tv The Presidency Women Preserving Presidential Sites CSPAN July 10, 2022 3:12am-4:30am EDT
business kennedy in 1961. she had been through the white house as a teenager with her mom. there was no guidebook. have to publish a guidebook and so now we published four to six books a year. we have our quarterly magazine. and elaine is one of the authors on this of this beautiful beautiful book and she's going to be doing a book signing here at the end of the program. is that it cover anything else? exit we will have a party gift. well, it's the new. yep. yeah, which is about the white house gardens in the white house grounds. it's really an extraordinary issue. so thank you all for coming. have a safe travel home. i hope you all are having a good time.
we'll start our second panel today. first i want to introduce the moderator our very own colleen shogun. who is the senior vice president at the david m rubinstein national center for white house history of the white house historical association? dr. shogun is a trained political scientist with a phd in american politics from yale university as well as a bachelor's degree in political science from boston college. she has almost 15 years of service in the federal government including prominent roles with the us senate as well as the library of congress, dr. shogun teaches government students at georgetown university and served as vice chair of the women's suffrage centennial commission. another feather in her cap in an illustrious resume is that she currently serves as a co-chair of the board of directors at the women's suffrage national monument foundation designated by the congress to build the first memorial in dc dedicated
to the history of the movement for women's equality. it's a huge deal. to begin with our panelists we have elaine rice bachmann, who is the state archivist of maryland and a co-author of a wonderful book designing camelot published by the white house historical association, and i'm proud to say it was launched in this very room on july 28th, which happens to be jacqueline kennedy's birthday. i was there for that event and when i'm tired of practicing law i go into my study and i look through the book and it heals me and i go back to litigating. thank you for the signed edition. like jacqueline kennedy herself miss bachman also studied art history at the undergraduate level in her case at indiana university and she is an expert on maryland's historic public buildings, including the state house as well as the governor's mansion. she's a frequent collaborator of the current governor larry
hogan. miss bachman is a former director of artistic property exhibits and outreach as well as a curator of artistic property at the maryland state archives. next we also have melissa nolan who is the associate curator of decorative arts at the white house just across the street. where she has served since 2003 in the presidency of george w bush. miss nolan previously held curatorial post at george washington's mount vernon the winterthur museum in delaware and the strong museum of rochester new york. she holds a master of arts degree from the winterthur program in early american culture at the university of delaware as well as a bachelor's degree from smith college. and last but not least we have susan shell work an executive director the executive director of historic preservation and collections and the robert h smith senior curator at george washington's mount vernon where she directs the architectural
preservation furnishing and interpretation. of george and martha washington's home the surrounding plantation structures as well as the landscapes a phd graduate of yale and an ma and also an ma graduate from the winterthur program at the university of delaware. she has a bachelor's degree from the university of notre dame. and exhibit that ran from 2016 and through 2021 created by dr. sheller and her colleagues led to the creation of an award-winning exhibition entitled lives bound together slavery at george, washington's mount vernon. please welcome our moderator and our next panel. good morning, everyone. thank you brandon for that very kind introduction when we were
first planning this symposium with the national trust. this was one of the topics that myself and my colleague mac costello certainly wanted to include because we thought it was one of the most important elements of discussion and as brandon said, you know, i'm not a historian. i'm a political scientist. so i approached these in a these types of topics in a particular type of way, which is always asking how why and to what effect and i think today we are going to talk about the how the why and to what effect and we're gonna have some terrific stories talking about the historic role of women in preservation from places like mount vernon all the way to the white house including our own founder jackie kennedy, which lane will talk about in the course of our discussion. we're going to start with susan susan you work at mount vernon. and of course mount vernon is the home to one of the most
amazing and interesting preservation stories in the united states one of the early preservation stories in the united states. can you tell us a little bit about that story and can you tell us why women saved mount vernon and not men because they were there because they were they stepped up to the plate. thank you so much. thank you so much colleen and to our sponsors today. it's it's wonderful to be here if i can have the first slide. and all of you being here today, you're all invested in preservation. i'm sure you've heard the story of them alvernon ladies association of the union, but i will recap it again briefly in case you're not totally immersed in it as i was not before i got to mount vernon in 2010 the mount vernon. is association was founded in 1853 by ann, pamela cunningham of south carolina as a
grassroots effort to acquire and preserve the home of the nation's founding father now ann pamela was in turn inspired by a letter from her mother who had seen mount vernon in something like the condition that you see it in the in the photograph before you from a riverboat and was quote as she wrote to her daughter painfully distressed at the ruin and desolation of the home of washington and the thought passed through my mind. this is her mother writing. why was it that the women of his country did not try and keep it in repair if the men could not do it. it does seem such a blot on our country. now to your question colleen why not men? i think that's a story of opportunities not taken because in fact mount vernon had been made available by the washington family who still collateral relatives of george washington who still owned it since the
1830s and both congress and the legislature of virginia the state of virginia had been approached and declined because of course, there was no model for a federal there was no model for preservation at all much less government owning private properties to preserve them. so congress in the virginia legislature both declined and thus it was remaining in private property when ann pamela cunningham began to create this grassroots organization in 1853 now to step ahead to your second question, you know, would it have made a difference we have there? unprecedence for historic preservation at the time there were no white papers. there were no best practices. there were no aslh technical leaflets next slide, please. so anne pamela cunningham and her deputies the vice regents as they were called and still are
called when they came back after the civil war. i'm really began actively preserving the property. they're really making up the playbook as they go. and i think what's notable about amp pamela's vision. it was both conservative and inclusive from the very beginning. she made clear that her goal was to restore the house. the outbuildings the gardens and the grounds quote as nearly as possible into the condition in which they were left by george washington now, i i say that's conservative in the sense that it wasn't a grandising. she wasn't trying to improve it or embellish it she wants to present it to people as washington knew it and it was inclusive because she envisioned it as not just the mansion and the tomb but all of the buildings that were surviving in
1859 and so, you know, i don't really have that, you know that vision of i forget what you call it when you imagine what didn't happen, but we do have evidence of other suggestions that were put forth to her by authorities by architects by landscape architects and those included ideas such as fitting out the grounds as a memorial park conserving scarce funds by preserving only the mansion and the family tombs the other structures that was said at the time were of no interest as they were only for quote unquote the menials. by which of course was memphian slave people who were making the plantation really operate and really responsible for all of the washington's legendary hospitality. another suggestion was to preserve the mansion by effectively dissecting it disassembling it constructing a replica of more durable brick stone and iron and then quote
applying all of the old interior parts essentially creating a veneer of authenticity and finally, oh two more in closing it all in kind of a dome of iron and glass and protect it from the elements. and finally improving george washington's landscapes, but introducing terraces walks and part terrace of flowers. thus quote making the most of the grounds and woods because clearly washington hadn't done enough. so next slide, please. i think that and all of those were coming from male authorities in their fields, and i think any of these would have resulted in a far different mount vernon that we see today and arguably could have set preservation in general on a different tack. so do i think it made a difference? mmm. i think the evidence indicates that perhaps it did make a difference. so thank you to those women.
thank you susan for leading us off now. we're going to move from mount vernon. we're going to move to the white house and that's fitting we're here obviously today at the white house historical association. melissa, i know you've done some research recently in a presentation about some of the first ladies prior to jacqueline kennedy who engaged in preservation efforts at the white house. can you share with us some of those lesser-known stories and were these women really the necessary predecessors to what we see eventually realized under the kennedy administration? sure, i'd be happy to thank you. absolutely, i think sometimes the story of historic preservation as associated with the white house begins and ends often with jacqueline kennedy and there were certainly many many precedents that were in place when she became first lady in 1961. so many first ladies were involved in those efforts, but i
wanted to highlight a few today, but could have the first slide. the first first lady i think who really deserves the credit of promoting historic preservation at the white house was lucretia hayes or lucy hayes her husband rutherford b. hayes came into office quite controversially in 1877, but first of all, i just want to point out. you know, she appears on the scene 84 years before mrs. kennedy, and she was really the first first lady to have an interest in history genealogy antiques in in looking back at america's history. she had visited the philadelphia centennial exposition in 1876 and was very influenced by that and when she got into the white house she consulted with a old friend of the hayes into her spoffard who was then serving as the librarian of congress to try to decide what in what ways
could they have the white house better? vote the history of the past which up to that point hadn't really been highlighted and one of the the plans that they came up with was commissioning portraits of former first, ladies and presidents that hadn't that were not represented and that was the vast majority at that point. there was very little fine art in the house. even when mrs. hayes came in so you see in the slide two of the paintings that were commissioned during her time there the first of martha washington by alethel at andrews and this was done as a companion portrait to the lansdown. gilbert stewart portrait of george washington, which was referenced earlier and you know is is of the same scale is that portrait and those two portraits of hung as many of you have seen for many many years in the east room of the white house the portrait at the bottom of john adams is by edgar parker and again is one of the many presidential portraits that were
commissioned during this is hayes's tenure and those portraits tended to be copies of life portraits. so this is a copy of a gilbert stewart portrait of adams. this is hayes was also known for going through from asking the staff as they were investigating some of the lesser scenes faces at the house that if anything looked old and historic to bring it to her for her evaluation, and so i think some of the things that you know, we're identified as historic in the 19th century certainly can be credited to her the whole concept of in american of highlighting. american history and furnishings is something that she highlighted in the selection of the state china service, which i would argue that the hay service is probably the most remarkable service. that's probably ever been created for the white house throughout the 19th century because there wasn't american porcelain factories that were
producing wars that would considered fine enough for white house state services. they were all being purchased from france and they tended to be french in design and mrs. hayes was adamant that her service should really be american in theme and so she hired an artist theodore davis to design come up with unique drawings paintings of american scenes american flora fauna animals crops and some of which you see represented there on the right. next slide please. um, i also wanted to highlight edith roosevelt's wife of president theodore roosevelt and during the mckinney in white renovation of the white house, which took place in 1902 charles mccann who was leading the project. he really wanted to start with a clean slate in the white house and really get rid of essentially everything that was in the house up to that point
very, i mean as you you have to i don't have pictures this but you have to if you've if you're familiar with the images of the white house from the late 19th century, it was very high victorian and style and throughout the 19th century that had been what the families had used in decorating was everything of the latest fashion and kim wanted to return to a classical vision of the house and but mrs. roosevelt put her foot down in certain things. she for example, love the lincoln bedroom suite which mary todd lincoln had purchased for the best guest. over during her time and so she insisted she was going to have it for her bedroom, which you see in that center slide the the famous lincoln bed and the accompanying dressers and table there all in use and so that of course called his bluff in terms of being able to get rid of it and she did that for for a number of things. she was also the first first lady to really install any sort of true museum type installation
in the white house you see that in she had cabinets commissioned in the ground floor quarter and historic china services displayed there. and possibly most importantly she also decided that the auctions that it happened all throughout the 19th century of white house furnishings needed to stop and that was a real turning point in terms of how you know, what remained in the house and what did get slide, please. and then i wanted to give a shout out to namie eisenhower who is usually not always considered in discussions of historic preservation, but she like mrs. kennedy was very interested in antiques when she came into office her pet project was the state china and presidential services. she was concerned that not every presidential family was represented in the white house collection at the time. and so she used a lot of the
techniques mrs. kennedy did in terms of inviting the press in to highlight her search and to have them publicize it and help her get the word out and she was successful in locating descendants of the families that she was trying to search for china force. you see her there being proudly next to some of the acquisitions. she acquired in sheer numbers of acquisitions to the white house collection. it's hard to top her in terms of the collection of mermaid that came. and under her tenure in 1958 vermei is gilded sterling silver and it's believed that the donation came about through her and general eisenhower's excuse me, president eisenhower's friendship with margaret thompson biddle who was an american heiress living in paris and who entertained the eisenhower's when they lived in paris when general eisenhower was serving as the commander of nato and then finally mrs.
eisenhower the first period room in the white house was introduced under mrs. eisenhower. it wasn't her idea. it was proposed to her by michael greer of the national society of interior designers, but she agreed to it and honest, you know, if she hadn't agreed it wouldn't have happened and they proposed for the first time. furnishing a room in the white house with all antiques of the same period and so the room that was selected was the diplomatic reception room on the ground floor the oval room there and their members donated everything from the idea was to create a federal style parlor of about 1800 and so american antiques and furnishings that would have been available to wealthy americans at the time. we're all donated to the house. you see mrs. eisenhower president eisenhower accepting the donation there in the top photo.
so a lot of the a lot of the stage was set for mrs. kennedy. that's a perfect transition in elaine into a question for you you of course are the co-author of the book designing camelot which talks about the efforts of jacqueline kennedy and the restoration of the white house. can you tell us? how for our audience so everybody understands some people may know the story but others may not tell us what were some of the institutions that mrs. kennedy put in place that are that are still operational today. and also tell us why was she so interested in restoration in the white house? it wasn't necessarily just to like pretty things or make things look nice. there was a larger purpose that really supported the kennedy administration if you can tell us a little bit about that, i think that would be very illuminating for our audience. thank you colleen. i'm so happy to be here and i'm so happy to get to follow
melissa because so much of what i do in starting to talk about mrs. kennedy. it's as if she walked into the white house and out spraying historic preservation, and they're really were so many other efforts but so much of life is timing and if you can go to the first slide of mine, please so much as timing in life, you know, she had excellent timing and coming in to the white house with president kennedy in 1961 at a time when mass media could reach the country through newspapers television, of course used to her great advantage in the television tour of 1962, but she came into the white house also at a time when it wasn't expected that a first lady would have any sort of an agenda or a program, but she very naturally was drawn to the interiors and the history of the place because it was something she was personally interested in it's something she shared with president kennedy a deep love of american history being very well read in american history and an appreciation for public residences that they had
experience throughout the world him growing up and her experience being abroad for a junior year at the sore bond became very influenced by the french ministry of culture and the palaces that she saw there so she famously said that when she visited the white house as tourist when she was 11 years old. it was a very disappointing visit because she felt like she had just shuffled through and there was not even a guidebook you can buy i think she had a very political reason for mentioning that there was not a guidebook that you could buy she had an idea about that, but she really felt like it wasn't an institution that reflected the grand history of the united states. so she knew if she was going to become first lady. that was what she would focus on and so, you know, we know about what she did in terms of setting up a fine arts committee and soliciting objects to the white house and reaching out to institutions to loan things, but i think what's important to really know about her as well as that she was a lifelong. student she listens she had advisors, you know, she went to mr. dupont for advice about you
know, how to create period rooms. she of course was listening to bunny melon about what to do in the interiors of the house and the exterior and and the gardens. she had a great friend in jane writesman, you know always whispering in her ear about collecting and and of course steph and boudin the french decorator is well, so although she certainly had a vision of her own. she was always willing to take take that advice from others and i think again the timing of it all came together in that she knew about the efforts of her predecessors. she knew they hadn't ultimately been successful for some very simple reasons of there wasn't a foundation under which to make that legacy go beyond her own time there. so, you know, she was very smart to work with her husband's advisors in setting up. first of all the fine arts committee which brought in mr. dupont as a chair. she was honorary chair pulling in not only wealthy donors who could contribute financially to her project, but also having an advisory committee of museum
directors and curators that set up a real foundation and then immediately they said about creating legislation in 1961 to create the interior to create to protect the interiors of the white house with the national park service to make the interiors a preserved space and then of course established a permanent collection a permanent collection that today has grown into one of the greatest collections of america decorative arts in the world and they were protected they were protected from being sold off they were protected from being put away in storage or given away or becoming too dilapidated to you. so that was the foundation and then ultimately, you know to create the white house historical association as a nonprofit entity through which she could publish that first guide book which today is in how many printings has its 25th edition coming out and and what a great legacy and and that was another thing that you know, she would really had a courage of convictions in that she wanted there to be a guidebook that people could take away from this house and a lot of people
advised her against that and said that was commercializing it was tacky, you know to sell a guidebook. well, what a brilliant plan because she sold that guide book for a dollar a copy and i think the first 600,000 copies were sold out within a few because of the enormous heal that she brought to the public and then sharing, you know the story of what she was doing in that television tour of 1962 visitation to the white house tripled in their first year there and everyone was carrying out a guidebook. you can see the pictures of the people leaving the house with their guidebook, so she really had a brilliant vision if we can go to the next slide, please here's the initial. here's the offering of the guidebook when it was first offered for sale there in 1962, and i i want to point out the only two women in the room are jacqueline kennedy and lorraine waxman pierce was the first curator of the white house also a graduate of the winter program. so she established that curator's office the first curator, which is now melissa support of the legacy of that
and mrs. pierce was was really essential in the authoring helping to author that first guide book, and then the next slide, please. so beyond what she was doing in the white house itself? she really looked outside of its walls and into the neighborhood and we paul touched on this of course in his is opening remarks about the lafayette square i want to credit kathleen gallup who wrote a wonderful article in 2006 for the leadership forum journal about the efforts that mrs. kennedy made to save lafayette square and she in her research at the kennedy library realized that it was the day after the television tour aired february 15th of 1962 that mrs. kennedy took a walk through lafayette park with david finley and understood for the first time the full extent of the plans that were in place and i think you know again, here's a
here's a mentor reaching out to her and utilizing her great appeal. i have to imagine that he knew that perhaps if someone could make a difference in these plans. it was jacqueline kennedy and she was she was really quite quite horrified to find out what was what was in store and and in fact her own husband had already approved it not because he necessarily thought it was a good idea, but i think as government goes things get rolling and you think there's no way to stop it. well, she did not feel that way. she she i think was maybe buoyed by the the popularity of that tour and by the popularity of her program and thought she could lend her name and and influence to this so before long she was writing a letter. i'm sure recommended by david finley to to bernadette bhutan who was the administrator of the gsa and really laying out her concern about this and how important it would be to preserve the the character of the neighborhood to preserve the 19th century at least facades of
these buildings are the first the first row and you know, it was in by march. the administrator bhutan had requested a meeting with the existing architects. soon those architects bowed out of the project and john carl warnicky was on board and the whole thing changed. so that's just it's incredible to to think about the influence that she had in being able to change that program. that was so far along and you know, she had a sense of what could be done because she had seen it in other countries as well, you know in her letter to the administrator. she talks about the the historic monuments. laws in france and how those could be applied to the united states. so, you know she did it here in washington ultimately later in life. she applied that influence to to the saving of grand central station in new york city. so i think she was always quiet about what she did it's hard to ascribe and he motivation to her because she famously never talked about it, but i want to get one of her quotes right?
she she did later on talk about how when she discovered what was going to happen at lafayette. where that it was going to be ripped down and horrible things put up in their place. she just you know, she just couldn't stand by and let that happen. well, i have a very favorite question that i like to ask. smart people terrific collection of smart people on stage with me today and this is this is a hard question. these are these have been the warm-up questions. now, this is this is the this is definitely the hard question one day. there will not be a first lady of the united states even though this has been the case for 230 some odd years one day there will undoubtedly be a first gentleman in that role as the first spouse. so, how do you think when that happens when that day comes this is called a hypothetical when that day comes how will this role of preservation that has been assumed by first ladies as
we know that we've already heard of that has been historic. how do you think that's going to change will it change a little bit will it change some what will it change greatly? so what i'm really asking is what is the role of g? and the conditioned role of gender and how does that affect historic preservation particularly the white house but in general so does anybody who wants to take a crack at this one? out here first you don't have to say i just saw everybody. sorry. i was just looking in this direction. um, well it's something that we've we contemplated during 2016 when we had you know, the first female candidate and the major ticket, i think that was a little different. i started under george w bush not under the clintons, but you know a lot of the staff that i worked with had worked for the clintons and so they were familiar with bill clinton and i
think there was some trepidation about what what all this what this would all mean in terms of the traditional role and we say traditional role, but i mean, i think as as susan could speak to you know, the earliest presidents in terms of furnishings and that were very involved much more so than they become later first ladies seemed to kind of take over in somewhere in the mid 19th century. i would say in terms of assuming that they have the role of making the home and you know in charge of shopping and furnishing the white house the work i think will largely be the same in terms of for the for many years a lot of the work that the bulk of the work i would argue, you know is done by typically a designer that the president and first lady hire to execute the vision which they set out and then of course the
the staff of that designer and then the staff of the curators office at the white house. so i mean, i think the work will largely continue i do wonder how the credit will be made. i think that's where again there we could see a change. i also think of a matter if the the first second gentleman is married to a woman or to a man. i think that could have a large role in how that role is seen. so i think we are all we will all be interested in exactly how that roles out when happens but yeah, i think it'll be the credit will be the major difference. what else i i think the fact just as mrs. kennedy came in when there wasn't an idea that a first lady had to have an agenda now just in that 60 years we've gone from it being that it's probably going to be preservation because everyone sort of wanted to follow on her to to it can be all manner of
things so i don't think there has to be an expectation that the the spouse needs to take on that role frankly because of all the good work. that was put in place over the years and established by mrs. kennedy now, there's a freedom to to do whatever you want because there's professionals in place, you know, the house is not going to go to rack and ruin and so i don't think there would be an expectation that that you have to take on that. yeah, and i think melissa and elaine have have made most of the points that i was interested in is is you know historically broadly when and how does it come to seem a gendered role and there is just as a very tiny historical footnote when they're setting up the first presidential residence in new york for washington's inauguration in 1789. they only have a few weeks and and congress is empowered to spend the money to furnish a president's house and and they effectively say well get some
women to do it and there is a committee of two women who really go out and find the furnishings for that first residence and then of course washington gets there and he's very involved in in very interested in what is the impression of the presidency put forth for this new nation to foreign diplomats who are coming and trying to strike that balance between not seeming to imperial but but also meeting the expectations of foreign dignitaries. and so he's very involved in what the furnishings are of both the three presidential residents that he lives in to in new york and one in philadelphia and also the planning for the president's house. so i think there is this really interesting dynamic to look at in terms of gender for the president's house, but then i think elaine to your point there is this structure in place now, so how does that change what that traditional dynamic has been?
so when i was preparing for this panel, i found a terrific quote and an essay by gail dubrow and an edited volume on history of women and architecture and i'd like to read the quote so she wrote although women have led the historic preservation movement the history of women has not been adequately preserved and i really was struck by that i thought wow, that's right and all the work that i did with women's suffrage and will continue to do i found that to be the case the historical artifacts for the most part have been really, you know, adequately preserved by all the terrific institutions we have in place both federal and private, but the story hadn't been told and that was the challenge we had to you know, get those objects out there. we had to be able to tell the story of the women that fought for the 19th amendment so ask this question of you. why is there this divergence why has the actual task of historic preservation been done so well
by women, but why are we still finding a challenging to be telling those stories about women as we tell as we talk about american history and the important episodes of american history? why is there that dichotomy and what can we do to make that better? i think so much of government has been government of men. and so, you know, that's the story that has gotten told but i feel like you know, there's not a single historian that i've worked with today or anyone on the staff at the archives or in any museum i've ever been in who hasn't been out looking for those other stories, you know, maybe it's a little harder to find. maybe you're looking in other sources you have to go beyond the the what's written about a particular administrate and administration by that administration because you know, that's not the real story you've got to dig into other archival material. i think this the information is there it's got to be mind out maybe in a little bit different way. i mean, i think this is you
know, this is the the large question about the nature and the proper subjects of history itself. it's it's not just preservation, but but history itself and i think you know to me there are sort of two two aspects of that question one is what are the sites we are preserving and that's kind of an additive of going out and looking at what sites we are preserving in in communities, but there's also the question of what questions we are asking about the sites that we are preserving and i think there are so many sites presidential and otherwise that have rich stories that we haven't been asking the right that we haven't been asking all the questions that we could be about and i think that came up in our last panel about talking about sites being dynamic the physical fabric of the site may be changing it at mount vernon. we are still committed to and pamela's vision of preserving a presenting. vernon as washington knew it but
washington knew it as a plantation, which was worked by enslaved people and so we're asking entirely different questions to broaden that story that we're telling and i think much may be said about women's history in the same way. there are so many stories that we haven't begun to plunge plumb the depths of what what women's involvement have been in those sites. would that be the case of the white house? do you think melissa as well? um, yeah, i mean, i think elaine's point about what i was thinking about how the history the history that has been told maybe started with the kind of low-hanging fruit in terms of what what were the what was preserved in terms of the documentation, you know kind of starting there and then as susan was saying, i mean the questions have broadened so much as we've begun to understand that it is
not just the history of our political leaders of white men that needed to be preserved but expanded into all kinds of realms people of different races ethnicities sexual orientation gender all of those things, which we are now, we're a looking for evidence of that history in those documents that may have been overlooked before and you know, just prioritizing learning and sharing those histories, which just hadn't been i did in the past. so i mean i think women will continue to do a lot of that work as just as they started but again, fortunately the field has opened up so much to for us to be so much more aware of what's out there i think. and it's just that one other. point it's a really interesting question about women's philanthropy and specifically women's philanthropy and how that plays into telling the
history of women and the sights and how preservation fits into the priorities that women have as they take on a greater role in philanthropy, right? that's a very good point. that's a very interesting point. so my last question before we go to our audience here at decatur house today, and then also our virtual audience that is out there watching the symposium if you have questions as well type them in our comments section, and we will try to get to those too. last question is you're all leaders in the field of historic preservation in your respective positions and jobs. what are the challenges that still face women in the field of historic preservation today? what is going? well, what are we doing? well, and where can we improve? well, i i approached this question by convening my own little panel of four women who work for me who have come into
the preservation field from various paths two from kind of academic training in historic preservation. one of those is an architectural historian. one is a project manager who's come in from the construction fields one is a joiner who's come in very much from traditional crafts fields, and their perspectives were were kind of graded really according to those backgrounds. the two would come in from crafts and constructions had seen a bit more of what they saw of gender bias and harassment and can she really do that? kind of hands-on job those who were younger and were coming in from academic areas really saw it as much more balanced. what was surprising to me was their concern was not so much about their what they were encountering as women in the field, but what they us the field of preservation in general being really struggling with the issue of finding people who can do the actual work the trades
the crafts the conservation the rebuilding things and that was what was for them was the real question is, how do we bring more people more women but more people in general into doing preservation. you know my specific role if i can just speak to my role as an archivist. i'm the state archivist of maryland and i have great authority to choose what is kept in perpetuity. it's a huge responsibility. a lot of that is is written in law in retention schedules, you know, there's certain things that are going to come to the archives because they are government records, but there's a great deal of discretion in looking at private collection special collections, and even in what records of government are kept and you can see over time that when those records aren't retain that might say something about social justice issues led paint abatement in the city of baltimore or particular issues that related to urban development if those records are lost 100 years from now, no one
will have that part of the story. so i guess i'm looking at it from the very sort of seminal place of what we choose to preserve today is going to help tell the stories and 100 years from now, and it's a big responsibility and having a represent. tentative staff helping you make those choices having women on your staff having people of color having people from marginalized, you know, underrepresented communities helping make those decisions, you know makes me a better state archivist and makes the state archives ultimately be able to be more representative of the period we are living in now when someone a hundred years from now is trying to tell those stories it's so true when you have women as yourselves in leadership positions, we know that makes it so much easier for women who are entering the field to feel welcomed. i mean, i studied the presidency as a political scientist. i mean the amount of women that were in that field was very few. i could count them on on one hand really in the united
states. so i was very fortunate. i had a lot of male mentors, but they were very welcoming and encouraging male mentors that wanted more women studying the presidency that wanted people in this field. so it's either it's one or the other it's having more women in those roles or having men that are that really want women to step up and and really be their successors in that way. so let's open this up to our audience. i think we'll probably have a lot of very good questions for the panel and we i'm sure we have our microphone that will be moving around. is there any questions over here? i think we have one. thank you elaine. i loved listening to talk about the early committee the jackie put together and having also been at winner tour and focusing a bit on your work and one of our magazines years ago. i remember what i called the hair dryer letter.
and i just wondered but what the letter is wonderful very joggy, but it what i wanted you to talk a little bit about which is more serious for preservation was the push and pull between buddha and dupont and and neither one of the more actually thinking about preservation right and yet that was jackie's stated goal. that's right. thank you, leslie and leslie it former director of winter tour leslie bowman. it's an honor to have you here. yes, the letters are fascinating because you really see the the many many personalities that mrs. kennedy was working with and it's also fascinating because her first introduction to mr. dupont was made when he became chairman and it's a very formal type letter from then on all the letters are handwritten and yes one was under a hair dryer while she was congratulating him on something and antiques magazine, but that's what's so interesting about only 60 years ago. that was the method of communication. so there are hundreds of letters to read in the winter archives
and it was clear from the beginning that she had a very deferential relationship with him. she saw him as the authority on american antiques. he'd established the first museum of american decorative arts in the country. that's why she needed his gravitas for her program and he was 80 and she was 31. so it was a very differential relationship and then she had this french decorator stephan buda, who was the world society decorator. he decorated palaces in europe. jane writesman was one of his principal clients and she really brought him into the project but in a very, you know, surreptitious way because mrs. kennedy was a keen politician you could not be talking about french decorators in the white house, but in fact mr. dupont new from the very beginning that he was involved and he was had this tradition of decorating in a very grand scale in the white house has grand dimensions you really it's not like putting window curtains on your your living room windows. you have to really think architecturally and that was boudin's real specialty. so, yes, neither one of them, i
don't think we're thinking those though they were thinking of as decorators and what could the what backdrops could they create, but she ultimately had her eye on sort of the final outcome. and what would the what would the the final solution be so it's very interesting to see the push and pull. she ultimately got what she wanted. but you saw the growth that she had again. she was a lifelong student and i'm glad you mentioned kim mean white because when mrs. kennedy started her project she was going to be very focused on 1802 the earliest period of the white house occupancy and and the furnishings of monroe and it was really mr. dupont who encouraged her to look beyond that to the full breath of the history of the white house and of course, she came upon it herself when she started really understanding the architecture of these rooms, which were created in 1902 by mckin mead and white and so she came to a an appreciation of that period of architecture which i think again played in to her appreciation of those buildings in new york city later on but was a master mat in
dealing with a lot of personalities again for someone so young. yes. oh, hi. i'm lindsey crawford from the james arm museum as a young professional female in the field. i was wondering what advice you would have for my generation to continue the work that you all have done what you're hoping for and some things like during this time period in your professional development what you did that you wish to continue. thank you. hmm hmm. it's a hard one. i i think that i guess what i would say is my touchdown has always been doing the research knowing what the evidence is for for what you want to do and the thorough job of the research that you base your argument on,
i got my experience that i've always encouraged people to do is who want to work in museums in the field of historic preservation is especially starting out is to take any opportunity you can get for museum experience whether it is working retail whether it is in my case working in on the floor of a children's museum dealing with all kinds of things, but you know, i was i was doing admissions i was doing retail i was on the floor and then i was also able to do 20 hours in the curator's office, but all of those real world experiences in seeing the the total functioning of those museum institutions at least for me was incredibly important i think in being able to to continue working my way into you know a full-time position. like incur, you know find and find if you're lucky to find a mentor. i also had wonderful male mentors and then i had wonderful female mentors and any time you can spend with people who are doing, you know, my mother always said you had to imagine something to be able to achieve it and be around people who are educated in what you want to do and have a high standard because that's that's how you're going to learn so, you know seek out people who are doing the kind of work you want to do and and try to spend time with that person. i think you'll find it's a very generous feel that that we are in. i always benefited from reaching out to someone who was a graduate of the winter program or who was working in the field and that that idea of sharing sharing and giving back and you
know paying it forward is a contemporary expression, but you know, i was a great beneficiary of that throughout my whole career. and i guess i would add on to that don't be afraid to ask questions. don't don't assume that everyone that you're working with has all the answers because the story that's been passed down and handed down over the years. may have gotten embroidered over the years, so don't be afraid to be the new kid on the block to ask the question that why are we doing this and and go back to the primary sources and really dig into it? question up here hi, good morning. the the whole field of women in historic preservation is so rich and thank you all for your comments this morning melissa. you mentioned the centennial exposition of 1876 and that anniversary is something that really inspired. this is hayes, and we frequently think about that occasion as something that spurred historic
preservation and all the women historic preservation movements, you know in the 1890s etc. i'm just wondering if you or any of the other panelists have specific points in history or specific societal influences that you think are also coming together to influence their interest in historic preservation. that's a really good question. it is and i mean that the whole concept of the philadelphia exposition it really is hard at least for me to go back to my mindset where preservation wasn't even considered, you know, it wasn't considered a priority wasn't considered important and but it's easy to
see in the records of the white house in terms of the auctions, which i referenced that anytime something was seen as just unfashionable worn out because of a constant struggle for what they considered sufficient congressional appropriation, which was the only way that the early presidents were getting money for furnishing the house selling off. the old things was the way that they brought in new money to buy what they wanted. and but so again just the concept that it old is okay all this interesting old teachers you something is something that i think really came out of the centennial and during that period i think just the i was thinking as elaine was talking earlier about boudin and dupont i know for me in first thing introduced to your work the
actual the concept of henry francis dupont as the preservationist in the equation to me took me back a little coming out of winter tour and having just worked on, you know, a address that had been take it had been taken apart to be seated upholstery that wasn't necessarily the vision of henry francis dupont that i came out of what a tour with many years later but to you know, and to understand that, you know, mrs. kennedy, too, i think borrowed you know, mr. dupont's as you said gravitat and authority and then really i would argue did what she wanted and and it really caused a lot of problems for the staff of the white house who were writing back to mr. dupont. like, you know, oh my goodness, like why am i even here i believe was some of the things that they were writing because you know again, mrs. kennedy just kind of took over in terms of her decisions and that so i'm
probably strained far from the question, but it's it's just amazing to see the the fact that. concepts of what is historic preservation has changed so much and again, you know what mr. dupont was doing in his time was absolutely remarkable and brought us forward, but the wonderful thing is that we're still going and we're you know, we there's no stopping point for those. for concerns for historic authenticity and again and concern for telling stories that haven't been told before and what is positive. what is historical authenticity? i think what you're seeing now, you know that was progress that it's time, you know, he even progressed in his own lifetime considered himself a scholar now, we've moved beyond into you know the last you know, 20 years. we've just lived through the last 10 years.
we've just lived through you've seen it in all the panels this morning about what does it mean to preserve a side? and what what how should it be interpreted and the you know, the social justice movement and all of the people that are coming to work for the archives now are these young exciting people who are coming out of an education that was totally different for mine and having perspectives way beyond nobody expects to go to a southern plantation house now and see you know, how all the rich white folks live like that just not acceptable nor is what's the most interesting thing about history preservation is having this opportunity to be the the truth-tellers and you can do that through objects and through interiors and how you're either preserving a site or not preserving it as it were or just revealing it. so, i think it's all all preservation is a product of its time and we are living in a time of you know near revolution in
interpreting historic sites, and it's exciting and you know, where does it go from here? you know, i don't know but i think we're going to look back on this period and you saw it in the wonderful presentations this morning of how people are looking at these traditional sites and there's so much so much more so much more to tell we have a question from our live stream jenna from facebook asks, how can the media play a role in sharing the lesser-known stories and contributions of women women and minorities to historical preservation? so the questions, how can the media play a better role in telling these lesser-known stories particularly related to women and minorities in the role of historic preservation. it's kind of hard for us to speak for the media. i think i think you know, we can certainly use social media in the way that people have talked
about today in how we get stories out in in things that we produce to again. i think start pointing to the questions that haven't been asked and to get those questions out to perhaps suggest to people in the media how some of those odd--- questions can relate to current events or looking forward. and so think it's kind of on us perhaps to get some of those questions out there that that that people don't know are there. i mean the media really is has to be your partner and a historic association or a historic site because you can tell you can have as we do at the white house historical association have extremely talented historians and interpretive staff on on staff and writing the histories and the discovering new stories to tell and of course you can put those on your website and you can in control of your social media, but you want the
mainstream media traditional media different outlets to be able to help you spread that story and tell it in new ways so that people that are unaware of you at this moment in time soon find the treasures that you have you have uncovered now that can be tricky at times because you want to make sure the stories told correctly. you want to make sure it's told you know, holy and authentically we rely upon outlets like like see span to help us. do these things but we're constantly looking for new media partners because you know all the time. i'm thinking well if you know a tree falls in the forest, but no one, you know, here's it fall then did it really fall. so the doing the history correctly is the first step in the process and putting it forward in an easily accessible manner. so the people can consume it is the first part of the process then the second part is that outreach which of which media plays this critical role and
that's why it's important for associations to have trusted media contacts that they work with to be able to help us, you know, really expand our reach and and so that more people can can learn and understand who are interested. for sure, that's a critical piece in the in the process. i think. question here not to get political, but there has been a concerted effort in many states. affect what history is being taught? and i live in virginia and we're one of those states. i've seen it in other states certainly seen in, florida. and i'm wondering knowing what
your positions are to find the facts and to preserve the facts and to share those facts. i mean, are you seeing this have any effect on historical places and such doing that because it certainly a problem. from my perspective in an educational standpoint in the classroom i can say that i have not had it impact anything that i have done in maryland. i use my bully pulpit anytime. i have it and it's probably a small one to just you know, shout out that it is. i don't know how critical became a bad word because as historians we must be critical. that is our job. and that is and also you know, it is our job to enlighten people and and tell the truth of history. so i'm keenly aware of what's
happening. i keep my eye on it all the time have not had it impact me yet, but i feel feel very concerned yeah, i mean we at mount vernon were doing a lot of outreach to teachers. we have summer teacher institutes where we have have teachers coming in from all over the country. i think those are primarily self-selecting that people who are coming in who who want to learn about the founding era and different aspects of washington and and his era and the problems that he confronted. so i'm i'm not working directly with those teacher programs. i haven't heard from our educators that they are again having a direct impact, i think teachers who come in are grappling with those questions certainly and looking for strategies that they can take
information say that they learn at mount vernon and develop techniques for critical thinking and analysis and reading primary documents and then go back to their home communities and play that forward so it's certainly think are really critical dialogue that is happening right now and certainly something that historic. places have have a role to play as a touchstone as a place to ground people. we'll be doing a lot of k-12 education this summer obviously with our with our teachers and taking advantage of that. so i look forward to hearing what teachers say when they come to our teacher institutes this summer both in person and our virtual teacher institutes our programs. so i would i would know more after i would you know able to interact with them, but you know at the historical association we take the view we're going to tell the history we're gonna tell the history of objectively
completely and authoritatively and that means telling story of whoever plays an important part that might be women that might be enslaved people might be free black people people native american we are going to tell the story as so it is accurate and we tell it completely and we will provide those stories to teachers to use in the best way possible. we'll meet them so that they can use those histories effectively in their classroom, but i think our mission despite it's kind of like whenever you you you're running a long distance and you know, there's a lot of distractions along the way but it's really just best to keep your eye on the finish line and the prize and we keep our eye on the finish line here and we will not be deterred by some of this noise that's going around in the country because we feel that our mission and our purpose is
steadfast and that is to do the the best possible and to tell the most complete history as accurately and object. early as possible using authoritative sources and and doing it well, so that's the mission. we are we keep our eye on the long on the long ball not on the short ball. a word that keeps coming to mind in this discussion is truth. and i mean, there's been a lot of i think discussion in the media and elsewhere about you know, what is true and how do we know? what's true? and who do we believe and at least as historians, you know for me, it's always about being able to but to relying on the truth when when you're telling the truth, you don't have to worry, you know so much about and it the standing on that and also trying to have people understand how to evaluate all the media that they consume and how do you evaluate? what is true?
and what isn't true and again as historians? i think it just it always goes back to making sure that we're very clear about where information comes from. what is the documentation for it? how do we know what we know pointing out? you know, why not just we believe or we think or it's our opinion that this is true, but able to show it in those, you know in the documentation and again, we'll always go back to those primary sources to help us establish. what's true? this is where history to me is it's not it's not simply a collection of facts. it is history is a skill. it's a life skill and we use it and we need to use it every day when we're reading what's out there in the newspaper and the social media. what is the argument being made? what is the evidence that supports it? does that evidence make sense internally? does it correspond to it?
you know, does it hold water effect? and i think that is is what is so critical to me is history as a life skill. question this might be somewhat blasphemous to ask this question, but you know i was struck by in all of your presentations. not only the women who led these efforts, but then also the women behind the women. and when i saw that picture of lorraine waxman pierce at the presentation of the guidebook. it made me think more about asking this particular question of elaine and melissa. you know. was who was that? the person sort of hidden to the side and what was her role in early on in the kennedy administration and her legacy not only serving as the first white house curator and what
that means today, but how that continues to shape office, so well, i'll do the historical background and you can say how it shapes the office lorraine waxman-pierce was a recent graduate of the winter program really hand-picked by charles montgomery and henry dupont to come down here and and be the first curator because mrs. kennedy wisely knew you needed professionals. she was perfect for the position because her her thesis had been on charles honore long way the french emma gray cabinet maker fit in beautifully with the early french furnishings of the white house. you'd think they just get on like a house of fire. i think mrs. kennedy was difficult to work for i don't think i'm revealing any secrets. here. she was lorraine was coming into a job that had no precedent. there was no scope of work. it was like go down and do this job and she had her loyalties with mr. dupont. she you know had french mr. buddha what working in the house
as well. she sort of had to play this that was not that that again just did not have a scope. work and i think it was a difficult position to be and that said her role was to be the scholar on the job and in the short time that she officially worked in the white house which was about a year and a half, you know, multiple articles published in antiques brought a you know, a documentation that here's the furnishings in the white house and here's the source material and here's their history bringing a great again this scholarly reputation to the project and then and then, you know was primarily working on the guidebook but also because she was a a the newspaper articles at the time or wonderful to read because it was really phenomenon that she was a scholar and a mother she had a 15 month old son. her husband was assistant curator at the smithsonian and here she is working today. we don't think much about having a full-time job and raising kids, but at that time that was highly unusual, so she's balancing a lot. she was also enormously popular
to the press who wonders to come and give lectures and go to tea mrs. kennedy did not not like that, you know, mrs. kennedy. her in the curators office doing the work and getting that guide book done. so there was there was friction there and i'm so grateful to lorraine who has to passed away in 2004, but she was alive and well in georgetown when i was writing my thesis 30 years ago, and she invited me down to her house for two days to go through all her papers and told me all her stories. none of which i can publish for the most part. would be the best seller maybe we can talk about that another time. but she was very gracious about her time there. she admitted it was difficult. it was difficult to be in that role. she was a trailblazer william voss elder. the third was the assistant curator shortly hired after lorraine and he stepped beautifully into the position. he was a a great fit for that role and and i think between the two of them and then of course jim ketchum right on their heels, they established standards where there had not
been any before so here's the legacy right here with i i am overwhelmed every time i consider what mrs. pierce accomplished in 18 months. i mean, it's just stunning to me. what? honestly, it makes me just want to get up and quit because it's just she was under so much pressure too and reading the correspondence between her and mrs. kennedy. i mean, i absolutely agree. there's many times. i thought i i don't think i could have done it at all mrs. kennedy just had such a hands-on role and such a i would argue, you know kind of lack of understanding of what she was asking, you know at one point when you know, she comments that wanting this guidebook done. and again the guide book is a huge part of her program to raise money. so it's it's hugely important, but you know, i guess at some point mrs. pierce said something to her along the lines of like,
you know, that's that's at least a 10 year project and you know, and this is kind of because we don't have 10 years, you know, and and then also make some kind of clip about like well if the president's doing all he's doing and it's like, okay, but of course like look at the staff the president had in terms of what he's accomplishing but the the ability the whole professionalization of you know, the curator's office isn't established officially until 1964. so technically under president johnson, but i mean luckily at least i'm not familiar with any other staff member working. under that much. direct supervision as mrs. paris and again, she's the other letter that blew my mind was when mrs. kennedy comes to her and i think it was mrs. writesman that she had been talking to about this new cataloging system that she had
learned and you know, and and this was this was the system and this was the system lorraine was to use and lorraine's like, but i've had a system in place for the last year like, you know to start over like are you really asking me to completely start over and do everything but again just such a disconnect between the two of them and i just like i said, i just my heart was out to mrs. pierce, and i'm so grateful that we i would argue in the curator's office. i mean certainly there's many challenges and pressures, but we are not seeing that type of i mean she really pioneered away and and a way to be a professional in that position. that you know has has benefited us all so i'm very grateful for that. well, thank you melissa susan elaine for a terrific conversation about a very important topic and thank youth.
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