U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia.
Black was honored in 2006 with the Screen Actors Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award for her many accomplishments.
Sheila James Kuehl, born in 1941: Known for her role as Zelda Gilroy in “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” Kuehl made a career change after her TV series “Broadside” was canceled in the mid-1960s.
At age 34, Kuehl was admitted to Harvard Law School and went on to a distinguished career as an attorney, and taught law at Loyola, UCLA and USC. She ran for the California State Assembly and was elected in 1994, becoming the first openly gay person elected to the California legislature.
Kuehl served as assemblywoman until 2000, and then was elected to the California State Senate, where she served until 2008, when she left because she had reached the maximum number of years under the state’s term limits act.
She was a founding member of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus and served as speaker pro tempore from 1997-1998, the first time a woman had held that position. She authored 171 bills that were signed into law, focusing on health care, workers’ and women’s rights, and environmental issues.
Kuehl is now the founding director of the Public Policy Institute at Santa Monica College and a Distinguished Policy Fellow at the UCLA School of Public Affairs.
Nancy Jane Kulp, 1921-1991: Best known for her role as Jane Hathaway on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” Kulp is yet another actress who turned to politics later in life.
A native of Pennsylvania, she began working with the Democratic State Committee there on various projects, and in 1984 decided to run for the U.S. House of Representatives.
However, Kulp, a liberal Democrat, was unsuccessful in her bid for the seat, which was in a largely Republican district.