Skip to main content

tv   The Presidency Pat Nixon Betty Ford  CSPAN  July 7, 2020 10:46am-11:39am EDT

10:46 am
>> this is a busy place. the racing board never has a dull moment. one of thousands in the nation they work ceaselessly. if everyone would refuse to deal with merchants who sell goods without -- there would be no black market. >> ladies and gentlemen, my name is chris nor. dack. i'm honored to introduce today's speaker. the nixon library has presented first ladies exhibits before and offered lectures on similar
10:47 am
topics, but we hadn't tackled the project of haufringoffering ladies exhibit and luncheon and lecture series all combined. when planning and coordinating the concept we analyzed the need and quickly noted the need for a special guest curator. carl anthony is one of the nation's foremost experts on presidential wives and their families. he's penned over a dozen books and has had the privilege to interview the clintons, laura bush, as well as the nixon and the fords. his accolades are vast and many. the staff of the nixon foundation and the richard nixon presidential library has enjoyed a long friendship and professional relationship with carl. in many ways we consider you part of the family, carl. when we called them back in april to propose the idea of a first lady exhibit, lecture and luncheon series carl's enthusiasm was contagious. in five months the concept had become a reality.
10:48 am
ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming carl anthony. [ applause ] >> thank you for all of you who are here today. many of you here for all of the lectures. a special thanks also to chris who he has thanked a lot of individual staff members, and everyone has contributed and played a role. but certainly chris has been very calm in overseeing that all of these events have gone smoothly. so a special thanks to chris nordak. and from bill the director of the foundation to cheryl, the secretary, to jim. i'm giving you their first
10:49 am
names. maybe some of you know them all. but really i gave 100% only because i saw that i was getting 100% back from everybody. it's been an amazing experience. it's the kind of professional experience that is ideal. and i wish everyone would be able to have. i'm also especially happy to be making -- giving the final lecture today about two individuals that not only are important historically but i think quite 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. you know, we look at them and it's always so easy to look at
10:50 am
historical figures, you know, in one dimension. but we forget that a woman born in nevada but really grew up and considers californian, pat nixon. another from michigan, betty ford, were two women who made their own way in the world. they both worked as young women. in the case of mrs. nixon, getting an education she knew was going to be the answer for her chance to be part of a ur larger world beyond that of her community. both women understood in coming to the white house at the time of the women's movement, understood the real rational thinking behind the idea of equal pay for equal work and they both in quiet, yesterday
10:51 am
forward and progressive ways were taking some of the more radical elements of what was then thought of the women's movement or feminist movement, and integrating them into their remarks, into the way they responded to the press, and in this sort of gentle way, this notion of these two, quote, housewives or certainly mothers or, as the public thought of them at the time, traditional women, of course overlooking their lives before they were married -- in this way it helped moved things forward. certainly not without controversy, but, as we were also discussing today, as part of a strong tradition, it was the republican party that had first in the senate put up the
10:52 am
equal rites amendments. that was 1922 people think of the equal rights amendment as something that occurred in the 1970s, but it 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 played a part. when we look at patricia ryan nixon and see she worked her whole life, first on a family truck farm not far from here, just in what was then called as artesia, now known as cerritos. we know apart from going to
10:53 am
school, working on the farm, she was also planting and with her two brothers bill and tom and her parents picking the produce. you would think often, as she would at the time be wearing overalls, but this is a fascinating photograph, because it's actually shows her -- it's a close-up with two other friends, and she's a young woman here in southern california in other than county and they had climbed atop a water tower, and there she is wearing pants. pants were actually something mrs. nixon, even as a young woman, always enjoyed wearing. in a her she wrote to her aunt when -- during her junior year at usc, she was working part
10:54 am
time at bull lock wilshire, she revealed she frequently wore pants to work. she considered it more professional. that becomes a metaphor, whether it was as wife as a mother, whether it was as first lady, quietly and effectively without a need for publicity, always with the intention of truly helping those she was intending to assist. richard nixon, in 1952 when he
10:55 am
gave his famous checker speech mentioned for the first time by a political figure -- enters for the first time into the popular imagination the idea of clothing and politics, when he talks about, as he put it, pat's respectable cloth coat, republican cloth coat. of course, it was meant as a point to be made that they were not wealthy and that his wife did not have a mink coat, but he formally -- unwittingly i believed, but formally introduced this idea of clothing carrying a political symbolism. before that it had been done, of course, but without the subtext necessarily being revealed. of course, here is mrs. nixon in her famous cloth coat during the
10:56 am
campaign. pat nixon, as a vice president's wife for eight years, traveled the globe and went without any personal assistant. she packed all of her own clothing, and she ironed not only her husband's clothes, but her own, and arranged it so that she could wear clothing that was appropriate to each culture. that she was visiting, always careful not to repaeat wearing the clothing in a way that timewise, that coverage of her in one country would not get to the next country so that it wouldn't look like she was wearing anything of the same, and kind of trying to show
10:57 am
respect to each country she was visiting by appearing in something different. it was during the 1960 campaign that the issue of potential first ladies and their clothing was really thrust into national headlines and made a political issue. the media had essential created an artificial, quote, race for the first laid between between pat nixon and jackie kennedy. it began with a story claiming that mrs. kennedy and her mother-in-law, rose kennedy, spent $30,000 a year on clothes in paris, to which jackie very famously said, i couldn't spent that much money on clothing unless i wore sable underwear.
10:58 am
she said mrs. nixon dresses very well. she buys her clothes at elizabeth arden, and those are not very expensive. so you saw coverage of the two candidates' wives from an image of "newsweek" and the lower center image was a composite put together. of course, the cartoon at the far left, i hope dick and jack finally realize what their destiny hangs on, as if the two candidates' wives are walking down a fashion runway, and the center image is the top -- january '61, you have with her back to the camera lady bird johnson, the incoming vice president's wife. seated is mamie eisenhower, sdwrakie kennedy, the incoming,
10:59 am
and pat nixon, the outgoing vice president's wife. in the famous tapes that jackie kennedy later made, her oral history released in 2011, she commented on how attractive mrs. nixon add that day in what she called the could california sty. pat nixon became first lady in an era that said there was a wild and radical variety of clothing. women in pants, women in mini skirts, women in maxi skirts, which reached the floor, solid colors, but also patterns of all kinds. so pat nixon generally refrained from wearing some of the more
11:00 am
radical look of the period, although she did wear kind of a wild patterned dress, but that was actually for a halloween party, at the far right, and then what was popular sort of bea beachwear at the time, lily pulitzer there in the center with president nixon. she was known as wearing cheerie california colors. one does find in her wardrobe, there's 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 of occasions, would wear black, because president
11:01 am
nixon disliked seeing women in black. he said it reminded him of some of the more severe aspects of his quaker upbringing and childhood. so she tried to always wear the bright colors that reflected her beloved california. she was also perhaps more than -- certainly before any first lady she wore the shortest skirts ever seen on a first lady. well above the knee. this was commented, again, at a time when people were trying to figure out what was appropriate. and what was inappropriate.
11:02 am
you see in the white dress at the far right, at that point in history, thinks mostly from 1969 and 1970, the first two years of the nixon presidency, she is appearing in dresses shorter than any firth lady had ever worn before. she told reporters that women invited to the white house were encouraged to wear, as she put it, whatever they choose to be the most appropriate and appealing on them. she in fact 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 a supreme court. three issues that pat nixon
11:03 am
supported as first lady, that it was the year of choice for women. you certainly did see that not only with the women guests who came to the white house, some of whom wore long dresses, some of whom wore trouser suits, and some of whom wore the very short dresses, as you see here at an evening reception the first lady held with two of her guests. you also saw that reflected in her daughters, who tended to wear very short dresses in the beginning of the presidency, although while julie tended to stick to the mini dress, trisha began to adopt the maxi dress, and appropriately enough mrs. nixon eventually seemed to settle on what was called the midi dress, so it was short,
11:04 am
medium and long. the question of how short pat nixon's dresses were for a brief time did become one of the public speculation and kind of a point of cultural reference. one magazine looking at some of the dresses that she was seen in, in trying to examine exactly what the length of her hem was in fact it was while her daughters were shopping in new york for a wardrobe for the 1968 campaign, that mrs. nixon complimented her daughter julie for -- when she tried on a green miniskirt. it was in the showroom of a designer at the time called vincent mignon. of course at the time the nixens lived in new york, and julie
11:05 am
told her mom, why don't you wear it on? because she wore the same size. from the best we can find, that is when she tried on the mini dress. she also adapted another style that's believed to have started in southern california in the glendale area, though some account for it starting in london, and that was the granny dress. what mrs. nixon did is work with designers and taking different motifs from those granny dresses, which of course evoked a big more of a rustic kind of natural feel, and adapted it to her own style. of course, she was first lady, so she couldn't appear at receptions in one of those gunny
11:06 am
sac dresses, and i think looked like flattering on her. in that she literally touched people. when she went along a rope line, she merely did not shake hands. she hugged people. she kissed people. she was very physically demonstrative. that led to her asking designers to begin making dresses with large pockets, because many people gave her letters or notes for her, or for the president, and she did not want an intermediary editing them out or not giving them to her.
11:07 am
what i think is the guiding principle for mrs. nixon as the first lady is this idea of serving the people. she, in every way, and it was subtle, but begin to see a through line of her first five years he and it's about making herself and the white house as accessible to the public and the common man and woman as much as was possible, and as much as security would permit so you really do see -- when you saw the security detail not as intense as it naturally is whenever you travel with the president, you really see her genuinely, warmly interacting with people.
11:08 am
of course perhaps her most iconic piece of clothing was the red overcoat that she wore to china while accompanies the president on his historic 1972 visit to 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 live foot a age, so it was not only americans but people all over the world watching the footage, the video that was coming back
11:09 am
each day from china with pat nixon in her bright red coat. now, you have to remember not only was it, of course, an eye-popping color, but that at the time all chinese citizens, male and female, were expected to dress uniformly, either in drab green or dark blue. and with all of the men who were traveling with her 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 question whether this was somehow a nod to communism.
11:10 am
as some reporters who went on the trip noted, as they came into the -- as they were leaving the airport of beijing, the only sign of color were the massive propaganda posters that surrounded the perimeter of the airport. those all were 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, and 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 '71, pat nixon
11:11 am
breaks another cultural taboo, and that is, she is the first first lady who is seen wearing pants. now when the nixon presidency started there were always 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 -- virginia sherwood was the reporter, who did an hour-long special on the first lady, and with the portions that were filmed at the nixon home in san clemente, at
11:12 am
la casa pacifica, overlooking the pacific ocean, mrs. nixon was there on film, in that national tv special wearing pants. you see a picture of her in the upper left corner there from that interview several months later, in january of 1972, "ladies home journal" featured the first lady in a fashion spread, and there she was posed in two of the -- i think it was five fashion spreads, also wearing pants, as if to signal this was not just coincidence, but a conscious thing that the first lady was doing, are the two images that match be low on the far left.
11:13 am
that's a rather famous image of the president and mc nixon walking along the pacific right outside of san clemente, and there he is in black slacks and a kerr schichief. that was used on the reelection campaign, a poster that was talking about his environment protection really extraordinary environment protection laws that came in under president nixon. of course, this was going out to the president's supporters. at that time, of course, in '72, running against george mcgovern, richard nixon, of course, had the base of more conservative voters. so it was really a bit of a
11:14 am
gentle push to depict the first lady of the united states publicly on a campaign poster wearing pants and then that september 1972, pat nixon went to a national park celebrating its cent tenial. she was actually there to mark the cent teniennial of the nati park system. there she is wearing pants at a public ceremony. now, doing that four times within a year, as i said, makes it rather clear she's not only more comfortable wearing what she wants to wear, but sending a cultural and somewhat of a political statement. it's gentle but it's firm.
11:15 am
she still liked to try to get out to shop. mrs. nixon told virginia sherwood in her interview, because she liked to keep current and see what stores were selling, what prices they were going for. of course, because she was first lady and always traveled with a security entourage, it was not always something that she was able to do easily in november of 1973, president nixon addressed the nation from the oval office about the oncoming winters, and the shorter supply -- national supply of home heating oil, and how everyone in the country would have to, on a volunteer basis pull together and reduce
11:16 am
the heating -- the temperatures in their homes to save on oil, and -- this was a message he reaffirmed in his 1974 state of the union address. it was then perhaps no accident that mrs. nixon appeared at that wearing a warm sweater suit for the first time in public. in the spring of 1974, pat nixon made a trip to several south american countries, and began wearing some of the new blends, as she liked to call them the noncrushables, of synthetic f fabrics that allowed her to travel more easily without concern for wrinkles in the clothing. that again was a reflection of a
11:17 am
popular trend at the time, polyester blends, cotton blends, but those were most in evidence on that -- on that trip in the series of appearances she made in june of 1974, the first lady accompanied president nixon on a trip -- a multination 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 a little criticism in saudi arabia, it was certainly something commented on in the american press. what it had the effect of doing was setting a precedent, so that
11:18 am
any -- all first ladies subsequent to pat nixon, who went to saudi arabia, also chose not to wear a head covering. 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 marches and chatter club, which was kind of a social club for congressional and senate families this is how the two women became friends. betty ford later said in an interview the day her husband assumed the presidency was one of the saddest for her. certainly, she said, she wasn't
11:19 am
thinking of herself and the sudden responsibilities on her shoulders, but was saddened by the shock and the departure of her friend pat nixon. betty ford was truly not prepared to be first lady. in many of her appearances, her apparel in her initial weeks and months as 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%ed whatsoever to mentioned 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
11:20 am
alexandria, virginia, not far from the ford home called frankie welch, who had a dress shop. frankie welch not only did design a few original dresses for mrs. ford, but also powell larsi i popularized the scarf. the neck scarf became a trademark icons of this particular first lady. in many photographs you'll see she's wearing a scarf. she also had a preference for the low-duty mandarin collar, a chinese style dress, and there was a very important reason for this. of course a month after she became first lady, she discovered that she had breast cancer, and it required surgery, the removal of one of her
11:21 am
breasts. she told the american cancer society that once a person who has had breast cancer is elated, of course, to discover that their life has been saved that there's a second part to dealing with breast cancer, and 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
11:22 am
mandarin collar dress at the far right that represents mrs. ford in the smithsonian collection. mrs. ford also tended to wear a lot of capes and drapery, caftans, of course, very kind of '70s style. i think the one there on the far left definitely marks the era we well, but it was something -- 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 sort of open collar, which was more of a unisex style on the level.
11:23 am
and, of course, the bicentennial. betty ford said she tried to refrain from getting too corny about wearing bicentennial apparel in 1976, but there were some notable exceptions. red dresses with red, white and blue scarves, and a dress that had a motif of american eagles, which of course is now in the gerald ford library. and mrs. ford, unlike many of her predecessors, broke away from the kind of first lady tradition of wearing a solid monochromatic colors. she loved all kinds of different patterns, from plans to florals, zigzags, geometric designs, even
11:24 am
sort of piping, its white piping as in the yellow dress above, and blue below, or the red on the actual bicentennial day of july 4th, 1976. so that's a bit of an overview of what these two women and what they wore and why they wore it. in three today's lecture, but also the series, i start where ib gan, on this stage. it was on this stage in 1990 that i had a chance, my only chance as it turns out, to interact, as i'll put it, with pat nixon. it was the night before the richard nixon presidential library and museum was dedicated. there was a reception for former nixon white house staff. at that point i had written my
11:25 am
two books, and accomplice nixon, though very frail and not doing interviews or granting them, agreed to answer questions that i submitted in writing to her through her data julie. both with the help of helen smith, who i knew in washington was mrs. nixon's press secretary, and then julie, they let mrs. nixon know i would be in the audience. i would signal to her, and she would signal to me. so i was seated in about the third or fourth row there when she came out. i nodded, 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, really came to love as a friend. i visited her many times at her
11:26 am
home in the desert before president ford became very frail. of course he died at the end of i think it was to 05 or 2006. mrs. ford had a great love of history and a love of the history of first ladies, and spoke obvious about her affection for pat nixon so 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've had this unusual he turkey occurs t. everson, madison and monroe. so it's easy to forget, of course, the nixon and ford years, which like the johnson/kennedy years, were
11:27 am
truncated. but i think pat nixon and betty ford served in the white house at a time of enormous change and they were agents of a gentle turn towards the future. thank you very much. well done. thank you, carl. we will do that now. i do want to ask the first one, though, as i mentioned the author of more than a dozen books, the latest this one, "why they wore it." it was done in collaboration and also available for sale in the museum store, and i think carl will sign it if you buy it. this was done in four months.
11:28 am
can you tell us a bill about that experience in four months? >> i don't know if i should. it was insane. and yet, you know, everybody was doing their part. i would send imaging and photographs, and then say we got to find one that's public domain, so there were various staff members here who were very diligent in tracking down that event, 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 brother -- my sister and her husband and my niece and nephew were going to disneyland visiting from the east coast. i said i need to go to anaheim to get these photographs to our book producers.
11:29 am
and diana, who's here today, it was one of those days, like 110 degrees, and so the only place of air conditioning was the motel six in anaheim, so everybody -- we all then went to disneyland, diana and i were trying to coordinate where. i remember i was on the phone i think with jim, and i was seated in a section of like the california experience there that's for kids, and it was in a little plastic kid's chair. i was taking notes -- it was a meet in sheryl's office with sheryl and olivia, and we're going through it, and all there were were like crayons and, you know, color books so i was in 110 degrees, slathered in sun block, my cell phone kept sliding off my face.
11:30 am
i kept taking notes and it was crazy. it was crazy. you know, i now know what clinical exhaustion is, but at the end of the day, we all knew we wanted to get the best product. there was only so much room for information on the panels, which would be on the wall with the exhibit. there was only so much information that could be conveyed in the lectures, so really the book is a simultaneosummary of really a compact history of this topic. >> our first question here. >> first, i like your time for an informative lecture. secondly when i was come coming through the exhibition i was so cure aye why the recent first ladies -- is not in the lobby.
11:31 am
>> because, except for the very first dress which you saw, which was really rare, an extraordinary loan by the current first lady, and we have some intermediaries to thank for that, because it was a really amazing gesture, i would say -- i did an exhibit in the 1990s on presidential marriages, and i said to her at the time -- olivia is not here today, but i said, what if we -- this was in the 1990s, hillary clinton was in the white house, 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 some storage unit in arkansas, but that was really wonderful. it kind of has set a precedent
11:32 am
for this. it was so generous of mrs. trump to loan that dress, but the others are reproductions, of course, and of the smithsonian collection the collection we borrowed it from only on only has the collection going up to barbara bush. so there's nothing of hillary clinton's laura bush's or michelle obama's. good question. >> this is very good. i wondered, because jackie othat's was famous for her pillbox hat, and pat nixon came along, there were no more hats worn, at least in the display here, by pat nixon or betty ford. is that the time period of no more hats? is. >> you are very observant and very spot-on correct.
11:33 am
pat nixon -- lady bird johnson wore a hat famously to her husband's 1965 inauguration, the swearing-in ceremony. she was the first to hold the bible. i'm glad you mentioned it. there's a lot of little things that mrs. nixon did, in terms of her choices of what she wore that indicated this really frankly independent streak that she was going to do things her way. actually the hats came back again with hillary clinton, but it was as a sun protector. so it's sort of funny. hillary clinton is so associated with being involved with policy rather than clothing and
11:34 am
fashion, brings back the hat for first ladies, but as a form of sun protection. we will take one last question. afterwards i'll ask that you follow our docents where we will have lunch. >> who would you say is the best dressed? second, who would you consider the one with most influence. >> i think without question it was jacqueline kennedy, because it was global influence. you'll see two images in the books. even in the midst of the cold wa war, behind the iron curtain there were sol there were soviet women's magazines showing off the jackie look, which is extraordinary. also, when she appeared in a leopard coat, there was such an
11:35 am
instant global demand for leopard coats that the leopard was placed on the endangered species list. so i mean, it was -- it was big business, and it was just -- i could go on about that. dressed. each era really honestly does speak to that. i'm also, as i said at the beginning of this project, i don't know a lot about fashion per se, and i'm not even all that interested -- with all great respect -- for what is an important industry, but the politics and the popular culture that it reflects, where it's a statement about that, that is what i know about. i'm not necessarily the best judge, as you can tell by my own
11:36 am
clothing of what looks good on people, men or women, but i do think that each era -- for example, mrs. harding really, you know, captured the spirit of the roaring '20s, and the new woman, as they were called, just given the right to vote. grace coolidge also, you know, wearing the very short skirts of the flapper era, sort of like what mrs. nixon did, moderating some of the more exaggerated things. and bess truman is kind of fun. she wore gray, navy blue, and she worries clothes to make a statement of don't pay any attention to me. thank you very much. >> carl, thank you. we'll see you all in the east room. i hope you enjoy your lunch.
11:37 am
hail on "american history tv" a look at the lives the lady bird johnson and pat nixon from a c-span series on the first ladies. "influence & image" was made with cooperation of the white house -- tonight on american history tv, a look at the lives of betty ford and rosalynn carter. influence & image features individual biographies of the women who served over 44
11:38 am
administrations wave tonig s wa and over the weekend on c-span3. if you enjoyed watching, pick up a copy of the book "first ladies" featuring profiles through interviews with top historians, now available in paperback, hard cover, or as an e-book. ♪ a beautification to my mind is far more than a matter of cosmetics. to me, it describes the whole effort to bring the natural world and the manmade world into harmony, to bring order, usefulness, delight to our whole environment, and tha


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on