Jacqueline Kennedy was born on this day in 1929, in Southhampton, New York. She was named Jacqueline Lee Bouvier. Her father, John, was a stockbroker on Wall Street whose family had come from France in the early 1800s. Her mother, Janet, had ancestors from Ireland and England.
As a child, Jackie loved to read. Before she started school, she had read all the children’s books on her bookshelves. Her heroes were Mowgli from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Robin Hood, Little Lord Fauntleroy’s grandfather, Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With the Wind, and the poet Byron.
Photo: Jacqueline Bouvier, 1935. Photograph by David Berne in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.
Morley Safer’s interviewed Betty Ford for the CBS news program “60 Minutes.” They taped the interview in the White House Solarium on July 21, 1975.
The “60 Minutes” segment marked Mrs. Ford’s first extensive, exclusive TV interview. Safer questioned her on a number of topics including her experiences as a politician’s wife, openness about her breast cancer, and support for women’s rights, particularly the Equal Rights Amendment.
Safer noted that unlike many political wives, for Betty Ford “the higher your husband’s gotten, the more really controversial things have been said.” This interview would be no exception. She called the Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize abortion “a great, great decision,” and discussed premarital sex and the possibility of her children using drugs.
After the segment aired on August 10 the White House received a deluge of negative comments regarding Mrs. Ford’s position on these issues. Public mail ran 2 to 1 against Mrs. Ford, although more positive comments came in over time. In the long run her approval rating increased after the controversy died down.
According to Sheila Weidenfeld, Mrs. Ford’s press secretary, the First Lady later sent Safer an autographed picture inscribed, “If there are any questions you forgot to ask – I’m grateful.”
-from the Ford Library
Helen Keller was born on this day, June 27, 1880.
Helen Keller wrote letters to eight U.S. Presidents, from Theodore Roosevelt through Lyndon B. Johnson, on behalf of her work for the disabilities community. You can find more Presidential records featuring Helen Keller here.
Photo: Eleanor Roosevelt and Helen Keller (both far left) and others in Martha’s Vineyard. 8/25/54.
Betty Ford attended the dedication of Bennington College’s new Visual and Performing Arts Center on May 22, 1976. The First Lady had studied dance there as a teenager in the 1930s.
In her remarks Mrs. Ford reflected on her time at Bennington and her appreciation for the arts. “For those of us who studied here, Martha Hill, Martha Graham and others gave us something else. They touched our hearts with fire and infused us with spirit,” she said. “Isn’t that what the arts are about? Nourishment for the soul. The arts, especially for me the dance, draw out our emotions and make us more alive. Very often the arts help me to see life in a new way.”
During the ceremony Mrs. Ford affixed a plaque to the building, officially dedicating the center. She and Martha Hill, who had been one of her dance instructors at Bennington, watched a presentation of pieces choreographed and performed by students from the college’s dance department in the new building’s West Dance Studio.
(White House photograph A9928-14A)
Time Flies When You’re Having Fun
It’s hard to believe, but we’ve made it through all of the state dinners hosted by President and Mrs. Ford. We hoped you’ve enjoyed going behind the scenes at these White House events.
Although we’re saying goodbye to our state dinner focus, don’t worry! We’ll be back soon with even more great items from our collections.
President and Mrs. Ford wave goodbye to Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti as he departs the White House following a state dinner held in his honor on December 6, 1976.
We loved the State Dinner series and we’ll be reblogging those over the next few months. Looking forward to seeing what else our colleagues at fordlibrarymuseum have planned!
Eleanor Roosevelt’s First Press Conference - March 6, 1933
On March 6, 1933 Eleanor Roosevelt held the first of her 348 women’s only press conferences. Before this time, First Ladies had little contact with reporters. Eleanor recognized that holding regular conferences could enhance the public role of the First Lady - a role she transformed during her 12 years in the White House.
About 35 women attended Eleanor’s first press conference which was held in the Monroe Room on the second floor of the living quarters in the White House. The press conferences were attended by the major female reporters of the day - including Lorena Hickok, Ruby Black, Bess Furman, May Craig, Emma Bugbee and Martha Stayer.
Eleanor used these press conferences as a way to not only announce her schedule of activities but also as a platform to publicize the work of women leaders, answer her critics, and entertain questions on a variety of subjects. Topics covered everything from domestic issues like social programs, race, youth activism, etc. to international politics and the role of women in war and peace.
Today marks the 90th anniversary of the first time the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was introduced in Congress in 1923. Both Gerald and Betty Ford were strong supporters of this constitutional amendment that stated, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
When the ERA was again introduced in the early 1970s, Congressman Ford voted in favor of it. Just over 30 states had ratified the amendment by the time he entered the White House. As President, Ford urged “those States who have not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment to give serious consideration to its ratification and the upholding of our Nation’s heritage.” He hoped that the requisite goal of ratification by 38 states would be reached in the Bicentennial year of 1976.
First Lady Betty Ford staunchly and vocally supported the ERA. “It is my personal opinion that ratification of the ERA is the single most important step that our nation can take to extend equal opportunity to all Americans,” she said.
Here is one of her statements explaining why she was firmly in favor of this amendment.
Photo: First Lady Betty Ford Expressing her support for the Equal Rights Amendment in Hollywood, Florida. 2/25/75.
On November 7, 2000, Hillary Rodham Clinton was elected to the United States Senate for the state of New York. Her election had several firsts - she was the first female Senator from New York and the only First Lady to run for public office. Clinton was sworn in on January 3, 2001 and she served as both a Senator and First Lady until January 20th.
Photograph of President William Jefferson Clinton, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Chelsea Clinton Applauding during Election Night at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York, New York, 11/07/2000
King Hussein, President Ford, Queen Alia, and Mrs. Ford pause at the base of the Grand Staircase before proceeding to the East Room to receive their guests.
Having attended White House functions before, President Ford felt that this first state dinner “would also give Betty and me an opportunity to put our personal imprint on White House social occasions.” He observed that during the previous administration after dinner entertainment had been formal and the Nixons usually left just after the show. The Fords wanted their dinners to be “more relaxed” and included after-dinner dancing as part of the evening.
Happy 100th Birthday President Ford!
This Sunday is the 100th anniversary of Gerald R. Ford’s birth on July 14, 2013. Throughout 2013, we are celebrating President Ford’s Centennial at the Ford Presidential Library and Museum and the National Archives. Check out some of the highlights:
- Ford’s life in pictures each Friday
- President Ford and the Space Program — Apollo/Soyuz
- State Dinners with President and Mrs. Ford*
- The Gerald R. Ford Centennial
To get the party started, here’s some birthday photos from earlier festivities for Jerry:
Congressman Ford cuts the cake at the party for his 59th birthday on July 14, 1972. He was in a wheelchair following an operation for his “football” knee; President Ford opens presents at his surprise birthday party on July 14, 1975;
President and Mrs. Ford toast on the occasion of his 63rd birthday during a surprise lunch at the San Souci restaurant on July 14, 1976.
*The latest member of the National Archives family on Tumblr!
(State Dinners with President and Mrs. Ford from the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum)