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tv   First Ladies During Wartime  CSPAN  November 11, 2016 8:00pm-9:11pm EST

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thomas, and ginsburg. there's also a calendar for this term, a list of all current justices with links to quickly see all their appearances on c-span. as well as many other supreme court videos available on demand. follow the supreme court at up next on "the presidency," a discussion about first ladies during wartime. from martha washington visiting soldiers at a camp during the revolutionary war to eleanor roosevelt shaking the 00s of 400,000 world war ii troops. first ladies have had a long tradition of engaging with the military. the national archives hosted this event. it's a little over an hour. [ applause ] >> good morning, and welcome to my house. the national archives was created by an act of congress in
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1934. the mission to collect, protect and preserve the records of the united states government 234d h and make those records available so every american citizen can hold its government accountable and learn from our past. today, that collection is over 13 billion documents, 43 million photographs, miles and miles of film and video and more than 5 billion electronic records. the fastest growing format. these records start with the documents signed at valley forge and go up to the tweets being created as i am speaking in the white house. and the national archives is more than just this building. we are a nationwide network of facilities. one of the busiest places is the national personnel records center in st. louis which houses more than 56 million veterans records. the center responds to over a million requests each year in
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the documents preserved are evidence required veterans to obtain a wide variety of benefits, including military honors, v.a. medical treatment and security clearances for work. presidential libraries are also part of the archives from her bert hoofer to george w. bush, these 13 presidential libraries are not libraries in the usual sense. they are archives and museums bringing together documents and artifacts of the president, the administration, the first lady and the family and presenting them to the public for study and discussion without regard for political considerations or affiliations. and we'll soon have another. the future obama library in chicago's historic jackson park. we're currently outfitting temporary storage space in chicago. have hired our first staff for the library and are hard at work packing artifacts and preparing records for the move to illinois. by january 20th, 2017, we will
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have transferred hundreds of millions of textual, electronic and audio visual records and tens of thousands of presidential gifts. the papers of the first lady's office are part of the collections of the presidential libraries. there are more than 21.4 million pages of records and personal papers in our collection. issues such as just say no, the anti-drug campaign of nancy reagan, roslyn carter's counsel on mental health, the ready to read initiative of laura bush and michelle obama's let's move aimed at raising a generation of healthier kids daily draw great scholarly interest. our conference today is about the relationship between the first ladies and the military and their support of service members, military families and veterans. in the 18th century, martha washington visited the troops at valley forge during the revolutionary war. and today, first lady michelle
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obama leads joining forces initiative which ensures service members, veterans and their families have the tools to succeed throughout their lives. the first ladies have had to meet personal and public demands. each has brought her own passions and personality to the job. and we're fortunate to have their legacies documented in our presidential libraries. now allow me to introduce my friend anita mcbride. she is the executive in residence at the center for congressional and presidential studies and the school of public affairs at american university. she previously served as assistant to president george w. bush and chief of staff to first lady laura bush from 2005 to 2009. directing the staff's work on a wide variety of domestic and global initiatives in which mrs. bush was involved. anita's white house service spans two decade and three
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presidencies. and as director of the u.s. speakers bureau at the united states information agency. she is an adviser to the george w. bush institute and a member of several organizations, including the u.s. afghan women's council, the fullbrooit scholarship board and white house historical association. please join me in welcoming anita mcbride. [ applause ] >> thanks. terrific. thank you. well, good morning, everyone, and thank you, david. you are always very, very generous in your remarks. on behalf of american university and all of our conference partners, i want to welcome everyone, both here in the audience and on live stream to today's conference, "america's first ladies in service to our nation." i also want to thank the archivists for hosting us in this beautiful national archives
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building. i was really delighted when you offered up your house as the venue to convene the conference. it's a perfect place to talk about our first ladies as they are some of our most important figures in american history. you have a great team of people here at the archives, and they've been terrific to work with, and i thank them. i also want to take this opportunity to thank all of our terrific conference partners. the au library, the national archives foundation, the white house historical association, the george w. bush institute and the white house joining forces initiative. along with all of our distinguished panelists and moderators who will be introduced to you shortly, each of our partner organizations and their fantastic teams have played a vital role in helping to develop this very robust program that we want to present to you today. our experience here today, of course, will be enhanced by firsthand accounts from two women who have walked in these
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footsteps of history. first lady michelle obama and former first lady laura bush. i am so grateful to both of them for joining us later this morning. american university has a long history in recognizing the vital role that a first lady plays as a voice for change and for action in our country. i am proud to lead the first lady's initiative and conference series at american university school of public affairs. and i want to thank dean barber romesec and her outstanding team for their strong support of this first ladies project. over the last six years, au's school of public affairs has presented a series of conferences at presidential libraries around the country to examine the unique and evolving role of the president's spouse. we view it as a partner to the presidency. with the power to shape societal attitudes and effect change.
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as a former chief of staff and a white house veteran, i've had a front row seat to their experience and i'm delighted to be in a position to help shine a light on their work and tell their stories. pat nixon called it the hardest unpaid job in the world. and there is a lot of truth to that. but each first lady writes her own job description, and each of our conferences has focused on a different theme and how they have used their platform to address important issues facing our nation. today's conference, the sixth in our series, will focus on the first lady as spouse of the commander in chief and the actions they have taken throughout times of war and peace to support service members, military families and our country's veterans. we will hear from noted historians, authors and journalists in our first panel who will look at first ladies through the sweep of history.
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later, in the moderated conversation with the first ladies, we will pay particular attention to the joining forces initiative launched by mrs. obama and dr. jill biden at the white house five years ago. and to the military service initiative established by president and mrs. bush at the george w. bush institute. these are great examples of using their platform during and after their white house years. there are many organizations that are here that have been supporting joining forces and the military service initiative, as well as service members and veterans and military spouses. so i thank you all for joining us today. and with that, i'd like to welcome to the stage dr. neill kerwin, the president of american university, to introduce our first distinguished panel. dr. kerwin became american university's 14th president in 2007. he joined au in 1975 as a member of the faculty, then became the
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dean of the school of public affairs. later the provost and then the president. he is a visionary and a great leader and was instrumental in encouraging me to develop this initiative as he watched with great interest the growing influence of the first lady in public policy, in politics and in global diplomacy. he came to have breakfast with me at the white house during the transition of 2009 to talk about the idea. at the time, i could barely put one foot in front of the other. and i wasn't thinking about what came next, but i knew he was serious when he accepted a 7:00 a.m. meeting time, and then told me that he doesn't even eat breakfast. so i got a job, and he got a glass of water. so i want to welcome to the stage dr. neil kerwin. [ applause ]
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>> thank you, anita. i came on ahead on that deal, i think. i am really pleased to be here, and to join with this distinguished group to discuss issues of great importance and ongoing interest in the united states. i do want to thank anita for her leadership on this. your work for these many years has brought tremendous visibility to the role of the first lady and the scholarship associated with first ladies work is increasing, i think, as a result of that. [ applause ] i do want to thank in advance first ladies michelle obama and laura bush for participating in today's panel discussions. and we are especially proud to be participating in a conference that recognizes the service and
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sacrifices of americans in combat, military families and the country's veterans. american university is very proud to have been recognized as a veteran friendly campus. we offer opportunities to our returning servicemen and women that we think are special, and we commend the other universities in the united states who have stepped up as well. it's also our privilege to have four veterans in the audience from american university's student body and alumni corps. afosa adogan, an army veteran. chalita tillman, first year mpa student and an air force veteran, matthew mcguire, a second year student in justice law and criminology. and lieutenant julia lopez, a 2010 graduate. i'd ask them all to stand, if we could, please. [ applause ]
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i do want to also thank the archivist for assisting and helping to lead this terrific conference in this great facility. so thank you very much, david. now i'd like to introduce our panel. william seale is the author of "whitehouse historian." he's a nationally recognized expert in historic restoration and has published 15 books. he is serving currently as the editor of white house history, the journal of the white house historical association. katherine sibley is professor of history and director of the american studies program at st. jose joseph's university in philadelphia and ed ever to a companion to first ladies. anita mcbride has contributed to
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one of professor sibley's most recent works. and professor sibley has published extensively, including books, including the first lady, florence harding behind the tragedy and the controversy, and red spies in america, stolen secrets and the dawn of the cold war. susan swain is president and co-c.o.o. of c-span. she's moderator of "first ladies" influence and image series. she directs programming at c-span for three television networks. and over a number of years has moderated and conducted on-air interviews on a wide range of issues. susan tells us that she is now currently covering her eighth presidential campaign. susan also heads up the publication of c-span books, the latest being "first ladies." and our moderator, someone who needs no introduction, but i'll
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provide one just the same, cokie roberts. she is abc news commentator and a commentator on npr's morning edition. she is a member of the casting and cable hall of fame, the american women in radio and television selected her as one of the 50 greatest in the history of broadcasting, and she is the author of four books, the most recent being "capital dames." the civil war and the women of washington. i now invite the panel to the stage and turn the panel over to cokie roberts. [ applause ] >> thank you very much. good morning. well, this is a great occasion. as we convene here and what i consider a second home, the
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national archives where i have been on the foundation board since birth. and our chairwoman leah bundles is here and a wonderful leader of this organization. anita mcbride has done a fabulous job, and let us give her an enormous hand. [ applause ] she started in 2011 and they have been very instructive, as well as often amusing in teaching america about what first ladies are all about because there is this myth that first ladies sat around tending to the tatting until eleanor roosevelt. and nothing could be further from the truth. so american university's wisdom in bringing her on and starting this initiative and having it
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grow and broaden is really spectacular. so president kerwin, thank you for that. i do want to -- we're going to do a sort of quick -- actually not that quick, thankfully. a little romp through history, through the centuries here. and i will start with martha washington. david ferriero, our leader here at the archives, referenced martha washington's winter at valley forge which is what most people know about her if they know anything. martha washington spent every winter of the eight long years of the revolutionary war at camp with the soldiers. and it was very hard for her. it was dangerous, first of all. she'd have to travel over horrible roads. she was a prime target for hostage taking because patriot wives were taken hostage. some were killed.
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and she was the chief patriot wife. she felt she was leaving behind duty at mt. vernon always and would just be torn about it all the time. but she would go because the general summoned her. she was frightened at the beginning. she said i shutter every time i hear a bullet. but she went because as her duty called and she went mainly because the general thought she was essentially essential to troop morale and to keeping the army together, which david mccullov says was george washington's great genius but he would say he couldn't do it without martha. and she would arrive at camp with food stuffs and cloth and all kinds of things that had been prepared at mt. vernon over the summer. one of the many, many contributions of enslaved americans to the revolution. and she would be cheered into
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camp. lady washington is here. and they loved her. she would cook for the soldiers and sew for the soldiers and pray with the soldiers. they'd put on entertainments for them, which was a good thing because -- good thing she was on happened because george washington could be indiscreet, and there was the time he danced for three hours straight with the very pretty and flirty katie green. and good thing martha was there. she also had a wonderful sense of humor, which you never know seeing her in that little bobcap. but she named her cat hamilton. that was appropriate. that was the winner at morristown. there were a couple of winters at morristown but this was that particular winter. and it was a terrible time in the war. troops were threatening desertion by regiment and her
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presence was incredibly important. the british were also very nearby. as was the congress which was moving around a lot because they, of course, were traitors to the king and all subject to being hanged at any moment. so martha was sometimes in a precarious position. and when british raids would occur, various members of the troops would be assigned to guard her. and one particular one of these raids, george washington was away and a soldier was sent in. mt. vernon happily has found this letter. the soldier wrote, i am happy with the importance of my charge as well as the presence of the most amiable woman on earth. but then he was very upset about the members of congress who kept coming around. and trying to guard the first lady. she wasn't first lady yet. the commander's wife.
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lady washington. and he wrote about the members of congress, though rations they have consumed considerably overbalance all their service done as volunteers. for they have dined with us every day almost, and drank as much wine as they would earn in six months. but after she did become first lady, martha washington lobbied for veterans benefits because she had been with the soldiers all of those years. so the notion that this was something new in the 20th century is so amusing, but, unfortunate that people don't know this history. she also would greet any soldiers who would come to visit, any vets who would come and she'd give them some money and food and reminisce with them. and her grandson wrote that
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every holiday, she would cordially welcome veterans as old friends. so this is a long tradition that we have had among our first ladies. and, really, what we'll hear here is about various ones of them over time. but, bill, actually, i want to start with you because that little note of the greeting the veterans, of course, it wasn't the white house. it was the president's house in new york and philadelphia. but since then at the white house, you've certainly seen that. and one of the things that struck me when i was thinking about you writing history of the white house and constant histories of the white house is how when you're in the white house you really are surrounded by military. you know, there are members of the military everywhere guarding the place, greeting you. the marine band wonderfully entertaining you.
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it's really part of the white house. >> well, not so much from the start. there were never many guards. there was a doorman back in the days of the adams and the -- called the porter. and then the -- later on, james monroe was very afraid. he lived in france, he and his wife, and they were very much afraid of being killed and assassinated. so sharpshooters paraded around the roof hidden by the balustrade there and were told to shoot anybody that came near the house without order and all. but the military always crowded in at the big public receptions. they had huge public receptions at the white house where everyone got to go. and in the 1850s, they tried to stop that and have it by invitation, but it didn't work. >> didn't work. >> and it got so big in the 20th century at the herbert hoover
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went fishing. july the 4th that it was originally, also new year's at the white house. the military was there, but not so much until tyler. tyler was hanged in efigy on the park in front of the house and they became frightened. so you had the metropolitan police formed, and that's the people that guarded the white house, not the military. the military camped in the front grounds during madison, during the war of 1812. and left with everyone else when the british came. >> there wasn't a lot of defense in washington. >> no, and, of course, monroe that i talked about. jackson had no guards. beyond the military policeman or so. but it really began the 1840s with tyler during the mexican war. and also there were lots of military people at the white house during that time.
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>> well, i want to stop you there because we've got -- i don't want to get ahead of ourselves historically. so i'll come back to you for the period after that, but go to you, katie, about dolly madison because we've just talked about madison and the troops -- the city totally undefended. and later historians saying she was the best soldier there was. so let's talk about her for a minute. >> i think many may know the story of the british attacking washington, right, during the war of 1812. this was a scary moment and dolly madison left. she left, and she took with her the -- this portrait of washington, right? she left in her nightshirt. this was a very scary and exciting moment for her. she knew how important it was. the symbol of washington, right? the great general as you say. the great leader. she took this out of the white house. made sure it was protected. and dolly madison was also so
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interestingly so very, very political. if it weren't for her, probably lots of deals would not have happened in washington. so she was someone who was very attuned to politics. she brought people to -- even during the jefferson administration to come and talk and meet with those they needed to know, right, to make deals. on the other hand she knew the importance of symbolism and this picture of washington really needed to be saved during this war. >> because it was the equivalent of toppling the statue of lenin or saddam hussein. so what happened is the british got there, ate her dinner and stole her portrait. but susan, you have really done -- you found, first of all, what was so interesting when you were doing the series on first ladies, and this is new in our history writing. you found that there was someone for every first lady who had written about her. >> in terms of scholarship, yes.
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that's really the thing that i think those of white house recognize the important contribution of women to our nation's history perhaps under studied over the decades can take some heart in. it's been a phenomenon of the last 20 years that first lady scholarship has been taken so seriously, and, of course, we have wonderful first ladies library in canton, ohio, which has been at this for a while. but in terms of scholars like katie who are studying this, universities and teaching it to next generations of students and writing biographies, it's a relatively new phenomenon. first of all, we did a year-long series on each first lady. they had their own biography. some a little less rich than others. there was i propensity for early first ladies to burn their papers, which is very sad -- >> i really would like to kill them again for it.
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>> but we managed easily to find 50 historians and biographers for our series. we also make our programs interactive with calls and tweets, and there was a genuine group of women at watching and multigenerational. 8-year-olds would call in watch with their moms and women in their 30s with their moms and grandmoms and different cities and tweeting with one another or posting on facebook. and i think what i was realizing is that there's a hunger for this history to be told. i'm sure you've experienced this withior books and the reception to them. that people want to know women's place in american history. so it's exciting that so much is happening. >> you talk about burning the letters. thomas jefferson burned all of his correspondence with his wife martha jefferson saying that he was brokenhearted and couldn't stand to have him around. i don't think that's what you do when you're brokenhearted, but it's history and he's sticking
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to it. but the one extant letter of martha jefferson that we have, the one, is a letter when she was first lady of virginia calling on the women of virginia to raise funds for the troops. because what had happened was in this year that i referenced earlier, this 1779-80 period before the french showed up, basically, the situation for the troops was terrible. and a woman in philadelphia, esther reed, started a drive, and the women of philadelphia went all around. esther reed was the first woman of pennsylvania. and she got the other first ladies of the states to do this petition drive. they raised a fund-raising drive. they raised, by the way, $300,000 in a period of six weeks. but mrs. jefferson's letter says mrs. washington has written to me and asked me to make sure
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that the -- that we raise money for the troops. so that's how involved they were that early. >> that's right. and it's -- you sold so much richness of the martha washington story but two small points to add. the affectionate use of lady washington. many people think that's really what was the progenerator of the term first lady, and it was a great mark of honor by the troops. but she was a woman of society. and yet, there are many stories being told that if you walked into camp, shooed be sitting and knitting socks for the soldiers' uniforms and encouraging other women of her station to do the same. i also read she gave $20,000 of her own money as a contributor, which is quite a lot. >> quite a lot. but she was rich. washington would have never been -- washington would have never been washington without martha. but, you know, in that -- when
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she was doing that knitting, again, mt. vernon ladies association has done a wonderful job of finding these letters because they are hard to find, but the women of morristown were horrified the troops were camped there because just like any time, the sailors are in port, and so when she was setting the example of sitting and knitting, it sort of put it all to rest. well, bill now we're at the civil war. we've gotten to, you know, we've jumped over a few decades. >> you don't want to hear about what dolly madison really did? >> what i read she did was have it taken out of the frame. >> the congress was absolutely nuts at the tomb ime of the war 1812. the senators stayed in their own political taverns. they got in fights in the street. it was really bad. madison needed them brought together. dolly madison began to have her
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receptions, little receptions. and she would ask nice ladies and young women from town to come there, not as girls or anything, but they were guests, and they would mix with the crowd and in those days, the formal way is women sat on stools at the feet facing the fire and the men moved behind them talking to them. well, she had -- everybody came. the whole congress came every week. and she served hot coffee. she served wine. and then she served what really was grog. it was whiskey and heated whiskey in cups. everybody just loved it. and then madison used the green room to lure the ones in they needed to talk to. two men, one from each party. and it was very, very useful. people never forgot her for that. dolly was a bit of a street
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angel. she very clefrlly did that and she did, as katie was saying, she did -- there are notes that survived where she brought issues to the attention of the president. mainly through wives that came to her for their husbands. but that's what she did. and that was extremely important at the time. and she clung to that story all her life. and finally, probably, wrote a letter which she claimed as original was written while the flight was going on, but it very likely wasn't -- telling the whole thing, the ladies are outside. and then some people it was at the time, someone had come through the press and had said that the story wasn't true about the painting and all. and she called. got in touch with everybody she could to write letters and said -- >> will the painting survive? so here we are. then at the time of the civil war there were actually troops in the east room.
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so talk to us a little bit about how that -- >> kansas volunteers are camped in the east room. lincoln made a call for volunteers. and then they were gotten out of there, and there were troops in the grounds the whole war on the -- mainly on the south but some inside. there were guards that patrolled -- the white house has a long transverse hall across it going east to west. and they patrolled that hall. family quarters are on the west and offices on the east end. and on both floors, there were guards patrol iling constantly during the civil war. that was the sort of protexs they had. but the interaction between the family and troops was very personal. lincoln was made an officer and got his little uniform. and they were like family involved -- >> and particularly at the lincoln college. >> at the college, but most at the white house, i think.
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there was a problem. mrs. lincoln was coming to town and the carriage fell apart and someone had sabotaged the carriage and she could have been seriously hurt. mrs. lincoln herself went to the hospitals and camps and greeted the soldiers who were wounded and brought things from the kitchen at the white house. and was very friendly. she's a woman who had a terrible difficulty with the press. she's the first first lady that ever became red meat for the press. she didn't understand it. and she didn't understand why washington considered her a hick from the sticks. and she suffered a lot of that and was very sensitive. the stars of the age, france, victoria in lengd, they were all so glam rurks and she wanted to be, and it didn't happen. quite naturally, the irnts action of the troops, lincoln
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repeatedly tried to send her to new york to stay. she insisted on remaining with him. >> katie? >> it's very interesting about mary lincoln. what a sad story in so many ways. losing several children, particularly willie, their favorite, in the whourite house and some suggest this made her more empathic toward the soldiers. she had this great suffering herself. later, after her husband died, she thought she suffered more than any other family that had lost someone in the civil war so she could take things sometimes to extremes. but, yes, she had great empathy as you're saying, for the soldiers. such suffering she'd experienced herself. i also want to pick up on something susan was talking about as you talked about with your show and the development of first lady scholarship. and it's so interesting. here we are all here today, very focused and excited about this topic. but this was not the way it was for a long time. and i'm sure many ever us have spoken to friends and family
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about our work and they say first ladies? they don't understand why this is a compelling topic. it is so compelling. it's very interesting about when it came about. when did it become something people cared about? this is relatively recent. it really began to kind of spark at the betty ford library back in the mid-'80s, around the time nancy reagan was first lady and perhaps she, too, like mary lincoln, was vilified by the press. hourivically vilified for her clothes and the china and all these stories. in fact, in the end, she turned the tables and dressed up in second-hand clothes and did a funny show for the press. everybody was amazed about it. she had such a sense of humor about how she was portrayed. but this drew a lot of interest in the position of the first lady. then you had roslyn carter had just written her biography. hers outsold her husband's. this was a new interest and more
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people came to the gerald ford library than anyone had expected. more than 200 people came, including some presidential members of families, some of the daughters of ladybird johnson, et cetera. it began to spark. also great books coming out like silvia jukes morris' book. you began to see more scholarly work being done. and then big compendiums. carl anthony and gould and watson. so suddenly it's becoming a big field and it's really, really interesting. and then first ladies begin to be categorized. are they players, activists, silent types. these are sort of things wrestle with today and how we kagize them. somebody who would be considered a subdued first lady today, if there is such a thing, is so much more involved than ones earlier in the 20th century when it was much more difficult. even someone like florence
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harding whom i love dearly -- >> 20th century. >> she didn't speak to the press directly. she didn't want to be manipulated against her husband. we can't really imagine that today with the first lady. things have really changed. >> talk about that characterizing. you'll all have the great treat in a little while from now to meet laura bush and she said when she came in everybody kept saying, are you going to be hillary clinton or barbara bush. she kept saying, i thought i'd be laura bush. but susan, one of the reasons that people have gotten excited about this is because they're good stories. and why don't you tell us the story of lucy hayes. >> when you look across first ladies with this particular lens of military, one thing you notice is how often our nation is at war. so the real job of the first lady is to support their spouse
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in the office and preserve the family legacy. when the commander in chief is acting at that role, that's a natural for first ladies to be involved with the military and veterans issues. lucy hayes, when i look across the board, for me, the ones who really stand out on this issue, martha washington, lucy hayes, florence harding, also eleanor roosevelt, are the real committed beyond belief personally because in many cases of family circumstances. and lucy hayes is one of those. so a civil war was declared when ruthserford hayes in ohio was 40 years old. he and lucy already have children. and they decided as a couple that he should fight, despite the fact they had children at home because they believed so much in the cause of the union. so he went to war and he was in pitch battle and was seriously wounded five times. in fact, almost lost his arm in one of those circumstances. and as the story with martha washington, it was common for
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the wives to go out to the battlefield to support the husbands and provide morale for important generals so that they would have that family connection. and lucy spent a great deal of time, even in the civil war, at great personal risk. and one of her children was born just before she went to encampment, and the child, the infant died at the encampment and they had to bundle up the child's body and send it back with a soldier to ohio for burial. she just had to keep going on. now the interesting thing is lucy hayes' brother was a surgeon. and lucy hayes participated regularly in battlefield surgeries, assisting with amputations on the battlefield. except for perhaps mary lincoln, she saw more up front, the horrors of war, than any other first lady, i believe. when she came to the white house in 1776 in that contested election, she brought this
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concern for the soldiers to the white house and really became an advocate for them while she was there. she was one of the first first ladies to recognize the mental aspects of war. and there was a term that was developing at that time called shellshock, which she was very aware of and began to lobby for -- >> what we would call ptsd today. >> exactly. for concern and care for veterans, not just for their physical wounds but for their mental wounds. she regularly brought soldiers and their families to the white house. and one of the most touching stories not told by her. this is a mark of her humility, but told by the british ambassador. there was an event at the white house actually returning good relations after the war of 1812 and the british ambassador was invited and there was a very old soldier from the war of 1812 invited to take part. he had his uniform sent separately and was just aghast to find the white house had arrived without his stripes on
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the arm. and she sat on the floor of the white house, got her needlepoint out and stitched the soldier's stripes on to the uniform so that he could be properly atired before he met the president and the british ambassador saw this and told the story about lucy hayes. she gets that nickname of lemonade lucy. it was really her husband who was the temperance person. she got stuck with the nickname but she's really so much more really interesting and has so many layers of her own care and concern about issues. veterans being an important one. >> the rutherford b. hayes library has just reopened and her story is coming much more to light. bill, susan talked about people who saw war up close. another one was, of course, julia grant. and when she came to the white house, she had a wonderful time. >> she did. she loved every minute of it. she had married him for love.
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they were engaged when he witness awwent away to the mexican war and was first noticed by superiors. and they were married and had a hard life. she lived in army quarters. she lived in good places and bad places, and she drank a lot. and then in the '50s, he became very despondent and quit the military only to rejoin the civil war and become a hero. and then when he was elected president, mrs. grant -- it was her turn. and she moved in. she had a welcoming party later on for lucy. from that, the time she went in, it was -- she loved every reception. every overcrowded event that served only ice water. they put a ladder up to the east room so the guests could get out early if they wanted to. and she was very happy. she knew the military. their friends were military
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people. of course, one of the things, if i could go back to the white house past and do, there was a billiard room, which the hayes had as a greenhouse, but, i mean, the -- >> lincolns? >> no, not the lincolns. johnsons. andrew johnsons. and they turned it into a billiard room, grant did. and the old generals -- not that old, but the generals would come in and play billiards and they'd go in and drink and use ornaments off tables and things like that and relive the battles of the civil war. and they'd go on until 2:00 in the morning and argue over this and argue over that and what did you do and what did jones do and what about -- and all the things that's happen in the white house, i would love to witness that. the junior presi but julia presided over all. >> she was mad they didn't run for a third term. >> she fell on the sofa and started screaming and pounding with her fist because she didn't
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want to leave. >> an important point to note about grant's military service is attached to julia. he was depondent over the fact she didn't write him often enough. he needed her letters to keep him going in the battlefield. and one of the reasons why we believe she didn't write as much is julia grant was born with one eye that was off center and she had very difficult time writing. so she resisted writing letters because it was so difficult. and the sense is that he left because he missed her so much. and she was also part of the encouragement to get him back into the military service again. and i'm actually doing an event next week at the lincoln cottage and it's a book on lincoln's general's wives. and the point made in the book is julia's respect for and affection for lincoln is one of the reasons why his career advanced when he was brought back into the military. >> well, she, of course, invited
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the lincolns to city point when the troops were trying to get to richmond, and they had a nice time. then after richmond fell, mary lincoln comes back, didn't want anything to do with julia grant. they're on adjoining boats and mary has a party. julia isn't invited so she hours a a band and goes up and down the james playing "you'll miss me when i'm gone." all right. we've got to get to the 20th century because we're going to run out of time. katie, florence harding. >> if i could just make one mention about letters going back to the early 19th century, thomas jefferson, his daughter martha kind of kept him going with letters. he was very beleaguered. this is a big theme in our chapter in the book. really important about the letters. he had a lot of partisan issues. florence harding was a fascinating woman. i'm very biased, but she
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clearly -- she actually really was and certainly one of the most underrated first ladies. hopefully that will change as more and more of us know about her role especially with the military. she as a senator's wife. in the senate during world war i. she was very concerned as many first ladies would have been, including edith withon with the war and the soldiers and what was happening. she had a special connection because she herself had suffered great physical pain. she had terrible kidney ailment. she'd been in and out of the hospital and had surgery and a lot of pain. she felt a connection with the soldiers and the military and what they were deal with and really felt called to help them. immediately as soon as they got in the white house, there were opportunities to honor these soldiers. the tomb of the unknowns, which was dedicated in the first year they were in the white house. she laid a sash on that tomb. and that was actually a body that was chosen from france from
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four unknown soldiers. one was chosen and brought back and still remembered today in arlington national cemetery. she was also quite concerned about the opportunities, just as our first lady today is of jobs for former veterans. so she apparently prevailed on her husband who signed an executive order to make sure the former military candidates and applicants for positions, for instance postmaster got five points added to their score and they were able to use their military service as time allotted toward their positions in these government jobs. it was really very forward thinking. but i think even more perhaps poignant is that she was so concerned about the treatment of these veterans, especially the ones in pain and suffering. many of them were. they were in wheelchairs, blind. she'd have gatherings at the white house. they'd come and she'd entertain them. various bands would play. that marine band you mentioned. she'd allow them to touch her, touch her face, the blind ones.
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she'd sign autographs. she had a connection with them. and she was particularly concerned they be well taken care of in their needs. the veterans bureau was set up at this time. the first veterans needs the fi veteran's bureau. however, it was run by a qualified man. he had been in hawaii at the time. it turned out he was extremely the wrong person for this position he in the military. he had people who did this for him one of them was exposed and shot himself. florence knew about this, she heard about this, because she had contacts in these hospitals.
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she knew about what was going on, but she didn't know how bad it was, she began to get these reports, and when she found out, there was a lot of pressure on the president he was furious, he tried to throttle forbes. and sent him away and accepted his resignation when he came back from europe. many of us remember the hardings for scandals. in this case, florence had a role in trying to protect those soldier soldiers. >> when you mention she was advise visiting hospitals, she was not just shaking hands, but observing she would come back and try to get things changed. first ladies can find themselves interacting with people.
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>> that is so perfect first ladies listen, and both mrs. pushes troops to teachers initiative, and mrs. obama's program to get states to wave licensing time periods for people. those are direct results of listening to people. presidents make speeches, first ladies go in and listen. that's a way the change can happen that is completely different from the presidential role. >> i must stay, the cartoons of the time we were talking about, said, the president and mr. hard hardi harding. >> she had great hats. >> she did, and she had reason to keep him down.
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we then saw eleanor roosevelt in uniform right? you want to talk about that? >> only that she became very involved with the military during the war, and was a wac, the uniform she wore. and she made endless trips to all military instillations, horrible all night trips on old airplanes, the military planes. wherever she went there was cheering. the protesting soldiers were out in the park together camping in the park on the parkway, and she went out to see them, and the whole thing broke up, she sang, she had lunch with them she went out and talked to them and sang
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she got started ishl on that. she was a presence. attracted news coverage wherever she was it seemed so strange for her at the time to do it. but she did. >> people don't realize how charming she was. >> she was a very old fashioned lady, the tea cup was not unfamiliar to her she knew how to do everything of that time. it created a nice transition between her and everybody. you could respect her for that, that's who she was. but then her interests in other things that were in congress to that made her an interesting character, and everybody was fond of her. >> in our series, though, we talked about the fact that eleanor roosevelt's empathy for the military began in world war
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i. her husband was undersecretary of the navy, she travelled with him, it was discussed as how she saw -- the kind of weaponry used, she saw soldiers bodies stacked up like cord wood and was so deeply affected by this, this was a lifelong interest for eleanor roosevelt, she brought it to the white house. when war was declared, it was natural for her. i don't think the president minded her being out of washington sometimes, she was quite controversial. she travelled for many, many hour hours in uninsulated aircraft and it shattered her eardrum. she was left without hearing in
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that ear for the rest of her life. she walked 50 miles to see and shake every hand she could. her arches fell. she had to wear special shoes for the rest of her life. it is estimated that by the time the war was over, she had shane 400,000 hands of members of the military. about 10% of the entire fighting force, this war was personal for her, and she brought back her knowledge of what she learned to the white house, to the president. >> i would love to add, absolutely, you all described this so well, there's even a little more about eleanor. she's really pretty -- she broke the mold. florence made some cracks. one of the things, one of the amazing things you're talking about, how moved she was by
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these trips. she wrote in her diary, she was trying to find a way, anyway things could be settled without force. later when she leaves the white house, she'll be instrumental on drafting the declaration on human rates. she really did bring about such great changes. she also tried to change life at home during the war. she was a great listener. so she was contacted by a man who was on a base in new mexico, a black man who reported on the fact that there was a 1,000 seat theater there, but only 20 seats for blacks in the back. not only that, they were not allowed to use the transportation on the base, and they were -- all kinds of other petty discriminations. she tried to change these policies. she wrote to general marshall. she did not have much luck. she raised the issues and brought them up.
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she really cared about racial equality. this was not a popular stance, she was an interesting woman that took in all the soldiers and their difficulties and wanted to report on them and empa these with them. >> the tuskegee airmen and flying on their planes. her way of advancing equality in the military ahead of time. >> one of the things we should note is beginning with florence harding, the media began to be part of first ladies and white house stories. florence harding had the early movies and they began to record some of the things that we can see. and as the 20th century progresses, video becomes -- or film becomes a part of this, i have -- i brought along -- over time i have done a panel, it's -- your heart -- >> this is too much fun not to -- >> it's fun and your heart breaks at the same time. bess truman was the wife of a
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military man, her husband had been on the front lines in world war i, they wrote letters constantly. this was a personal thing for her as well. when in office, two wars, the end of world war ii and korean conflict. ample opportunity for her to be involved in the military. her very first big public act was involved with the military. it was at national airport just across the river from us, and let's show you what happened. >> ready to be christened by mrs. harry s. truman, who with her daughter will do the honors in her first public appearance. by an oversight, the champagne bottle hasn't been properly prepared. etched to break the glass on
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impact. now mrs. truman unaware that her bottle is not prepared. [ laughter ] >> let's see how her military aide meets the crisis. [ laughter ] >> that could never happen
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today, because staff work for first ladies has greatly improved, the sad thing is, history thrust her into this role. she was happy being a senate wife. she was reluctant to be in this big -- >> she spent much of her time back in missouri. this was her first political event. they were flying air ships. she look ed pretty game out there, but she was thoroughly embarrassed and never did public appearances. they were living in blair house, because the white house was under construction, which bill knows so much about, she had almost weekly gatherings at blair house, social functions bringing in veterans and their families to enjoy blair house, she also was a regular volunteer at the uso. what i like about this is, she absolutely insisted on not being
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treated as a first lady, she was just a regular volunteer with the rest. and working right alongside the other people who were volunteering. she just wanted to be helpful rather than being first lady. she also burned a lot of her letters. margaret said, what about history? she said, that's what i'm thinking about. >> she burned huge numbers of them. >> but harry kept hers. >> mrs. eisenhower was a military wife, how did that affect her time as first lady? >> she was so aware of the needs of it, she continued and billed these regular functions, the annual garden party at the white house for the military, she continued that, she was an advocate for members of the military. understanding what their special
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needs were, i would say in terms of depth of work, i wasn't really able to find as much with her opinion which is a little surprising given her long history as a military wife. >> she was never happier, she and the president -- never happier, when some old military buddies came up to sit on the roof -- there's a little terrace over the roof and cook steaks on a bbq pit. have a couple bourbons and a good salad and have dinger and talk. that was their idea of the best time. it was eisenhower who started having those huge dinners at the white house, largely men. that was fine. but mrs. eisenhower and he, that's what they enjoyed was that -- having their old pals from years and years.
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they lived in 37 different houses before the white house. so did george h.w. bush and mrs. bush, they were even on different places they had lived they just moved all the time. >> katie talked about categories, mamie eisenhower would be in that category, she saw her major job as support for the president. >> right, right. she left an impact. how many of you out there have a pink bathroom. >> i do. >> when they moved to the white house. the chef went to the president and said, i worked out a menu for one of these dinners. well, she saw the menu later in the day, and hit the ceiling. she said, i will plan meals at the white house, i will plan all entertainment. ike is in office, and i am in the house. >> there you go. >> she staged everything. including the first open bar at the white house, which was in
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the east room after eisenhower turned viktor ya yously from europe. she was a trip. she was. >> i always got a chuckle. i'm sure many of you have made the trip to gettys berg to the eisenhower farm, but mamie pink is everywhere, she really decorated everything in pink, including the toilet seat. i always had this chuckle imagining the great general of world war ii, surrounded by pink. >> she was probably tired of all that khaki. >> she was a style may have beenen, she really wanted to dress herself, she didn't want to look like a grandmother, whatever that means. >> we're veering off topic, everyone thinks of mamie eisenhower with the bangs. they were so popular that at the time, you could go to stores and buy clip on bangs, in case you didn't want to grow your very own. >> the biggest event at the
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white house was the one that pat nixon had for the prisoners of war. >> pat nixon was second lady during that time. she was the first first lady to be in a combat zone. she went to a place called long bin vietnam, just outside of saigon, she was in the middle of it. we talked about eleanor roosevelt who travelled to dangerous areas. but literally, pat was in an area where she could have been shot. she went to hospitals, visited the men, she went to orphanages, she was moved by the experience. she supported the war, and wasn't necessarily sympathetic with the protesters, one of the things she did, she had this big gathering for the pows, in 1972, 1973, i believe. there were 600 people. they came to this state department, where there was an
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auditorium. there was no room at the white house, so they had it on the lawn. it was an amazing moment. this connection of the nixons, pat had a lot of empathy she had been raised in not the most favorable circumstances there she reached out to all these returning pows, in this amazing moment. >> both sons in law fought in the war. i believe that white house event for the pow's is the largest to date ever held at the white house. >> yes. >> as with all history lessons, you never get to the end opinion but we will have the great treat of having laura bush and michelle obama bring us up to date. and the loop you've been looking at has our most recent first ladies, barbara bush, hillary clinton, laura bush and michelle obama, you see them in all kinds
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of situations with the troops, including barbara bush in full camoufla camouflage. >> and pearl earrings. camouflage and pearl earrings. >> of course. this has been a wonderful panel and a great thing. i think that having this come to life here in the archives is so important, because the presidential libraries, of course, are part of the national archives and records of administration. and the presidential libraries are beginning to understand the importance of the women who were very instrumental in each of their husband's presidencies, and for the ability to celebrate them here, and tell their stories here is very important. thank you all very much. and we'll reconvene. [ applause ]
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>> let me add my thanks. >> do you want to announce the loop? >> let me add my thanks to each of the panel. this was such a great sweep through history lesson that really sets the stage for what we'll now here from our two most current first ladies and current former first lady. i wanted to mention, i'm so glad susan you brought the clip of bess truman, as a technical consultant to the hbo series, veep, we have a great idea for a script. that is really really terrific. thank you for bringing that. and i just wanted to say too, we have a little break. stretch your legs and be back in your seats by 10:55 at the latest. we have a scrolling slide show
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of first ladies through history. very grateful to the white house historical association for putting this together. please enjoy the loop and take a little break. and be back in your seats at 10:55 please. [ applause ] 48 hours of american history every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter, to keep up with the latest history news. up next, on american history tv, former first lady laura bush joins michelle obama on stage at the national archives, to discuss the u.s. military and veterans. both reflect on how they're


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