Oscar de la Renta
July 22, 1932 - October 20, 2014
Oscar de la Renta’s career spanned several administrations and many First Ladies looked to the American fashion designer for just the right thing to wear on important occasions.
Here is a photo of Hillary Clinton in her 1997 inaugural gown designed by the great Oscar de la Renta.
President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton dance at a 1997 Inaugural Ball. 1/20/97. Photo from the Clinton Library
Happy 130th birthday Eleanor Roosevelt!
"I know now that what is most sustaining and healing in the immediate days and weeks following breast surgery is the love and understanding that come in such abundance from one’s husband and children. In addition, to have the good wishes and encouragement of so many other people is to feel especially blessed.” —Betty Ford
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Betty Ford was diagnosed with breast cancer just a few weeks after moving into the White House. She underwent a mastectomy on September 28, 1974, at Bethesda Naval Hospital. President Ford tried to visit her twice a day until she was released on October 11. In addition to the support of her family the First Lady also received thousands of get well messages from the public, including those who lives had also been affected by breast cancer.
Image: President Gerald Ford, Carrying a Football, and First Lady Betty Ford returning to the President’s Suite at Bethesda Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland, following the First Lady’s Breast Cancer Surgery, 10/04/1974 [digitally colored].
“Alexandria has been chosen as the first stop for one of the greatest campaigners in America, and I am very proud to announce that I am her husband.”
LBJ kicks off Lady Bird’s Whistle Stop in Alexandria. They will meet again in Raleigh that evening, after all of these stops:
- Fredericksburg, Virginia
- Ashland, Virginia
- Richmond, Virginia
- Petersburg, Virginia
- Suffolk, Virginia
- Norfolk, Virginia
- Ahoskie, North Carolina
- Hobgood, North Carolina (slowdown)
- Tarboro, North Carolina
- Rocky Mount, North Carolina
- Wilson, North Carolina
- Selma, North Carolina
More on Day 1: http://whistlestop.lbjlibrary.org/#day-one
October 5, 1964. Lady Bird prepares to head out tomorrow on her four-day, eight-state Whistle Stop campaign. She knows that LBJ’s chances of taking the southern states are slim, in light of the recent passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and that she will face hostile crowds, heckling, and even violence. She is going anyway.
“And every time the rest of the nation makes one more snide joke about cornpone or rednecks, the defenses of the South go up more angrily. The dividing abyss widens and the curtain becomes thicker and murkier. It is partly the South wanting to pull away and partly the rest of the nation misunderstanding – yes even laughing – in a way. None of this is right or is good for the future of our country.”
—Lady Bird’s recorded thoughts before departing on her Whistle Stop campaign tour, LBJ Presidential Library transcript.
On Monday, Oct. 6, 2014: the LBJ Time Machine departs from chronology to revisit Lady Bird Johnson’s Whistle Stop campaign of 1964, on its 50th anniversary…
Just three months after the 1964 Civil Rights Act was signed, amidst rising racial tensions in the South and against the advice of trusted advisors, Lady Bird Johnson boarded a train named the “Lady Bird Special” to campaign for her husband’s presidential bid in states from Virginia to Louisiana. President Johnson was ahead in national polls, but he faced an uphill battle in the South.
Liz Carpenter said later, “Our star attraction was a Southern-bred First Lady. We were supposed to blow kisses and spread love through eight states and make them like it….”
Stay tuned for what happens next! The train leaves the station Monday, Oct. 6.
Sometimes Laughter Is the Best Medicine
Photograph of President Gerald Ford and Comedian Bob Hope Visiting First Lady Betty Ford in the President’s Suite at Bethesda Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland, Following the First Lady’s Breast Cancer Surgery, 10/05/1974
From the first days on a campaign trail to the final days living in the White House, the First Ladies of the United States have attracted attention in numerous ways. Both historic and modern First Ladies have harnessed the power of fashion to build identity and inform Americans. In conjunction with our exhibition “Making Their Mark,” we present a distinguished panel to discuss and examine the fashions of America’s First Ladies through conversation and photos. Moderated by Tim Gunn, star of Project Runway, panelists include Valerie Steele, Director and Chief Curator, the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology; Lisa Kathleen Graddy, Deputy Chair and Chief Curator of Political History and the First Ladies Collection, Smithsonian National Museum of American History; and Tracy Reese, a fashion designer who has designed for First Lady Michelle Obama. Presented in partnership with the White House Historical Association.
Tuesday, September 30, at 7 p.m. in the William G. McGowan Theater
The discussion will be streamed live on YouTube.
“Photograph of Betty Ford, Frankie Welch, the designer of the gown being donated, and S. Dillon Ripley, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, with the gown Betty Ford is donating in the First Ladies Hall at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of History and Technology on 6/24/1976."
This sequined chiffon gown embroidered in a chrysanthemum pattern was her State Dinner Dress in 1975.
Courtesy of the Gerald R. Ford Library. National Archives Identifier: 7347186
Fascinated by First Ladies’ Fashion? Don’t miss the First Ladies’ Fashions panel moderated by Tim Gunn, star of Project Runway on Wednesday September 30th at the National Archives!
The First Lady’s First Press Conference
A week after the President gave his first press conference Betty Ford held one of her own. She fielded questions in the State Dining Room for 25 minutes on September 4, 1974.
Although she had interacted informally with the press since entering the White House, Mrs. Ford took a step many former First Ladies had not by making herself available to the media in an official press conference. Around 150 reporters and photographers attended the session.
During the press conference Mrs. Ford answered questions about her family’s transition to the White House, the impact of the economy on her family’s budget, and the possibility of President Ford running in the 1976 election. She spoke openly on several topics that would come up throughout the administration, including her support of the Equal Rights Amendment and women’s engagement in civic affairs. “I think that by becoming very active in politics, which I deeply encourage, that they will play a great role in the future of our country,” she said.
Reporters asked her about her role as First Lady as well. Mrs. Ford expressed her interest in supporting the arts, particularly in education, and working with underprivileged and retarded children. She also responded to a question regarding the kind of “footprint” she wanted to make during her time in the White House: “I would like to be remembered in a very kind way; also as a constructive wife of a President. I do not expect to come anywhere near living up to those First Ladies who have gone before me. They have all done a great job, and I admire them a great deal and it is only my ambition to come close to them.”
Here President and Mrs. Ford ride in the Presidential limousine during a trip to Chicago on August 19, 1974.
President Ford logged over 270,000 miles of travel while in office, and Mrs. Ford regularly accompanied him on trips. They attended public events together and made state visits to several foreign countries. “I had fun, I was privileged to travel in style and to see many wonders,” she reflected on their Presidential trips in her memoirs, “and these will stay in my memory.”-from the Ford Library
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.