tv The Presidency First Ladies Fashion CSPAN November 23, 2018 12:15pm-1:16pm EST
kennedy's assassination. >> sunday november 24th, a mob scene continues as oswald is brought into the basement of the police building for transports to the jail. and then in full sight of millions of television viewers, a man named jack ruby searches through the crowd and shoots lee oswald dead. >> watch reel america saturday night at 10:00 eastern on american history tv on c-span 3. next on the presidency, noted first ladies ae historian talks about how president wives have influenced their political and cultural times through fashion. he begins with martha wash's use of symbolism in the choice of dresses and jewelry to bolster the young nation and ends with eisenhower's fondness for pink which inspired a fad for home goods and accessories in her favorite color. the richard nixon foundation hosted this hour-long event.
now to the first lady. we're honored to have as partners several of the nation's leading experts on first lady fashion. and you were given literature for each of the six -- to describe each of the six speakers through early september. over the next six weeks they'll present multiple programs. the individuals will exam the significant behind first ladies' fashion choices in a way never done before. but first we must recognize two people that were critical to the process. cheryl sarmy of the richard nixon foundation. [ applause ] >> in the back. and olivia annestous for their partnership and passion that made all of this possible. [ applause ] >> it is an honor to introduce carl anthony. we could not have produced the exhibition without carl's leadership. his the nation's leading expert
not only on first ladies fashion but on the role the first ladies have played in the white house dating back to martha washington. the author of a dozen books on the political and popular culture influence of presidential spouses and families and served as a speech writer for nancy reagan and a ghost writer for betty ford. it is an honor to welcome you to the richard nixon presidential library. [ applause ] thank you very much, bill. and also to members of the board and the staff of the richard nixon foundation which has made all of this possible. [ technical difficulties ] the curator with the national archives here and also cheryl
ser amy, the secretary, hardly a title that captures all that she does. it really is wonderful because it was in -- it was -- the seed of all of this came about through, i believe, really the great personal relationship between cheryl and olivia, personal and professional and it was from that a great enthusiasm was really worked up. and so when cheryl first called me about this and said it would be about first ladies' fashions and so forth, i told her i wasn't interested. because i wasn't really interested or didn't have a knowledge of fashion per se. and i say that with all great enormous respect to that industry, but it's sort of like
building an automobile or a house. it is a whole world unto itself. the structure, the art of it. the manufacturing and the marketing. but i began to think while we were speaking on the phone about the fact that i so often receive phone calls from the media about first ladies' clothing and what i always was interested in, because it is of course a big part of the history of the presidency through the first lady, is the political impact and the popular culture impact of what they wore. and it was christine mickey of the national archives staff, we were at early in the -- in the early stages of this and talking, a whole group of the two sides and -- and she was the
one who thought perhaps it might be better entitled instead of what they wore, as to -- the current title, why they wore it. because there is really two parts to the telling of this story. there is both the intention of the women and then something entirely out of their control the media and public reaction to what they wear. what is always amusing when you study history at a certain point you recognize that although people might have worn bonnets and driven in buggies, and that today we may have soon enough self-driving cars and are able to take photographs and send them around the world on a phone, that the essential nature of human beings changes actually
very little. and you also see -- and this is a very important part of this story, how technology, communications, really plays a central role. when we go back to the very first day that we had a first lady making a public appearance in may of 1789 when martha washington finally arrived in new york, a month after her husband had been inaugurated as the first president. it is fascinating to note that a newspaper, the daily -- i think it was called the daily intelligence or an advertiser made note of the fact that martha washington was wearing clothing that had been made in her country. and it went on to say it reflects the good values and solid craftsmanship of
american-made clothing. it was no mistake. in a letter george washington wrote about a year later to a friend of theirs, he made it clear that in public he and his wife would only be dressing in american-made clothing. now this was largely at that time, martha washington was seen by the public by enlarge at her private receptions. they were somewhat open to the public. but it was still something more on a sorts of a social referral and it was a weekly reception and she would receive guests on a dais, a bit like the heads of europe. and as you've all seen, most especially in the famous life portrait of her by gilbert stewart used on our opening banner for the exhibit, she wore
what we might almost call washington white all of the time. she always wore the whitecaps, the white mob caps and usually wore a white scarf around her neck. and it was intended to significant -- to signify the purity and essentially the sort of thoroughness of this new form of government, of a democracy. but what is also interesting is among the accessories she wore was an amber necklace. and amber was associated with classical greece. and so there were a lot of illusions made by martha washington to ancient greece, of course the first democracy. i will today be covering
basically 171 years in about 25 minutes. so i won't have an opportunity to talk about every single one of the first ladies, which will in this series i will be covering 1789 to '61, the kennedy inaugural and next week pamela kia will speak about jacqueline kennedy and nancy reagan and each of our subsequent speakers will also be covering two first ladies each up to the present. but i will today give you some glimpses i think of the more significant first ladies who used clothing to send a message, a political message. and those to whom there was great reaction to and much interpreted about them. dolly madison is probably the most important in the early years. even though martha washington
and abigail adams assumed a public role, they were a little bit uncomfortable with it and it was just by enlarge at receptions that they appeared. dolly madison saw her role as lee -- liaison to the general public. she appeared at all kinds of events outside of the white house. now thomas jefferson was president for eight years and a widower and occasionally his daughter martha randolph came up from virginia in two of the eight years as president and she was there in the white house. where dolly madison as the wife and sektd of state was there and she and her husband were adherence of jefferson-i on democracy. and president jefferson would do little things to signify equality, for example, using round tables where there was nobody at the head of the table and nobody at the end of the
table. but everyone was equal. dolly madison very much believed in this. but she also recognized the fact that in early washington diplomats from european nations were coming and kind of looking down their nose at this new capital in the crude countryside of what was then a new city, washington, d.c. and so she very consciously p pre -- created a costume for herself. because realizing that there were few actual symbols of this new country, she essentially turned herself into a living symbol of the new nation. and in wanting to both earn the respect for the united states and suggest that this new nation was on an equal footing with the old world of holland and france
and england that she had to somehow convey this visually without verbally making the point and yet also prove to be democratic. she certainly proved to be democratic in her behavior, in the way she interacted with people. she was friendly. she was gregarious and approachable. and she held these famous wednesday evenings which were called crushes because they were open houses at the white house. but she dressed in clothing largely imported from europe and in a french style that was for many of the older federalists a little bit too risque or revealing. but it was also in the napoleonic style and that emulated the jefferson democracy
emulated the new post-monarchy in france. so mrs. madison would wear bright colors and instead of wearing a crown, she came up with the idea of wearing a turbine. in fact, that became her trademark. and just so you would never fail to know where she was in the crowded rooms, she would often wear long birds of paradise feathers in the turban. but in fact almost all of her portraits i think except two certainly painted while she was first lady are all painted with her turbine. and as to the fact that she wore these low-cut dresses that were a little bit scandalous, it is
really kind of extraordinary when you think of the fact she had been a quaker and had been raised as a quaker and used to being all covered up and wearing gray and dark colors. in fact at one reception she encountered a friend, a gentleman who also once had been in the -- from the same meeting house that she and her family had attended in philadelphia and he had left and she looked at him and said, brother, where is thy broad brim, meaning his hat and he looked at her chest and said, sister where is your kerchief. so what is also very interesting is to keep in mind the fact that the general american public didn't know what mrs. madison looked like because there were not yet newspaper descriptions of her clothing. and it actually wasn't until
1817, the year she left the role of first lady that an engraving of her was reproduced on the cover of a magazine called the portfolio magazine printed in philadelphia. as you move along, you also see the contentious election of 1828 when the incumbent president john quincy adams from the old massachusetts aristocracy and his wife louisa adams born in europe, very continental and dressed very stylishly, although on a very limited budget we find in her letters that she made her own makeup and would use the same dresses but she would simply re-make them by adding different accessories. but the oppose that year was
andrew jackson from tennessee. and jackson really represented an enormous change in the country. he represented the poorer, working class. those who had migrated to the west, a lot of them first generation like himself, scotch-irish gone to kentucky or tennessee and his wife rachel, although from a very prominent family in tennessee, was back in washington considered very crude. that somehow she would not fit in with at least the east coast idea and the southern aristocracy of what a first lady should be. and one finds examples in the newspaper at the time of -- descriptions of mrs. a- ams' clothing, which have the very
first written newspaper descriptions of a first lady's apparent. but also her remark that she understands mrs. jackson dresses in home spun. so this was sort of a popular thing. as it turned out mrs. jackson died a month after her husband's election but before his inauguration and his -- her niece emily donaldson served as first lady and we have two records which indicate that mrs. donaldson received guests at the white house at one reception wearing calico. and calico had been adopted as a symbol of the jackson party. so you see the political parties already using not so much color, but in this case patterns or certain kinds of fabric to indicate political loyalty.
angelica van buren is the daughter if law of martin van buren who followed andrew jackson and she was from a wealthy south carolina family, educated in philadelphia. a very kind of progressive education where the elite of the whole country were gathered, whether jewish or catholic or protestant or quaker. and so she had sort of a very worldly view. and she married the president's son. van buren was a widower and took a honeymoon in europe. and was welcomed in england and france as an american princess, because their idea of a presidential family was still new so that is what they equated
her with and when she came back, she thought that too. and so she received on a dais and she would wear three feathers in her hair and one of the wig party spokesperson delivered a famous speech, congressman charles ogle of pennsylvania, when van buren was seeking re-election. what happens is during van buren's administration is the panic of 1837. this huge terrible lingering economic depression. and so people are really suffering. and meanwhile there is reports of president van buren ordering gold spoons and new china and his daughter-in-law, although she's not named particularly, there was still this sort of propriety about going after a
woman in the family. although i guess mrs. jackson was game. but in the case of mrs. van buren, she's just obliquely referred to as a member of the family, traveling through europe who thinks of herself as a crown head of europe. and her white house portrait shows her in the court costume that she wore when she was received in -- at buckingham palace. and van buren went down in defeat and in large part because of that speech. so you begin to see that what a first lady wore could also very much in the wrong time or i suppose the right time depending on whether you are trying to unseat the guy in the white house, could really work against a president. few examples, i think, bring all of these elements together
better than mary todd lincoln. because mrs. lincoln came to washington again as a westerner in the tradition of jackson. although she was extremely well educated, she spoke french, she studied astronomy and she could quote victor hugo from memory. and she was highly political. and when she first became first lady, she spoke to the secretary of state and her husband about the fact that she wanted to buy imported clothing and they told her no, that with the onset of the civil war, that the import tariffs were too great and that would be more beneficial to the economy for her to just buy from -- made within the united states. so she had a regular dress
maker, a very famous woman. a free slave who became her great con fid ant and it is a fascinating story but mrs. lincoln was often in new york. buying other things like gloves and fans and other accessories and she quite literally took her husband's advice a bit -- a bit to quite an extreme, to the point where she ran up what is i believe the modern equivalence of close to $300,000 in debt just on -- largely on clothing and she was terrified as he sought re-election -- [ technical difficulties ]
to the white house stables gathered and sold as fertilizer. white house fertilizer. the other was to go back to all of the republicans that had worked through her to get really lucrative jobs through the system and basically say, you owe me a percentage of your salary because you really wouldn't have that job were it not for me and were it not for the president. neither of these plans worked and of course she felt, however, very strongly about her clothing. she felt she had to represent the prosperity of the union and of the union army. because you have to remember, in washington, washington was essentially a southern city.
it had been a culture that way and it was -- although a lot of the southerners left the capital with the on set of the war, it still had a sort of southern spirit and there were still southerners there. and people were really -- the stories are legion, very nasty about mrs. lincoln. everything she did was criticized and attacked. you do begin to see for the first time very detailed descriptions of what mrs. lincoln wore. and at this time you also see for the first time in the weekly illustrated newspapers full length drawings of mrs. lincoln. and that started just briefly with harriet lane who was the niece of the president james buchanan before lincoln and she was the first who we begin to see in the illustrated -- i
don't think it is any mistake that the -- one of the two great publishers of the weekly illustrated was a man called frank leslie who was -- who started out as an american and was from a british -- was british born but started out as an american publisher of what were called fashion plates which were in europe at the time and france and in england and in fact that is a lot of americans both men and women saw what was the current vogue in england and france was through these publications and sometimes even hand tinted and that is how they were able to order clothing from overseas. but frank leslie published the very first american fashion plate. he stopped doing that but then went into his weekly illustrated news. but you see the first ladies appearing in particularly his
paper. and as time moves on, the technology begins to grow. because of course photography starts in 1844. julia tyler is the first to be photographed. harriet lane is the first to have her photograph reproduced and sold on the little thing called cart device -- meaning a reference to a visiting card. it was just like a business card, it was a tiny size piece of cardboard on which photographs were printed and pasted and the public could buy them. and that is when you began to see the onset of the large photo albums where people would put these in -- and during the civil war, there was no hollywood in that those days so the only public figure or celebrities was authors an military leaders and the president and his family and other high political figures. the interest in what first
ladies wore really does begin to take off in the industrial age. you come to somebody like julia grant who some people are very unkindly compared to looking like a piece of furniture because her gowns were festooned with beads and bows and bugles and ran in every direction and had every possible color. it was just no place for the eye to rest. and she -- her husband, president grant, was also a little bit concerned about it. mrs. grant would come in with very low cut sort of dresses and she got very offended by her husband thinking he had a right to tell her what to wear and she
issued one of the very first press releases ever made -- statements to the press when she was asked about setting an example and she said something that i think you've seen repeated with first ladies throughout the years , which is to say i'm not going to dictate what people should wear. people should wear what they want to wear and what they think looks best on them. and clearly she thought what she wore looked best on her. but you see within the republican party at the time the schisms that occur with bo-- wi both parties and you have grant with a lot of the political scandals and a lot of appointees from new york, a lot of the friends with the robber barrens and mrs. grant took a lot of gifts without realizing strings were attached and a lot of it
was from the new york republican party and at the time the two great power bases of the republican party were ohio and new york. and although grant had been born in ohio, the grants were really associated with the new york crowd, his successor was rutherford hayes the governor and you couldn't find two radically different than lucy hayes and julia grant. in fact on inauguration day one reporter sitting and watching mrs. hayes as the ceremony is going on gave a very detailed penned description and it just -- it broke into rhapsody to the point that she described her as looking like the virgin mary. and talking about her hair style
evokes the madonna herself. and people got very tired of that very quickly. there were a lot of newspaper and public reaction to mrs. hayes who was a devote methodist and banned alcohol from the white house and would have sunday hymn singing and people really started criticizing her for that, that it wasn't a very social house. and this is an era when you see morality, when you see the clothing and the first ladies taking on questions of morality. and that is really culminating with france's cleveland, the 21-year-old woman who was a bride in the white house. and who liked to wear very low
cut dresses and bare her arms. and she was -- the women's christian temperance union which has been fans of lucy hayes and donated her portrait to the white house where there is a water jug coming out because she only served water and soft drinks. and they went after mrs. cleveland and petitioned here and said she was setting an immoral example for the young women of the country. and mrs. cleveland just kept wearing the low cut dresses. but you are again looking at what else is going on. the technology. finally photographs can now be reproduced in magazines on the finer linen paper and just a few years later in 1901 you see ida
mckinley who succeeded mrs. cleveland very fuzzy image but it is the first known photograph of her in a newspaper. simultaneous to that are -- you start to see the -- mrs. mckinley captured on film. she's the very first first lady who is seen in the very early motion pictures, moving pictures as they called them. and that really begins to effect and accelerate the public interest in what first ladies are wearing. jumping ahead a little bit then you come say to the 1920s and the import and benchmark of women gaining the vote, the right to vote and mrs. harding is in the white house. now mrs. harding is one of the
oldest women to become first lady. but in spirit she captures the roaring 20s. she's the first to fly in an airplane and fascinated by the movie camera. she has the first radio in the white house. she invites movie stars to the white house. she does public appearances. she's an advocate, a radical advocate for animal protection coming out even against viva section in 1921. she's also an outspoken suffragist and she begins to wear clothing, although it is appropriate for her, it's a stylized version of what young women are wearing at the time, the big -- the early begins of what became thought of as the flapper look.
mrs. harding hired the first named designer, a man by the name of harry collins and he was a theatrical costume designer. and so she wore his clothing and it really atraktded a lot of attention. she, again, like mrs. grant when asked about how short women should dress and how short young girls should be allowed to dress, she said, i'm going to leave that to the wisdom of the individual to make that decision. she had a bit of a -- she was a little bit self conscious about her neck and so she would wear a black velvet neck collar and put a diamond sunburst there to sort of i suppose either bring attention to the diamond or attention away from her neck. but in a way to try and sort of -- to appear younger and the irony of it is that that became the popular -- with young women
at the time and that was called a flossie cling. now her maiden name was cling and she was florence and they call it flossie clings and they becamepopular. her immediate successor, grace coolidge, is really fascinating when it comes to the subject. because, you know, we think of the coolidges as, you know, they were very parsimonious yankees from vermont. you know, they had a farm and the president worked on his family farm. mrs. coolidge was famous for, you know, her blueberry muffin recipe. you know, she was very domestic. yet, she was also college educated and worked as a teacher of the deaf and was a real advocate for women seeking full education.
yet when you begin to see what she dressed in, they were exd v extravagant and really stylish. in many ways she's the first first lady, in some ways a modern first lady in the sense of she reminded me a little bit of michelle obama, she was very aware of what was in vogue and very -- and updated her wardrobe all the time. in fact, during an interview i had once with betty ford, mrs. ford told me that as a young girl she remembered how important mrs. coolidge had been to her mother in dictating at one time people would look to first ladies during the 20s and 30s for a sense of what was the right style, you know, to sort of being appropriate and proper and yet at the same time
stylisstylis stylish. i should mention that mrs. coolidge becomes the first first lady whose voice we hear. mrs. coolidge in the 20s, and what they're wearing in news reels in movie houses, mrs. hoover we hear on the radio every sunday the nation hears eleanor roosevelt on the radio. the nation not only hears mrs. roosevelt, but a lot of the nation actually saw mrs. roosevelt. she was very rarely at the white house. she was constantly on the move. this during the great depression and she assumed the role of eyes and ears of the president. she saw an opportunity when world war ii -- when war broke out in europe, an opportunity
for american manufacturing, american fashion industry. she was very much a supporter of the ladies' garment union, but she also for all her social activism took enormous pride to the fact she was named to a best dressed list. she knew the public wanted a little touch of elegance. they were expecting it from the first lady. she was in trains and planes, drove her own car. she always brought this fur piece. people spoke about that fur piece was, you know, pretty ratty by the time the roosevelt years ended. people loved it. little kids would come up and want to touch it. mrs. roosevelt though was very
practical. if she liked a dress, she would order it from a store in new york and would order five copies in different colors. i'm going to wrap up by just briefly touching on these last two in this segment, bess truman and mamie eisenhower. bess truman may likely be the most diligently unfashionable first lady we've ever had. she insisted on wearing a basic uniform of plum and navy blue. it was pretty much unvarying. you see her during her ceremonial role as first lady, she is never smiling. almost never smiling. and she especially hated movie cameras. but she was always in the dark clothing. she wore grays and browns and she did that for a reason.
she didn't want press attention. and she knew that if she wore something very plain and similar to what she wore the last time, that reporters would have nothing to say about her. in contrast is mamie eisenhower who, you know, had lived in europe, had been the wife of a five star general, but who thought of herself as a neighbor and really was in many ways neighborly. she, of course, famously helps unwittingly to make pink the most popular color according to the color institute at the time in textiles and home goods and refrigerators, you know, tiles, spatulas. everything is being made in mamie pink or first lady pink as it was called.
what she ended up doing also unwittingly is generating a boom in these -- a mini boom in the economies of specialty markets of accessories. for example, her inaugural gown had all these brilliant sparkles sewn into them. there was a run in those. the wholesale distributors, you know, were reporting record sales of that. when the fur -- the maine fur trappers were really hurting and they were seeing that people were buying mink and not beaver coats, they came up with the idea of giving mrs. eisenhower a beaver coat. it created a big political controversy, first of all for her accepting something free, then the senator from maine, a
republican, margaret j. smith was angry that the fur trappers, you know, did not go through her. although when they first approached her she said she wouldn't approach mrs. eisenhower. anyway, mrs. eisenhower accepted it and sure enough there was a boon in the maine fur trappers. they were reporting record sales themselves. mrs. eisenhower wore these little straw hats. she was famous for her hats. to the point where that those became so popular that -- and the straw was imported from ecuador. it is reported by the curator of the eisenhower library that practically it saved the ecuadorian economy. this is just an overview of the topic. obviously i've left a lot out. there were a lot more detailed political controversies. you can read all about it in the
book that we've put out to accompany the exhibit. and i'm eager to take any questions any of you may have. >> thank you, carl. [ applause ] >> you got a brochure on the way in here. this is one of seven of the series. i encourage you to come back to all of them. they're not only experts like carl, but each individual speaker has a specific niche i think you'll get a kick out of it. of course, carl will be back for our last one to have a focus on pat nixon. we are going to take a couple of questions. before we get into q&a, i know some of you may have noticed a big grand exhibit case covered with a black linen out on the
runway. we're going to unveil that with carl. is sheryl in the room? i'm going to try to spring this on sheryl. she'll say no but we'll force her to do it. our first question will come from this gentleman in the back. if you think of one, come to me, raise your hand. we'll go for a little bit but we do have to move to lunch shortly. our first question. >> what type of fabric and material did the first garments that the first ladies wore comprise of? >> i don't know. i remember silk being mentioned all the time. but, you see, that's the part of this subject i don't -- cotton linen. but, also, actually when you ask -- it also makes me think, you know, jefferson's daughter
in support of the embargo act started to make cotton homespun at monticello and a lot of those -- the women who were supportive of the democratic republican party in jefferson, in support of the embargo act would do this. and broadcloth. broadcloth is made of cotton -- [ inaudible ] >> did i miss something? we're talking organic material they would grow, wool, cotton, silks, linen, cotton linen. those basic sort of fabrics you'll find. that's why they last so long. you jump in between and the modern ones are metallics,
synthetics, crushables, and those last forever, too. so that's the range in fabrics. >> there's an interesting -- you know, like i said, you could only talk about it so much. but there's an interesting thing dealing with mrs. hoover during the depression and the cotton industry, which was really hurting. at the time, we were beginning to import rayon from japan. the big fear was that there was going to be -- the american manufacturers were coming up with a blend between -- they were blending cotton with rayon and mrs. hoover was wearing this. oh, my god, it became a practical international incident and the japanese ambassador had to talk to president hoover about it. you do see that. with mrs. nixon you see
especially a lot of those blends she would refer to as the non-crushables which were practical because of all the traveling she did. >> our next question will come from the front row. i want to acknowledge olivia for giving her input. olivia is the curator here. [ applause ] that put an incredible amount of thought, time and work into that runway and the display in the main galleries. if you haven't gotten in there, make sure you get in there to see them. those are all pat nixon's dresses [ inaudible dresses. [ inaudible ] >> and sandy works on broadway dressing ladies, dressing costumes, too. >> we'll do two more.
the next one will come from the front row and i'll ask the last one if that's okay with you. >> thanks, carl, for being here, it's an honor to have you. a couple things. you talked about how martha washington intentionally wore american made clothes. when did first ladies start wearing regional materials from other countries for diplomatic reasons? >> that's a very good question. because there's always the issue, especially in the 19th century, of are we a private person or are we a public person? and where does that line begin and end? dolly madison bought -- you know, she -- we had records of her buying most of her items from paris through the american representative in paris who complained about having to waddle through the streets of
paris going after everything on mrs. madison's check list. you have sarah polk, again, another interesting one. there's not enough time to get into it because it was a bit of a dark side there. you know, she had these very wealthy cotton plantations all, you know, by the labor of enslaved people. and wore lavish clothing all from the house of worth in paris and was criticized for -- although she held herself out as a very pious woman, she always arrived fashionably late for church and some of the press accounts i have really criticized her for overdressing. but it was all -- not all, but what we know of from what's in the polk collection down in the
polk museum in columbia, tennessee, from the house of worth. you see francis cleveland still doing that. some of these were clothes -- in the cases of edith wilson, francis cleveland, and sarah polk, all bought from the house of worth in paris but they were clothes right before they became first lady. we don't have a record per se of them buying, you know, overseas clothing. really the first real record of that on the record that we have is jackie kennedy 1961 when she goes and makes the first state trip with president kennedy in may to paris and she has
givenchy design the gown she wore to the palace at versailles. >> for our last question, carl, you mentioned the book -- which i might note is going to be available in the east room for sale and carl is going to be able to sign it if you want to pick one up. there's a discount of 10% for however many you buy. i know you went into pretty deep detail on all the first ladies in that book. one in particular, pat nixon, can you tell me in your exploration of the subject what fascinated you the most on first lady pat nixon. >> you know, this is something i'll mention in a general way because i'm going to get into great depth with it on the last lecture. i'm going to focus on her and
mrs. ford. i've written about mrs. nixon before. by the way, it's kind of funny being up here right now because the one and only time that i saw mrs. nixon and we made contact with each other -- although it was not an opportunity to talk, was the night before the dedication of the nixon library in 1990. i had at that point written my two books on first ladies and worked through julie eisenhower who helped me -- was a friend and she would ask her mother questions that i would send. helen smith who had been mrs. nixon's press secretary, they knew i was going to be here. julie invited me to the opening. mrs. nixon was in frail health. helen smith told her carl would be sitting next to me in the
audience. when they first came out, she saw me and we both -- we acknowledged each other. it's really kind of interesting to be here. this is right where she was. i think that film we saw, you can't watch that film and not be really moved practically ever second. because that story is something else, man. i mean, that is a story of somebody deciding that they're not going to fail in life. they are going to succeed in life through education and that nothing is going to get in the way of it. it's so -- i just -- there's so many layers to her story. what is the most fascinating thing about her is nixon's come in in january 1969. the women's movement is
ostensibly begun in the public mind. in october, a month before nixon is elected, the ms. america contest, when you have all the women protesters and, you know, burning their bras, all this sort of staged stuff that's done to draw press attention. you know, the mini skirt, women are wearing mini skirts at the time. so i began to do research for this book and look into this with mrs. nixon. you see that mrs. nixon liked the mini skirt. the reason she did was because she was once with her two daughters while they were buying clothing during the campaign. it's a designer by the name of vincent mignon. julie and her mom wore the same size. julie said her mom liked a dress on her. she said why don't you try it on and she did. you know, so -- i'll get more into that. but what is really fascinating
is we call that chapter the california girl in pants. because you really see how early on, long before she even thought she'd be a public theater, sfig liked wearing pants. when she was a junior at usc, in a letter she wrote to her aunt in new york she was telling her about the job. she said i wear pants and everybody complains because they want to see my legs. but i really don't care. i like wearing pants. you know, we're talking in the 1930s katherine hepburn was wearing pants. even as a young girl, one of the photographs that's shown, and it's a picture we used in the book. when she's not probably more than 14, 15 years old with two of her girlfriends, one of those days, very rare days that she
had to enjoy life -- you know, sometimes they'd take the street car and make their way out to the beach for a day. but this is on a water tower. this whole area was rural, the citrus farms and her family had a farm. so you see these three girls who had climbed the water tower and somebody else has a brownie and is taking pictures of them. it's not a day when she's working. she's not in a pair of dirty overalls from working on the farm. but she's wearing a pair of pants. so, you know -- then, of course, i will go into that whole story in the last lecture about how she becomes the first first lady to publicly wear pants. she does it very definitively. there are four occasions when she does it. you know, you can't say it's just a coincidence. at the time it's still a bit controversial, even her husband,
the president, you know, tries to discourage women who work at the white house from wearing these. she's not wearing them at the white house, but she wore one in a campaign poster for reelection in '72. that really, to me, is the fascinating look at her. the book does go into great depth on mrs. nixon. >> carl, thank you. [ applause ] this weekend on cspan, saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern photojournalists talk about their favorite photographs on the campaign trial. >> you chase the light but then you look really hard and work really hard. because there's always a story to tell. this is like -- this is stage
craft, political theater, but you always try to lift the veil so people can maybe understand what these people are like and what they're about. >> on book tv on cspan2 saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern, a war photographer talks about she's taken in the middle east. >> as we were hit by gaddafi's troops and there were air strikes at that time, there were mortar rounds, sniper fire, it was relentless. and these guys often would just run away and leave us, the journalists sort of on the front line. we had to sort of run away after that. >> on american history tv saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern. how the pilgrims became part of america's founding story. >> one of the reasons why they become this influential is because they could be used to
give america a sort of noble identity or a noble cause, right? so we hear that the pilgrims came for freedom or for god or self-government or all three of those things. because they came for those reasons, that's what america stands for ever since. >> this weekend on the cspan networks. >> cspan where history unfolds daily. in 1979, cspan was created as a public service by america's cable television companies. today, we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events in washington, d.c. and around the country. cspan is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. in 1990 congress introduced
the american disabilities act. tom harkin discusses laws that have affected those with disabilities. the bird center for congressional history and education hosted this 90 minute event. >> welcome, ladies and gentlemen. my name is jay wyatt, i'm the director of the byrd center. i want to thank you for joining us today as we celebrate constitution day with the 14th annual tommy moses memorial lecture on the u.s. constitution. so before we get started, i want to gently remind everyone to please silence your cell phones. thank you. it is very exciting to see a packed house today