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tv   The Presidency Pat Nixon Betty Ford  CSPAN  November 1, 2018 10:37pm-11:31pm EDT

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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 and lecture series
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combined. when we planned on coordinating the concept we quickly noticed the need for a specialized desk curator. is one of the foremost experts. he has had the privilege to interview the clintons. his accolades are vast and many. the staff of the nixon foundation and the richard nixon presidential library have enjoyed a long friendship with carl. and many ways we consider you part of the family when we called him back in april his enthusiasm is contagious the concept has become a reality. join me in welcoming carl
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anthony. [applause] >> thank you for all of you who are here today. many of you are here for all of the lectures. a special thanks to chris who we have thanked a lot of individual staff members and everyone has contributed and played a role but certainly chris has been very calm and oversee and that all of these events have gone smoothly. so a special thanks to chris. [applause] and from bill, the director of the foundation to cheryl the secretary. i saw that i was
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getting 100% back from everybody. and has been an amazing experience i am also especially happy to be giving a lecture about whichever individuals are important historically and i think quite often overlooked but were two individuals that held a very special personal meaning to me. pat nixon and betty ford. as i was saying earlier today people do forget about these women. we look at them and it is always so easy to look at them as historical figures. in one dimension but we forget that a woman born in nevada but really grew up in california
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which was nixon and another from michigan which was betty ford, were two women who made their way, their own way, and the world. they both worked as young women in the case of misses nixon getting an education. misses nixon knew that was -- mrs. nixon knew that was going to be the answer to be that part of a larger world beyond that of her community. both women understood coming to the white house at the time as the women's movement understood the rational thinking behind equal pay for equal work. they wrote in quiet yet forward and progressive ways were taking some of the more radical elements of what was inside the
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women's movement or the feminist movement and integrating them into their remarks and the way that they responded to the press and in this sort of gentle way the notion of these two housewives, or certainly mothers or as the public thought of them traditional women overlooking their lives before they were married in this way it helped move things forward certainly not without controversy but also as i was mentioning as part of a song tradition that it was the republican party that was first in the senate put up the equal rights amendment at 1922.
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people forget that. they think that it is something that occurred in the 1970s but it actually had been proposed by a republican senator in 1922 so the struggle for women's equality was a long one and certainly these two women play apart. when we look at patricia ryan nixon and see that she worked her whole life first on a family farm in what was called artesia but is now known as cerritos. we know that apart from going to school and working at a bank and working on the family's truck farm and selling put us she was also planting with her two brothers bill and tom, and her parents pick in the produce. so you would think often as she
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would at the time be wearing overalls. this is a fascinating photograph because it actually shows her it is a close of escrow close-up of two other friends and she's a young woman in southern california and orange county and they have claims atop a water tower and there she is wearing pants. they were actually something misses nixon even as a young woman always enjoyed wearing. in a letter she wrote to her aunt during her junior year at usc she was working part-time at bullocks wilshire in los angeles she revealed that she always wore pants to work and that many of her coworkers were
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disappointed because they said they wanted to see her beautiful figure. in dresses. she considered it more professional to wear pants. that becomes a little bit of a metaphor for pat nixon. she went about her work whether it was as a young woman, whether it was a wife and a mother whether it was as first lady quietly and effectively without the need for publicity, always with the intention of truly helping those she was intending to assist. richard nixon in 1952 when he gets his famous -- gives his famous checkers speech. mentions for the first time by a political figure vice presidential candidate but enters for the first time into
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the popular imagination the idea of clothing and politics when he talks about, as he put it, pats respectable cloth coat. it was meant as a point to be made that they were not wealthy and his wife did not have a unique coat. in doing that he formally introduced to the public this idea of clothing carrying a political symbolism.. here is misses nixon -- mrs. nixon and her costco during the presidential campaign. pat nixon was a vice
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president's wife for eight years traveled the globe and went with any personal assistant. she packed all of her own clothing, and she ironed not only her husband's clothing but her own, and she arranged it so that she could wear clothing that was appropriate to each culture. and each nation that she was visiting. always careful not to repeat wearing the clothing in a way that coverage of her and one country would not get to the next country so it would not look like she was wearing anything of the same and trying to show respect to each country she was visiting by appearing in something different. it was during the 1960 campaign that the issue of potential
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first ladies on the clothing was really thrust into national headlines and made a political issue. the media had essentially created an artificial race for the first lady between pat nixon and jackie kennedy. it began with a story claiming that mrs. kennedy and her mother rose kennedy spent $30,000 a year on clothing in paris to which jackie very famously responded i could not spend that much money on clothing unless i was able underwear. -- war sable underwear. and of course it was a backhanded compliment but a political one. she said that mrs. nixon dresses very well she purchases her clothing at elizabeth arden and those are not inexpensive. so you saw coverage of the two
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candidates wives from an image of newsweek magazine and the lower center image was a composite put together on ladies home journal. and in the cartoon on the far left i hope dyck and jack fully realize what they're destiny hangs on as they are walking down a fashion runway and the center image at the top is inauguration day the morning of the kennedy inaugural january 1961 you have lady bird johnson with her back to the camera and may me -- mamie eisenhower the previous. and in the previous states that jackie kennedy later made in
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the oral history she commented on how attractive mrs. nixon appeared that take at the inauguration and what she called the california style. she became the first lady and i did a lot of research for the book there was a while and radical variety of clothing. women in pants and miniskirts and women in maxi >> women in maxi skirts. soller cutter -- solid cutter -- colors and also patterns. she refrains from wearing some of the more radical looks of the period, although she did wear a kind of a wild pattern dress for the halloween party
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at the far right. and, what was a popular beachwear of the time, the lilly pulitzer, as she is seen in the center there in florida with president nixon. pat nixon was described as wearing cherry california colors, or the california look. one does find that in her wardrobe, there is a strong element of oranges, greens, and yellows. cheery colors that she always ended up as going to as her best default choices. she very rarely, except for the most solemn occasions, what were lack because president nixon disliked seeing women in black. he said it reminded him of some of the more severe aspects of
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his quaker upbringing in childhood. she tried to always wear the bright colors that reflected her beloved california. she was also, perhaps more than -- certainly before any first lady before her -- she were the shortest skirts ever seen on a first lady. well above the knee. this was something commented on in the press, again at a time when people were trying to figure out what was appropriate, and what was inappropriate. mrs. nixon tended to modulate or moderate, if you will, what were some of the more extreme fashions of the day. but, you can even see in the white dress at the far right, it is at that point in history
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-- this is mostly from 1969- 1970, the first two years of the nixon presidency, she is appearing in dresses shorter than any first lady had ever worn before. she told reporters that women invited to the white house were encouraged to wear, she put it, whatever they choose to be the most appropriate and appealing on them. she made reference to some of the issues of the era, like roe versus wade, like the equal rights amendment, and like the idea of a woman on the supreme court -- three issues that pat nixon supported as first lady -- that it was the year of choice. some of them who wore
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trousers shoot -- suits and short dresses as you see here at an evening reception the first lady held with two of her guests. you saw that reflected in her daughters who tended to wear very short dresses in the beginning of the presidency. although, julie tended to stick to the minidress. tricia began to adopt the maxi dress. appropriately enough, mrs. nixon eventually seem to settle on what was called the midi dress. am idi. it was short, medium, and long. the question of how short pat nixon's dresses were, for a
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brief time did become one of public speculation and a point of cultural reference. one magazine looking at some of the dresses that she was seen in and trying to examine exactly what the length of her ham was. in fact, it was while her daughters were shopping in new york for a wardrobe for the 1968 campaign that mrs. nixon complemented her daughter julie when she tried on a green miniskirt. it was in the showroom of a designer in new york called vincent --. the nixon's, at the time, lived in new york. julie told her mom, why don't you try it on -- because they wore the exact same size. that is how it is that mrs. nixon
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came to try the minidress. she also adapted another style that actually started, or it is believed to have started, in southern california and the glendale area. although, some accounts claimant start -- started in london. that was called the granny dressed. what mrs. nixon did was work with designers in taking different motives from those granny dresses, which evoked a little bit more of a rustic, natural feel, and adapted it to her own style. of course, she was first lady so she could not appear in -- at receptions in a gunnysack dress, but she did adapt it. it
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looked quite flattering on her, i think. she was also a first lady, unusual from all of her predecessors, and that she literally touched people. when pat nixon went along a rope line, she did not merely shake hands. she hugged people, kissed people, she was very figures -- physically demonstrative. what this led to was her asking designers to begin making dresses with large pocket -- pockets, because many people gave her letters or notes for her or the president. she did not want an intermediary editing them out or not giving them to her. i think the guiding principle of pat nixon as first lady is this idea of serving the people.
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she, in every way -- and it was subtle, but you begin to see a true line of her five years as first lady. it is about making herself and about making the white house itself as accessible to the public and the common man and woman as much as was possible, and as much as security would permit. you really did see, especially when she traveled alone, when the security detail was not as intense as it naturally is when you travel with the president -- you really see her genuinely, warmly interacting with people. of course, perhaps her most iconic piece of clothing was the red coat -- red overcoat she wore to china while accompanying the president on his historic 1972 visit to
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china. this took place the very same year that american households at that point had more color tvs than black and white. 1972. it also came at a time when the technology of film was giving way to video. so, there was a more immediate ability to transmit footage, life footage. -- live footage. it was not just americans, but people all over the world who were watching the footage in the video that was coming back each day from china with pat nixon and her bright, red coat.
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you have to remember, not only was it an eye-popping color, but that at the time, all chinese citizens, male and female, were expected to dress uniformly in either drab green or dark blue. with all the men who were traveling with her husband poss -- husband's official entourage being in black or dark navy, or other dark colors, pat nixon really was the bright spot of the several day visit to china. many questioned whether, somehow, this was a nod to communism, because as some reporters who went on that trip noted, as they were leaving the airport of beijing, the only
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sign of color where the massive propaganda posters that surrounded the perimeter of the airport. those were all in the bright red of communist china. in fact, mrs. nixon later suggested that she wore that red as a sign of peace and good luck. the good luck, the symbolism of red signifying good luck in the chinese culture is far ancient, preceded by hundreds of years -- the maoist takeover in the 20th century. in the fall of 1971, pat nixon breaks another cultural taboo. that is, she is the first first lady who is seen wearing pants.
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when the nixon presidency started, there were articles about whether women who worked at the white house would be quote, allowed to wear pants. the word came down that the president did not want any women wearing pants in the white house. mrs. nixon did not wear pants in the white house itself. but, she gave -- granted a very extensive interview for abc. the reporter did an hour-long special on the first lady. with the portions that were filmed at the nixon home at la casa pacifica, overlooking the pacific ocean, mrs. nixon was there on film and that national
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tv special, wearing pants. you see a picture of her in the upper left corner there from that interview. several months later, in january 1972, ladies home journal featured the first lady in a fashion spread. there she was posed in two of the five fashions breads, -- spreads, also wearing pants. as this was to signal that this was not a coincidence but a very conscious thing that the first later -- lady was doing. the two images you see that match below on the far left, that is a rather favors -- famous image of the president and mrs. nixon walking along the pacific. there is the first lady in a windbreaker, a pair
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of black slacks, and a kerchief. that image was chosen to be used on a presidential -- on president nixon's reelection campaign. his poster that was talking about his environmental protection. really extraordinary environmental protection laws that came in under president nixon. that is one, from the poster, you can perhaps tell on the far left there. this is going out to the president's supporters. at that time, in 1972, running against george mcgovern, richard nixon had the base of more conservative voters. it was really a little bit of a gentle push to depict the first lady of the united states publicly on a campaign poster
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wearing pants. and then, that september 1972, pat nixon went to a national park celebrating its centennial. she was actually there to mark the centennial of the national park system. and there she is wearing a pair of pants at a public ceremony. doing that four times within a year makes it rather clear that she is not only more comfortable wearing what she wants to wear, but sending a cultural, and somewhat of a political statement. it is gentle, but it is firm. she still liked to try and get out and shop. mrs. nixon told virginia sure word in her interview --
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sherwood in her interview, because she like to keep current and see what stores were selling and what prices they were going for. since she was the first lady and only traveled with the security entourage, it was not always something she could do easily. in november 1973 president nixon addressed the nation from the oval office about the oncoming winter, and the shorter national supply of home heating oil, and how everyone in the country would half to, on a volunteer basis, pull together and reduced the temperatures in their homes to save on oil. this was a message he reaffirmed in his 1974 state
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of the union address. it was then, perhaps, no accident that mrs. nixon appeared at that state of the union address wearing a warm sweater suit. in the spring of 1974, pat nixon made a trip to several south american countries. she began wearing some of the non-crushable's. fabrics that allowed her to travel more easily without concern for wrinkles in the clothing. that was also a reflection of a popular trend at the time. polyester blends, cotton blends. those were most in evidence on that trip and the series of
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appearances she made. in june of 1974, the first lady accompanied president nixon in -- on a multi-nation trip to the middle east. for the very first time an american first lady visited saudi arabia. pat nixon chose, as was her prerogative, to not wear a head covering. while there was criticism in saudi arabia, it was certainly -- something commented on in the american press. it had the effect of setting a precedent so that all first lady subsequent to pat nixon who went to saudi arabia also chose not to wear a head covering.
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pat nixon and betty ford were friends of long-standing as a result of their husbands both being in congress together. there was something called the marching and chowder club which was a social club for congressional and senate families. this is how the two women became friends. betty ford later said in an interview with me that the day her husband assumed the presidency was one of the saddest for her. certainly, she said, she was not thinking of herself and the sudden responsibilities that were on her shoulders. but, she was really saddened by the shock and the departure of her friend pat nixon.
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betty ford was truly not prepared to be first lady. in many of her appearances, her apparel and her initial weeks and months of first lady, what you really saw was what she really was -- a suburban mother. so, she wore rather simple designed clothing, but also made a point and was not embarrassed whatsoever to mention the fact that she and her husband did not have much discretionary income. so, betty ford remarked that she bought everything up to that time off the rack. she did have a special friend in alexandria, virginia, not far from the ford home called frankie welch who had a dress
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shop. frankie welch not only did design a few original dresses for mrs. ford, but also popularized the scarf. the neck scarf actually became one of those trademark icons of this particular first lady. in many photographs of betty ford, you will see that she is wearing a dark. she also -- wearing a scarf. she also had a preference for the low-cut mandarin collar of chinese style dress. there was an important reason for this. a month after she became first lady she discovered that she had breast cancer. it required surgery and the removal of one of her breasts. she told the american cancer society that once a person who has had breast cancer is
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elated, of course, to discover that their life has been saved, that there is a second part to dealing with breast cancer. that was the sense of a stigma of some kind of disfigurement. so, she pointed out that she liked to wear low-cut dresses as a way of evidencing that it did not mean a woman was unable to wear whatever she wanted. she discussed it publicly, and continued to wear this particular style. because there was no ford inauguration, it was that green mandarin collar dress at the far right that represents mrs. ford in the smithsonian
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collection. mrs. ford also tended to wear a lot of capes and draperies. captains, very 70s tile. -- captains, very 70s style. the one on the left, that shows that style. it was something that was another little trademark during her time in the white house. she also sported some of the other changes that were going on culturally with women's clothing. the so-called cowl neck sweater, shirt, or blouse as you see on the right, and the open collar which was for every unisex style on the left. of course, the bicentennial. betty ford said that she tried
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to refrain from getting too corny about wearing bicentennial up ariel -- apparel in 1976. there were some notable exceptions. red dresses with white and blue scarves. and a dress that had a motive with american eagles. that is now in the gerald ford library. mrs. ford, like many of her predecessors, broke away from the first lady tradition of wearing solid monochromatic colors. she loved all kinds of different patterns from plaids to florals, zigzags, geometric designs. even sort of piping, where there was white piping as you see in the yellow dress above and the blue one below. or the red piping as she wore
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on the actual bicentennial day of july 4, 1976. that is a little bit of the overview of these two women and what they wore and why they wore it. i would say, in concluding not just today's lecture, but the series, i start where i began on the stage. it was on this date in 1990 -- stage in 1990 that i had a chance, my only chance, to interact with pat nixon. it was the night before the richard nixon presidential library was dedicated. there was a reception for former nixon white house staff. at that point i had written my two books. mrs. nixon, although very frail and not doing interviews or
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granting them, agreed to answer questions that i submitted in writing to her through her daughter julie. with the help of helen smith, who i knew in washington was mrs. nixon's press secretary, and julie. they let mrs. nixon know that i would be in the audience. i would signal to her and she would signal to me. i was seated in about the third or fourth row there. when she came out, i nodded and she gave me a big wink and a wave. betty ford i really got to know well. i must say, perhaps breaking the boundaries of professionalism, i really came to love her as a friend. i visited her many times in her home before president ford became very frail. he died at the end of 2005 or
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2006. mrs. ford had a great love of history and a love of the history of first lady's, and spoke often about her affection for pat nixon. although, between the two of them, they only represent eight years in the white house, and of course, in recent times from bill clinton to george w. bush to barack obama, we have had an unusual historic occurrence of three consecutive presidencies of eight years. the last time that happened was jefferson, madison, and monroe. it is easy to forget the nixon and ford years, like the johnson and kennedy years, were truncated. i think pat nixon and betty ford served in the white house
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at a time of enormous change. they were agents of a gentle turn towards the future. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> well done. thank you carl. carl has agreed to take a couple of questions. raise your hand. i do want to ask the first one. as i mentioned before, carl is the author of more than a dozen books. his latest is "why they wore it: the politics & pop culture of first ladies". it was done in collaboration with the exhibit in the series. is available for sale in the museum store. i think carl will find it for you if you buy it. this was done in four months. can you tell us a little bit about that experience? doing this book informants? >> it was insane.
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[ laughter ] it really was insane. and yet, everybody was doing their part. i would send images and photographs and they would say, we have to try and find one that is public domain. there were various staff members here who were very diligent in tracking down that event and finding an image. there was a lot of back and forth. my now favorite moment of the whole thing was a few days after the fourth of july when my sister and her husband and my niece and nephew were going down to disneyland. they said -- i need to go down to anaheim to get these photographs to our book producers. diana, who is here today, it was one of those days. it was like 110 degrees.
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the only place with air conditioning was the motel 6 in anaheim. we all went to disneyland. diane and i were trying to coordinate were. i remember that i was on the phone with jim. i was seated in a section of the california experience that is for kids. it was in a little plastic kids'. i was taking note -- i was in a little plastic kids'. i was taking notes. all there were were like crayons and coloring books. i was in 110 degrees, slathered in sunblock, my cell phone kept sliding off my face. i was taking notes. it was crazy. i now know what clinical exhaustion is.
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but, at the end of the day, we all knew we wanted to give the best product. and that there was only so much room for information on the panels, which would be on the wall with the exhibit. that there was only so much information that could be conveyed in the lectures. and so, really the book is a summary of a compact history of this particular topic. >> thanks, carl. the first question -- >> i would like to thank you for a very informative lecture. secondly, i was so curious to see why the first ladies outfit is not in the lobby? >> because except for the very first dress, which you saw, which is really rare. and extraordinarily -- and
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extraordinary loan by the current first lady, we have some intermediaries to thank for that. it was an amazing gesture. i did in exhibit here with olivia in the 1990s on presidential marriages. i said to her, olivia is not here today, but i said -- this was in the 1990s and hillary clinton was in the white house. i said -- what if we went to hillary clinton and asked her to loan us her wedding dress. --? it was such a crazy idea. we did it, and sure enough she said yes. they had to find it in a storage unit in arkansas. that was really wonderful because it set a precedent for this. it was so generous of mrs. trump to loan that dressed.
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the others are reproductions, of course, of the smithsonian collection. the collection we borrowed it from which is the eisenhower presidential library museum, only has the collection going up to barbara bush. there is nothing of hillary clinton or the bushes or michelle obama. >> this is very good. thank you very much. i wonder because jackie onassis was famous for her pillbox hat. pat nixon came along and there were no more hats worn, at least in the display here, by pat nixon or betty ford. is at the time period of no more hats? >> you are very observant and very spot on correct. because, lady bird johnson wore a hat to her husband's 1965
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inauguration, the swearing-in ceremony, where she was the first to hold the bottle -- bible. that nixon decided she did not want to wear it. that set a precedent. i am glad you mentioned it. there is only so much you can mentioned, but there are a lot of little things that makes it -- mrs. nixon did, in terms of her choices of what she wore, that indicated this independent streak. that she was going to do things her way. actually, the hats started back again with hillary clinton. but, it was as a son protector. it is sort of funny. hillary, associated with being involved in policy rather than clothing and fashion, brings back the hat for first lady. but, as a form of sun detection. we will take one last question.
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-- >> we will take one more -- last question. that i will ask you to follow our docent to get out for lunch. >> who would you consider the stress first lady of all time in dress? and who would you consider the one with the most influence in dress? >> i think there is no question that jackie kennedy had the most influence because it was a global influence. there are two incidences that stated that. one shows that even in the midst of the cold war, behind the iron curtain there were soviet women's magazines showing off the jackie look. that is so extraordinary. secondly, when she appeared in a leopard coat there was such an instant global demand for leopard coats that the leopard was placed on the endangered species list. [ laughter ] so, it was a big
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business. it was -- i could go on about that. you will see more about that in the book. as far as the best dressed, each era honestly does speak to that. as i said at the beginning of this project, i do not know a lot about passion, per se. i am not even all that interested in it. although i have great respect for what is a craft any business and an important industry. but, the politics and the popular culture it reflects, that is what i know about. i am not necessarily the best judge, as you can tell i my own clothing, of what looks good on people. men or women. i do think that each era --
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really captured the spirit of the roaring 20s and the new woman as they were just getting the right to vote. grace coolidge, also wearing the very short skirts. the flapper gear. kind of what mrs. nixon did, modulating what were some more of the exaggerated things. in a weird way, bess truman is fun because she wore gray. she wore navy blue and she wore clothes to make a statement of -- don't pay any attention to me. thank you very much. >> thank you. we will see you all in the east room. i hope you enjoy your lunch. [ applause ]
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>> tonight, on american history tv in prime time, we remember former first lady barbara bush. starting with her daughter-in- law and former first lady laura bush. that is coming up in a couple of minutes. c-spa in washington journal, live every day. policy and issues that impact you. it is the 25th anniversary of the sea-spa n bus program -- c- spa and bus program. by partisans pollys -- policy center don -- discusses --. the university of south florida will talk about political dynamics.
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be sure to watch the washington journal, live at 7:00 eastern on friday morning. joined the discussion. campaign 2018 continues friday. former president obama will hold a rally in florida for senator bill nelson who is up for reelection. live coverage beginning at 2:30 p.m. eastern on c-span. saturday, president trump is back in florida to stump for republican candidates. also on c-span. struck in addition to our -- struck in addition to our coverage leading up to the midterm elections next week, we will take a look at --. that gets underway friday at 11:30 a.m. eastern here on c-span 3. :5 of
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barbara bush's grandchildren remember her in this discussion led by cokie roberts. she is only the second woman in history to be married to one american president and be married -- and be the mother of another. i work coverage of this event began right after the audience showed a short video tribute. >> i come from a family of strong women, including my mother-in-law our bush. as that video showed, barbara bush led our country and the bush family with grace and quick wit. when she died we celebrated her life with a memorial service in houston. then we drove to college station to the bush library. on our drive, thousands of people lined the streets an


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