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tv   The Presidency First Ladies Fashion  CSPAN  November 1, 2018 9:37pm-10:38pm EDT

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we are honored to have
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several of the nations leading experts on first lady fashion. you were given literature for each of the six speakers that describes the presentations going to early september. over the next six weeks, they will present multiple programs and individuals will examine fashion choices in a way never done before. first, we must recognize two people that were critical to this process. the army of the richard nixon foundation. the national archives for their partnership. it is an honor now for me to introduce carl anthony. we simply could not have produced the exhibition without carl's leadership. is the nation's leading expert not only on the first lady fashion but on the roles they
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have played in the white house dating back to martha washington. he is the author of a dozen books, on the political and popular culture and cultural influence of presidential spouses and families. he serves as a speechwriter for betty ford. i am honored to welcome you to the richard nixon presidential library. >> thank you very much bill and also to members of the board and staff of the richard nixon foundation which has made all of this possible and, i would also like to add my thanks to both olivia the curator with the national archives here and also cheryl, the secretary
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hardly a title that really captures all that she does. it really is wonderful because the seed of all of this came about through i believe the great personal relationship between cheryl and olivia personal and professional. it was from that agri- enthusiasm was worked up and so when cheryl first called me about this, and said it would be about first lady's fashion, i told her, i wasn't interested because i wasn't really interested or didn't have a knowledge of fashion per se. i say that with all the enormous respect to that industry, but it is sort of like building an automobile or a house. it is a whole world onto
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itself. the structure, the art of it, the manufacturing, the marketing, but, i began to think while we were speaking on the phone about the fact that i so often received phone calls from the media about first lady's clothing and what i always was interested in because of course a big part of the history of the presidency through the first lady is the political impact in the popular culture impact of what they were. it was christine of the national archives staff, in the early stages of this we were talking a whole group and she was the one who thought perhaps it might be better entitled
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instead of what they wore as to its current title, why they wore it. because, there are really two parts to the telling of the story. there is both the intention of these women, and then something entirely out of their control, the media and public reaction to what they wear. and is always amusing when you study history, a certain point you recognize that although people might have worn bonnets and driven in buggies, and that today we may have self driving cars and are able to take photographs and send them around the world on a phone, the essential nature of human beings changes actually very little and you also see, and
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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 have a first lady making a public appearance in may 1789 when martha washington finally arrived in new york months after her husband had been inaugurated as the first president, it is fascinating to note that a deli intelligence advertiser made note of the fact that martha washington was wearing clothing that have been made in her country. it reflected good values and solid craftsmanship of american- made clothing. it was no mistake, in a letter
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george washington wrote about a year later to a friend of his, he made it clear that in public, he and his wife would only be dressing in american-made clothing. now, this is largely at that time martha washington was seen by the public by and large at her private reception, they were somewhat open to the public but it was still something more on the social referral and it was a weekly reception and she would receive guests on a daily basis a bit like the head of europe. as you have all seen, most especially in the famous life portrait of her by gilbert stewart which is used on our opening banner for the exhibit, she wore what we might call washington white all the time.
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she always wore white caps and she usually wore a white scarf around her neck. it was intended to signify the purity and essentially sort of thoroughness of this new form of government, of a democracy. what's also interesting is among the accessories she wore was an amber necklace. amber was associated with classical greece. there were a lot of allusions made by martha washington to ancient greece of course, the first democracy. i will today be basically 170
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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 today 261, the kennedy inaugural and next week, pamela will be speaking about jacqueline kennedy and nancy reagan and each of our subsequent speakers will also be covering to first ladies each up to the present. but, i will today give you some glimpses i think of the more significant first ladies who use clothing to send a message, political message. and to him that was much interpreted about them. madison is probably the most important in the early years, even though martha washington and abigail adams assumed the
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public role, they were a little bit uncomfortable with it and it was really just by and large at receptions that they appeared. dolley madison saw her role as liaison to the general public. she appeared at all kinds of events at the white house. thomas jefferson was president for eight years and occasionally his daughter martha came up from virginia to his eight years as president madison had her and her husband adherent of jeffersonian democracy. in so many ways, president jefferson would do little things to signify equality or in the sense egalitarianism. for example, easing around tables where there was no one at the head of the table, and no one at the end of the table for those people.
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they very much believe in this, but she also recognize the fact that in early washington, diplomats from european nations were coming and looking down their nose at this new capital in the new countryside of what was then a new city. she very consciously created a costume for herself because there were few actual symbols of this new country, she essentially turned herself into a living symbol of the new nation. they suggest this new nation was on equal footing with the old world of holland and france and england that she had to
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somehow convey this visually without verbally making a point and yet also proved to be democratic. she certainly proved to be democratic in her behavior and the way she interacted with people. she was approachable and she held these famous wednesday evenings that were called crushes because they were open houses at the white house. she dressed in clothing that was largely imported from europe and and a french style that was for many of the older federalists a little bit too risqui and revealing. it was also in the napoleonic style and of course that emulated the jeffersonian democracy -- i should say the
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jefferson onion -- jeffersonian democracy emulated that. she would wear bright colors and instead of wearing a crown she came up with the idea of wearing a turban. in fact, that became her trademark. just so you would never fail to know where she was in these crowded rooms she often wore long bird of paradise feathers in the turbine . in fact almost all of her portraits i think except two are certainly painted while she was first lady are all painted well ask her with her turbine. as to the fact she wore these low-cut dresses that were a little bit scandalous it is
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really kind of extraordinary when you think about the fact that she had been a quaker and had been raised as a quaker and he is to be in all covered up grace and dark colors. at one of her receptions she encountered a gentleman who had also once been from the same meetinghouse that she and her family had attended in philadelphia and he had left and she said brother wears by broad bring -- rim and he looked at her and said where is thy kerchief. so what was also very interesting was to keep in mind the fact that the general american public did not know what mrs. medicine looked like -- madison looked like because there were not newspaper descriptions of her clothing and it was not until 1817 when she left the role of first lady that an engraving of her was
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reproduced on the cover of a magazine called the portfolio magazine printed in philadelphia. as eco-among you also see the contentious election of 1828 when the incumbent president john quincy adams from the old massachusetts aristocracy, his wife louisa adams was born in europe and very continental and dress stylishly we find in her letters that she made her own makeup and she would use the same dresses but she would simply have different accessories. but the opposed president was andrew jackson from tennessee.
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of course he really represented an enormous change in the country's she was scotch irish and have gone to and from a prominent family that she would not fit in with at least the east coast idea and the southern aristocracy idea of what a first lady should be. one finds examples in the newspaper at the time of descriptions of misses adams clothing which are actually the very first written newspaper descriptions of a first lady's
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apparel but also her remark that she understands. this is sort of a popular thing. as it turns out misses jackson died before her husband's inauguration and her niece emily denison served. they indicate that mrs. donelson received the white house at one reception wearing calico. calico had been adopted as a symbol of the jacksonian party. so you see the political parties already using, not so much colors but in this case patterns but certain kinds of fabrics to indicate political royalty.
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angelica van buren is the daughter-in-law of martin van buren who followed andrew jackson. she was from a wealthy south carolina family educated in philadelphia kind of progressive education way the elite of the country were gathered whether they were jewish or catholic or protestant or quaker so she had sort of a very worldly view and she married the presidents son 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's what they equated her with.
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and when she came back she kind of thought that as well. so she received on a dais and she would also where feathers in her hair and one of the whig party spokesman delivered a very famous speech. congressman charles ogle of pennsylvania but what happens is van buren's administration is from this lingering depression. people are suffering and meanwhile there's reports the president van buren ordering gold spoons and new china and his daughter-in-law although she's not named particularly there was still a propriety about going after a woman in the family although i guess
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misses jackson was game but in the case of misses van buren she's just kind of referred to as a member of the family traveling through europe who thinks of herself as a crown had and her white house portrait shows her in the court costume that she wore when she was received at buckingham palace. van buren went down in defeat and in large part it was because of that speech. you begin to see that what a first lady war also very much in a long 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 the president. a few examples i think bring all of these elements together better than mary todd lincoln.
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misses lincoln came to washington as a westerner. although she was extremely well- educated she spoke french and studied astronomy and could quote victor hugo from memory and was highly political. when she first became first lady she spoke to the secretary of state and her husband about the fact that she wanted to purchase imported clothing they told her that with the onset of the civil war that the import tariffs were told -- were too great and we would be -- and
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this was fascinating onto itself this is often in new york purchasing other things like gloves and other accessories. and she quite literally took her husband's advice to quite an extreme to the point where she ran up the modern equivalent of close to $300,000 in debt largely on clothing and she was terrified as he sought reelection because she knew that if he did not win the creditors would come after her so she came up with two plans to fund her clothing.
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one was to have the manure at the white house stables gathered and sold as white house fertilizer. the other was to go back to all of those 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 he would not have that job if was not for me and were it not for the president. neither of these plans worked. she felt, however very strongly about her clothing. she felt she had to represent the prosperity of the union and of the union army. you have to remember in washington it was essentially a southern city.
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although a lot of the southerners left the capital with the onset of the war and still had a southern spirit and there were still southerners there. people were really nasty about misses lincoln. you begin to see for the first time very detailed descriptions of what misses lincoln wore and we see for the first time in the weekly illustrated newspapers full-length drawings of misses lincoln and that started just briefly with harriet lane who was the niece of the bachelor president right before lincoln she was the first that we begin to see and
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we started out as an american publisher about recalled fashion plates which were in europe at the time it was through these publications but frank leslie published the first american fashion plate. he stopped doing that but then went into ask we see that as
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the technology begins to grow because of course photography starts at 1844. tyler is the first to be photographed. harriet is the first to have hers reproduced and sold. it would reference like a visiting card that picture was pasted on the public can purchase them. that's when you begin to see the -- the only celebrities were authors and military leaders and the president and his family. they are high features.
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it begins to take off of the industrial age. because of julia grant who some people very unkindly compared to looking like a piece of furniture because her accounts were festooned with beads and bows and bugles and it ran in every different direction and there was no place for the i arrest >> reporter: -- i -- i arrest -- eye to rest . and president graham was concerned. these were low-cut 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
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first press releases ever made a statement to the press when she was asked about setting an example. she said something that i think you see repeated with first lady throughout the year which is to say i am not going to dictate what people should wear. people should wear what they want to wear and what they think looks best to them. she thought what she wore looked best on her. but you see within the republican party at this time the schisms that inevitably occur with both parties. you have grant with a lot of the scandals and amount of appointees a lot of the appointees from york without realizing strings were attached and a lot of it was from the
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new york republican party and at the time the great power bases of the republican party were ohio and new york. they were associated with the new york crowd. his success was rutherford b hayes as governor. you could not have found two radically different women then you see hayes and julia grant. on inauguration get -- day one reporter sitting and watching misses hayes as the ceremony is going on gave a very detailed pen description and it just broke into rhapsody at the point that she described her as looking like the virgin mary. talking about her hairstyle evoked the madonna herself and
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people got very tired of that very quickly there were a lot of newspaper and public reactions to misses hayes who was a devout methodist and banned alcohol from the white house and would have sunday him singing and people really started criticizing her for that. that it wasn't a very social house this is an era when he see the clothing of the first lady is really taking on questions of morality. that is really coming in with francis the 21-year-old woman that was a bride in the white house and liked to wear very
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low-cut dresses and bear arms. and she was the women's christian temperance union which had really been fans of lucy hayes and donated the portrait to the white house because she only served water and soft drinks and andy know they went after misses cleveland and petitioned her and said she was sending an immoral example for the young women of the country. misses cleveland just kept went and looking at what else is going on the technology. finally photographs cannot be reproduced in magazines on the finer linen paper.
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it is a very fuzzy image but it is the first known photograph of her in a newspaper. simultaneous to that are -- you start to see misses mckinley -- mrs. mckinley captured on film. the very first lady that is seen in the very early motion pictures. moving pictures as they called them. that really begins to affect and accelerate the public interest in what the first ladies are wearing. jumping ahead to the 1920s and the important benchmark of women gaining the right to vote and misses harding -- mrs. hardy ms. in the white house. she is one of the oldest women
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to become first lady but in spirit she captures the roaring 20s. she's the first to fly in an airplane. she has the first radio in the white house. she invites movie stars. she does public appearances. she is an advocate a radical advocate for animal protection coming out even against vivisection in 1921. she is also an outspoken suffragist. she begins to wear clothing -- although it is appropriate for her, it is a stylized version of what young women are wearing at the time in the very early beginnings of what later became thought of as the flapper look. mrs. harding hired the first
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named designer. a man by the name of harry collins and he was a theatrical costume designer. so she wore his clothes and it really attracted a lot of attention. like mrs. grant said when she was asked about how short women should dress and how short young girl should be allowed to dress she said i will leave that to the wisdom of the individual to make that decision. she had ask us she was a little bit self-conscious about her neck so she would wear a black velvet neck collar and put a sunburst there to i suppose bring attention to the diamond or attention away from her neck but in a way to try to appear younger. the irony of it is that became popular with young women at the time and it was
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called a flossie kling. her maiden name was king and her name is florence so they became flossie kling's. her immediate successor grace coolidge is really fascinating when it comes to the subject because we think of the coolidge is as very parsimonious yankees from vermont. they had a farm and the president worked on the farm. it was his family farm. misses coolidge -- mrs. coolidge was famous for her blueberry muffin recipe. she was very domestic and at she was also college-educated and worked as a teacher of the desk. she was a real advocate for women seeking full education. and yet when you begin to see what she dressed in they were
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extravagant and they were really stylish. i think in many ways she is the first first lady that was modern in the sense that she reminded me of michelle obama in that she was very aware of what was in vogue and updated her wardrobe all the time. during an interview that i had once i was told that as a young girl she remembered how important misses coolidge -- mrs. coolidge had been to her mother saying that at one time people would look to the first latest during the 20s and 30s for a sense of what was the right style to sort of be appropriate and proper and yet at the same time stylish. i should also mention that mrs.
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coolidge becomes the first first lady whose voice we hear. so now we have seen misses wilson during world war i and mrs. harding and mrs. coolidge in the 20s and what they are wearing in the newsreels. mrs. hoover we hear on the radio and every sunday the nation hears eleanor roosevelt on the radio. the nation not only hears mrs. roosevelt a lot of the nation actually saw misses roosevelt. she was very rarely at the white house because she was constantly on the move. this was during the great depression and she assumed famously the role of eyes and ears of the president. she saw an opportunity when the war broke out in europe, an opportunity for american fashion industry and she was
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very much a supporter of the ladies garment union but also for all of her social activism took enormous pride to the fact that she was named to a best dressed list. when she made disappearances she knew that the public wanted a little touch of elegance and they were in -- expecting it from the first lady. except in the hottest winter days she always brought a for peace. people later spoke about that for peace was pretty ratty by the time the roosevelt years ended but people loved it. little kids would come up and want to touch it. misses roosevelt was very practical.
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if she liked address she would order from new york and would order five copies in different colors. i'm going to wrap up by just briefly touching on the last two in the segment which is truman and maney eisenhower. mrs. truman may likely be the most diligently unfashionable first lady we have 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 and she has never smiling. almost never smiling. she especially hated movie cameras but she was always in dark clothing and she were grays and browns and she did that for a reason.
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she did not want press attention. 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 mrs. eisenhower. she had lived in europe and been the wife of a five star general but who thought of herself as a neighbor and really was in many ways neighborly. she cut of course, helps unwittingly to make pink the most popular color according to the color institute at the time in textiles and homes and refrigerators and tiles and spatulas. everything was being made in first lady pink. what she ended up doing, also unwittingly is generating a
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miniboom in the economies of specialty markets of accessories. for example, her inaugural ground had these brilliant sparkles. there was a run on them and wholesale distributors were reporting record sales of that. when the for trappers were really hurting and they were see in that people were purchasing mink and not beaver coats they came up with the idea of giving mrs. eisenhower a beaver coat and it created a big political controversy, first of all for her accepting something free and then the republican senator from maine was angry that the for trappers
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did not go through her although when they first approached her she said she would not approach misses eisenhower. -- mrs. eisenhower. but anyway she wore and there was a boom and for trappers were reporting record sales. mrs. eisenhower always wear these little straw hats. to the point where those became so popular and the straw was imported from ecuador that it is reported by the curator of the eisenhower library that it pretty much saved the ecuador economy. this is just an overview of the topic. i left a lot out. there were a lot more detail political controversies. you can read all about it in the book that week put out to
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accompany the exhibit. i am eager to take any questions. >> thank you. [applause] as you can all see he is just a wealth of knowledge on first lady's. we can go here for hours. i think you are getting hungry. we have a brochure on the way in here. this is just one of seven in the series. i encourage you to come back to all of them. they are all not only experts like carl but each individual speaker has a specific niche that you will get a kick out of. of course carl will be back for the last one to have a focus on pat nixon. we will take a couple of questions but before we get into q&a i know that some of you may have noticed a big grand exhibit case covered with black linen on the runway. we will unveil that with carl.
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is cheryl in the room? i will try to spring this on cheryl. our first question will come from this gentleman in the back. we will go for a little bit but we have to go to lunch. our first question. >> what type of fabric and material did the first garments that the first lady were comprised of? >> i do not know. >> i remember silk being mentioned all the time but you see that's the part of this subject i don't, it also makes me think jefferson's daughter
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in support of the embargo act started to make cotton homespun at monticello and a lot of those women who are supportive of the republican party and jefferson and supported the embargo act would do this. and broadcloth. broadcloth is made of cotton. >> did i miss something. >> we are talking organic materials back then they would grow it. you would have wool and cotton and silk and linens. so those basic sort of fabric she would find and that's why they would last so long. you jump in between and there are many -- metallics and synthetic sandy leon's. and those last forever as well.
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>> they could only talk about so much but there's an interesting thing with mrs. over during the depression and the cotton industry. it was really hurting and at the time we were beginning to import rayon from japan and the big fear was that american manufacturers were coming up with a blend. they were blending cotton with rayon and mrs. hoover was wearing it and it became a practical international incident and the japanese ambassador had to speak to president hoover about it. so you see that. with misses nixon -- mrs. nixon he would
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see a lot of those blend which were practical because of all the traveling she did. >> next question from the front row. i want to acknowledge olivia forgiven her input. she is the curator here. she put an incredible amount of thought, time, and work into that runway just outside in the hall and the display in the main gallery. if you have not gotten in make sure that you go see them. >> you can see him from the bowers museum. she works on runways addressing costumes. >> we will do two more.
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the next one will come from the front row. i will ask the last one if it is okay with you. >> a couple things he talked about how martha washington intentionally wore american- made clothes. when did they start when different regional clothing for different diplomatic reasons? >> there's always the issue in the 19th century of our way a private person or a public person. where does that line begin and end. for example tony medicine we have records of her purchasing most of her items from paris. through the american representative in paris. they complain about having to waddle through the streets of paris going after everything on
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the checklist. you have sarah polk again another interesting one with not enough time to get into because it was a bit of a dark side there. she had these very wealthy cotton plantations by the labor of enslaved people. she wore lavish clothing from paris. she was criticized although she held herself out as a very pious woman she always arrived fashionably late for church and some of the accounts i have really criticized her for over dressing. what we know from what is in the collection down in the museum you see francis cleveland
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still doing that and some of these were clothes in the cases of wilson, cleveland, and polk all purchased from the house of worth in paris but those were closed they purchased right before the became the first lady. so we don't really have a record of them purchasing overseas clothing. the first real record of that on the record that we have is jackie kennedy in 1961 when she makes the first state trip in president kennedy -- with president kennedy and may to paris and she has given she design the gown that she wore
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to the palace of versailles >> you mentioned the book which is going to be available in the eastern for sale and carl will be able to sign it if you want to pick it up. there is also a discount of 10% for however many a purchase but i know you went into pretty deep detail on all of the first lady's in that book one in particular was pat nixon. can you tell me in your exploration of the subject what fascinated you the most on first lady pat nixon. this is something i will just mention in a general way right now because i would get into great depth and it and the last lecture i will just focus on her but i have written about her before and it is kind of funny
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being up here right now because the one and only time that i saw misses nixon -- 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. at that point i had written my first books on first lady's and worked with julie eisenhower who would ask him other questions that i would send and helen smith who was her press secretary. they knew i was going to be here. julie invited me to the opening. mrs. nixon knew i was going to be here but she told her that carl was here in the audience and he will be sitting next to me.
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we acknowledged each other there is something -- i think that film that we saw you cannot watch that film and not be really moved practically every second because that story is something else. that's a story of somebody deciding that they are not going to fail because they are going to succeed in life through education and that nothing is going to get in the way of it. there is so many layers. what is the most fascinating thing. it's like the contest
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when he have all the women protesters. and the stuff that is done to draw press attention. the miniskirt that women are wearing.. they were once with two daughters that's why they are not with the campaign. julie and her mother were the same size eventually said her mother liked address and she said why don't you try it on.
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and we call that chapter the california girl in pants because he see how she liked rain pants long before she was a public figure. when she worked at bullocks when she was a junior at usc and she was talking about the job but she said i wear pants and everybody complains because they want to see my legs and i really don't care because i like wearing pants. we are talking in the 1930s katherine hepburn was a public figure. even as a young girl there's a picture in the book she is probably not more than one of those very rare days
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that she had to enjoy life. sometimes they take the streetcar and then make their way to the beach for a day but this is on the water tower. and the citrus farms you see these girls climb this water tower and somebody else has a brownie and is taking pictures of them and she is not working. she is not in a pair of dirty overalls from working on the farm but she is wearing a pair of pants. she becomes the first first lady to publicly wear pants. she does it very definitively. there are four occasions where she does that. of course at the time it is still a bit controversial. her husband the president tries
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to discourage women her work at the white house from wearing these. she is not wearing them at the white house but she wore one in the campaign poster for reelection and 72. to me that is a fascinating look at her. the book really does go into great steps on misses nixon. >> thank you. [applause] tomorrow night on american history tv on prime time we will look back 50 years to richard nixon's 1968 presidential election victory starting with the film from the real american series featuring the republican nominee answering questions from georgia residents. the television broadcast paid for the by the -- by the nixon campaign was one of several held in key states.
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watch american history tv in prime time friday beginning at 8 pm eastern on c-span 3. this weekend on american history tv saturday at 6 pm eastern on the civil war historian peter carmichael talks about public reaction to photographs of the dead at the 1862 battle of antietam and soldier perspectives from letters to home. >> the people had a chance that dwelt in the dead. he said it was a terrible fascination that they had. they said that these photographs on the end-all that they really did was satisfy this morbid satisfaction. >> at 8 pm on lectures and history arizona state university professor kyle longley and president lyndon johnson and the vietnam war in
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1968. >> here is one of the most powerful presidents in american history that has transformed the country for better or for worse giving up power to search for peace. that is pretty big. a major step and it all relates to what. what is the issue? vietnam. >> on sunday on the presidency. ronald reagan's attorney general talks about president reagan's news on communism and his relationship with pope john paul ii. >> you have two people both leaders one of the secular world and one in the religious world with parallel interests. when those parallel interests were obvious as what happened in poland when they were under attack if you will it was logical for ronald reagan particularly with his ideas about defeating communism to cooperate. >> next weekend the world war i
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centennial. airs every weekend on c-span three. more about how the fashion choices of betty ford influenced culture. this talk was one of a series. the richard nixon foundation hosted this event. >> ladies and gentlemen i am honored to introduce today's speaker. the nixon library has presented the exhibit before and offered lectures on similar topics but we have not offered the exhibit and luncheon d


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