America’s First Ladies

The curatorial staff at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Museum is busy dressing mannequins for the newest exhibit, America’s First Ladies, opening on April 19!

Mannequins waiting in the temporary gallery to be dressed for the exhibit, America’s First Ladies - Herbert Hoover Presidential Museum.

Mannequins waiting in the temporary gallery at Herbert Hoover Presidential Museum to be dressed for the exhibit, America’s First Ladies.

What is it about the fashion and styles of first ladies that is so appealing to us?  Whenever Michelle Obama shops off the rack it becomes possible for some of us to dress like a first lady! That is, if we can purchase the dress before it sells out!

Public Affairs Specialist, Janlyn Slach and Museum Specialist, Jennifer Pedersen placing Betty Ford's original gown on a mannequin. America's First Ladies, April 19 - October 26, 2014

Public Affairs Specialist, Janlyn Slach and Museum Specialist, Jennifer Pedersen placing Betty Ford’s original gown on a mannequin.

This new exhibit will feature 18 original dresses and gowns worn by first ladies and 14 reproduction dresses that are on loan from the Eisenhower Presidential Museum. Other items belonging to first ladies that will be on display include:

  • Jewelry, including a mourning ring worn by Martha Washington
  • 1929 Touring Cadillac
  • Bullet mold belonging to Abigail Adams
  • Shoes and slippers
  • Hats and accessories
  • Dolley Madison’s Bible
  • “Just Say No” basketball, signed by the Detroit Pistons
  • Autographed letters
  • Girl Scout uniform worn by Grace Coolidge
1929 Touring Cadillac as part of the First Ladies exhibit at Herbert Hoover Presidential Museum

1929 Touring Cadillac, on loan from Donna Mac & Sid Ferris, believed to have belonged to Lou Henry Hoover.

First Lady is the unofficial title that is given to the wives who serve as the “official hostess” of the White House. Over the years the title has come to mean so much more than hostess, most modern day First Ladies have been associated with a public cause.

Reproduction dress of Martha Washington - First Ladies at Herbert Hoover Presidential Museum

Reproduction dress of Martha Washington, borrowed from the Eisenhower Presidential Library-Museum.

If the president was single while in office usually a relative would serve in the role of First Lady. There have been four presidents who were widowers and two who were elected as bachelors, can you guess who? (You can find the answers at the end.)

Make your plans to come to West Branch this summer to see this once in a life time exhibit. At no other place in Iowa will you be able to see objects that represent all of the first ladies. America’s First Ladies will be on display from April 19 – October 26, 2014.

Original clothing from Pat Nixon and Lady Bird Johnson - First Ladies Exhibit at Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum

Original clothing from Pat Nixon and Lady Bird Johnson.

The Herbert Hoover Presidential Museum is one of 13 museums operated by the National Archives. Beginning with Herbert Hoover and going forward each president has a research library and museum to house their documents and artifacts. The Hoover Presidential Museum is unique because it sits on the grounds of the Hoover National Historic Site – one of only two National Parks in Iowa. The museum is located ¼ mile off Interstate 80 (10 miles east of Iowa City) and open from 9 – 5 daily. For more information on this exhibit and special programs please check the website, www.hoover.archives.gov or call 319-643-5301.

Answers:
Widowers – Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren and Chester Alan Arthur.
Bachelors when elected – James Buchanan and Grover Cleveland.

Janlyn Slach
Public Affairs Specialist
Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum

*Photo Credits – Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum
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