tv The Presidency First Ladies Civil Rights CSPAN May 12, 2021 10:43pm-11:41pm EDT
michelle obama moved into the white house four years after president lyndon b. johnson shepherded the civil rights act of 1964 to law. seven different predecessors had moved into the executive residence with its slave servants. next on the presidency. a look at how first ladies from martha washington, to michelle obama, interacted with the racial politics of their times. and the long history dating back to abigail adams of their efforts to promote civil rights for all. the national archives foundation hosted this event and provided the video. let's jump right in. we've got a lot to hear about an important topic of first ladies, but also something that we don't talk a lot about which is the role in engaging around
civil rights and injustice issues. so let me talk a little about who our speakers are today and we will jump right in. an executive in residence in american university at washington d.c.. she directs the first lady initiative. she snow to many of you as she was the second term chief of staff or laura bush. she served in the white house and the department of state for george w. bush. she's also served in the administrations of george h.w. bush and ronald reagan. and is the founding member of the first lady's association for research and education, also known as flair. our second speaker today, nancy can smith, is the flair vice president. she was an archivist at the national archives administration starting at the lbj presidential library and museum, and the work at the archives in d.c. from -- 2012 when she she currently
lectures and writes on the first ladies including michelle obama and is coed her of modern first ladies, she's also published articles on presidential libraries and access to presidential records. our last speaker, who was also for speaker, is dana karlyn. she is chair trevor, president america communications at st. louis university and is an administrator of the university of kansas, where she taught of course on the rhetoric of first ladies. she currently teaches lifelong learning classes on first ladies, and lectures on their influence. she is the co-author or author on books on chapters, books and chapters. martha washington, later johnson, hillary clinton, and michelle obama. diana, you are going to kick it off today, are you with us? >> i am with you, patrick.
-- >> terrific, and we have a great presentation for us. i'm going to pass this to you and let you get started. >> okay, thank you. and good evening everyone, and thank you for joining my friends and nita and nancy and me. or we share some first lady history on this women's history month. as the program description indicated, this presentation and previous opinion piece of the three of us had for cnn last mother, were inspired by events surrounding george floyd's death, and responses from first ladies melania trump and former first lady -- michelle obama. nancy, anita and i really saw their comments as a demonstration of the type of leadership first ladies often take in times a national crisis. our work as first lady scholars attempts to show that first ladies are involved in far more than hosting the state dinners or being fashion icons. even though both of those have soft power and rhetorical power. most of our first ladies from the very beginning where
various political actors in either five -- found ways in which to participate in the confines of their particular time or they decided to challenge those times and lead. first ladies have contributed to the public good in many ways and we all know looking at these women up here especially the modern first ladies, some of the causes that they've taken on. when it comes to civil rights, the history goes back really to the first days of the republic. to better appreciate the activist roles of the modern first lady is that nancy and any to are going to talk about starting with a list by and illinois roosevelt, my role is for the historical perspective, that makes these modern first ladies involved in civil rights even more extraordinary. the relationship between first ladies and civil rights as a checkered past, starting with their first presidential couple, george and martha washington. the brother and slave servants with them to new york and philadelphia, the two first capitals of washington being
built. martha's action or then followed by six other first ladies and we had a total of nine presidential administrations where in slave servants were brought to the white house. washington's point so far was to circumvent law in order to have their insular -- and the president's house. when the cabinet was moved from new york to philadelphia, the washington's were confronted with a law that said that any enslaved person brought into the city would be freed after six months of residents. well, i will internet windy when the washington shuttled their enslaved servants between mount vernon and philadelphia to avoid having to free them. the white house historical association as a need as going to talk about later, look at this history of white house and slavery and with a history shows us is that it is impossible to overlook the fact that our founding fathers andúf$ mothers contributed to this systemic racism that resulted in multiple african american deaths last year and the
marches and protests. one early first lady, however, it took a very different move into the institution of slavery, and that is abigail adams. she was an abolitionist, and this statement make your position clear. how could they, the southerners, recognize human bondage with the ideology of freedoms that americans have fought for? unfortunately, her voice was that of a minority votes given the dominance of southern slave holding presidents in our early history. but abigail did put her words into practice in her own life. the massachusetts historical society has the papers of john and abigail adams and in those papers is a letter that abigail wrote to john in february of 1797, shortly before he was sworn in as president. and she was telling him about an incident involving a free african american who she referred to as james, who was a paid employee of the adams. he tended to agricultural
matters at their farm. abigail personally taught him reading and writing and fought for him to attend a local school. when a neighbor objected, she responded to the neighbor with this question, is this the christian post -- principle of doing to others as we were have others due to us? ngnow, as one would expect one directly confronting the indomitable ethical adams, then he re-backed down. just as abigail, however, was not hurt in her pleased with the ladies, her calls for the new nations, following christian principles in terms of enslaving fellow humans, fell on deaf ears. after abigail until mary todd lincoln, we did not see others like. her mary grew up in a family of slaves and personally saw the evils of slavery and some of her relatives did free their slaves. her letters don't outright speak to her support of racial equality but let her papers do
show is that she demonstrated support for emancipation. mary was vilified by both the south for having been a southerner who defected to the north, and by the north they did not trust her. but her loyalties were definitely to the union cause and in a larger sense also to the emancipated men and women who had faced very difficult times as they went from being enslaved to free people. during the white house years, dressmaker elizabeth cackle, who is a free black woman made her aware of the plight of individuals who had run away from the south during the civil war especially after the emancipation proclamation. and mary personally contributed her funds to the contraband relief association to help these men and women settle into their new lives. mary also wrote letters of recommendation for former slaves who were applying for government jobs including those with tech we, and after her husband's death she wrote of the emancipation proclamation
that it was a legacy from her husband to her sons. between the end of the civil war and eleanor roosevelt, for other first ladies demonstrated support for equal rights. lucy hayes, who is well known for her temperament stance, was an abolitionist and suffered just before the civil war. she encouraged her husband, rutherford, to defend runaway slave who had left kentucky for ohio. and as first lady from 1787 to a 91 she was concerned with the plight both african americans and native americans. and she personally funded at the scholarship for native american women, and assisted in african american woman in her admission to college. she invited the first african american professional musician to perform in the white house. that was marie williams, a soprano, who was introduced by frederick get douglas. she also invited other black musician groups, including students to sing at white house
events. and other early first lady, was helen nellie taft, who developed an appreciation for cultural and racial diversity when her husband was serving as president in the commission to establish a separate government -- and then he served as governor general in the philippines. she used social events, as i said, they could have political power to chip away at the color line that was left over from the previous military government by inviting filipinos along with americans and europeans to social events that she and her husband hosted. she was described by one biographer is being egalitarian. and she made sure that african americans and immigrants were invited to the white house events, and she expanded the opportunities for african americans on white house staff. she believed that education was a great equalizer and she supported kindergarten classes for black children. while she is best known for bringing the cherry trees to
washington, her life's civil rights actions were impactful beyond the districts boundaries. alan wilson, woodrow wilson's wife was a southerner whose ancestors also had own slaves. while her tenure as first lady was brief due to illness and her death, she made an important contribution to improving housing in the district. through her work with the national civic federation women's division, she supported construction of affordable housing to replace the housing that was in alleyways, that was being occupied by many of the cities african american and middling populations. she even invested in the company to build the housing and supported with that investment into her death. prior to her illness, prohibiting her from leaving the white house, she took members of congress and city leaders to the allies, where individuals were living in squalor, and she encouraged them to pass legislation to do something about this housing.
in many ways, she established the beginning of the modern first lady's activism by directly focusing on legislative issues. and leaving the white house to show policymakers what it was they needed to be dealing with. and finally, lou henry hoover, who was a trail blazer in many ways. she furthered immigration for the white house activities, once again through a social event by hosting a tea party, a tea party with very serious civil rights implications. when the country's first 20th century effort african american comes, oscar stanton priest, who was a republican from illinois, arrived in d.c.. the usual social invitations did not follow for him and his wife. miss hoover's staff wrote a memo to the president secretary for suggestions on how to provide a welcoming environment for them in their tenure in washington. what resulted was an invitation to jesse the priest to attend a white house tee which was a common practice for mr. server,
or members of wives and congress, and captains, and so forth. she made it smaller than most of them, and only invited women who she knew would treat misses the priest with respect, and with the courtesy's of the position would really represent. she was the first african american african american elected the house in 20 years, -- by the roosevelt administration. the political activism, hoover won several states and they knew that this was going to wrinkle people. but the hoover took a long view and they went ahead and did it. they received an incredible public criticism, vitriolic letters, vitriolic editorials. and i highly recommend done lamps 2015 article in prologue about the the depriest
invitation and what they want to after this invitation. they stood by his wife, and then invited the hampton institute into ski institute to start the black colleges to the white house. while mary lincoln and his later for women did not face the challenges of the women that and eat it will discuss, they did lay the groundwork for civil rights activism and the first lady's. so that i'm not gonna turn it over to nancy to discuss eleanor roosevelt. done to make hello, i'm pleased to be here today. i would like to thank patrick man, the head of the foundation, and mr. mcdonald, senior director for special events for all they have done to make this program possible. and the support of the national archives foundation. i would also like to thank the octave archivist of the united states, whose agencies polls, records, have provided papers
from loop every hoover to michelle obama in the presidential -- today, i am very pleased to be talking to very special first ladies, eleanor roosevelt and ladybird johnson. and the incredibly effective advances that they tried to make for civil rights issues in spite of the fact that they both encountered death threats. eleanor roosevelt consistently fought racial discrimination and prejudice, and in fact was a strong advocate then her husband. just a few examples of what she did included joining and addressing the 1936 annual and a acp, national urban league conferences. advocating for lynching legislation, and supporting
multiple anti segregation campaigns. coach hearing the national committee to abolish the poll tax which was against -- it was a penalty to african americans and convening the first national conference of negro women at the white house. for these, she suffered a death threat, many, but the kkk specifically puts a bounty on her head. in common on what eleanor roosevelt support for african americans mint, a prominent african american journalist, jim jordan, mentioning an important policy, what he said. most black people were struck with the genuineness and the feeling that she was for real. not only the so-called sympathetic statements, she showed empathy.
and appeared to be thoroughly convinced that america could not live up to its promise of being a democracy unless it is something about the racial problem in this country. next slide please. she had an incredible event occur which caused biggest civil rights event on the mom before the i dream stage. what happened was in 1939 mariam anderson, was going to appear at and perform at constitutional -- she was a world famous opera singer. and the american revolution held the hall, and they would not commit an african american to sing a constitution hall. so, eleanor roosevelt was signed saying, i'm in complete
disagreement with the attitude taken in refusing constitutional -- to a great artist. you have seven example which seems to be unfortunate. and i feel obligated to send in to you my's resignation. you had an opportunity to lead in and enlightens away and it seems to me that your organization has failed. next slide please. instead of having failure, eleanor roosevelt worked with franklin roosevelt's secretary of the interior, herald deacons, and they arranged for marian anderson two seeing on the lawn in front of the lincoln rim or ill. and as the planning went forward, marian anderson the night before was not even sure she wanted to do this. but it ended up being incredible. 75,000 people showed up.
i am picking whistle stop to show ladybird jean's and on civil rights because she called it one of the most dramatic days in my political career. it was a historic campaign, it was the first time a first lady campaigned on her own, it was planned by three women, liz carpenter for press secretary, ladybird johnson, and social secretary, along with the chair congresswoman lindy boggs. all of whom were from the south. at a time when women did not plan political events like this. the time period of the trip occurred from october 6th to the ninth 1964, it occurred -- at a point in history because in july of 1964, president
johnson had passed the civil rights act. and, the johnson's from their seven friends were getting a huge outcry over this, the secret service was afraid for president johnson to go in the south. and, there were many threats if they came down to the south. but mrs. johnson was determined. she carved the trip -- called it a journey of the heart. saying, i have a strong sentimental family, deep tied to the south. and i thought the south was getting a bad rap from the nation. and indeed, the world. it was painted as a bastion of ignorance, and all sorts of ugly things, it was my country, and although i knew that i could not be that persuasive to them, at least i could talk to them in a language they would understand.
the message she brought was the new south needed to throw off the yoke of racism and move forward. she effectively used media, along with her fellows, and president johnson join her at three stops. the train was originally only supposed to end up that 55 reporters. but was packed with 225. she traveled over 1600 miles making 47 speeches in four days. the trip was a great success, credited with helping women win seven separate states in 1964 at a time when it had been feared that southern democrats would rock the party. it is estimated over 500,000 people heard her message, and with national tv coverage, she elevated and encourage the support and implementation of
civil rights with great courage and great calm. she said, we are testing -- whether we shall move forward with an understanding of each other. or whether we shall move backwards. this is, i believe, a contest between the positive and the negative. and she said that in 1964. so, having said that, i turn the next part of the panel over to my very good friend and need a mcbride and a colleague. and i'm sure we will have an excellent presentation. >> terrific, thank you, thank you so much, nancy. and of course thank you to the national archives foundation for sponsoring this event tonight and giving me and nancy and diana an opportunity to share stories about the
important stories about first ladies and their impact on civil rights in our nation. i am here to talk to you about barbara bush, laura bush, and michelle obama. and with barbara bush, she made the decision to focus on literacy, while she was on a run in memorial park in houston in 1980 after the presidential campaign. coming into the white house as second lady, she wanted to do something that could help people. and what she believed, is that more people could read and write, and require the basic skills necessary to navigate the world with dignity, and achieve the greatest possible opportunity in their lives, then so too could more of the world's problems be solved. she was instrumental in the passage of the national literacy act of 1991. and the establishment of the
national institute of literacy to track the disparities across the country. in her words, the national literacy act, couldn't put in a policy. my belief that education is a civil rights, no matter one's age. indeed, she had a particular focus on adult illiteracy. believing their needs were so often overlooked and that it lies at the core of multi generational cycles of poverty, in its consequences. poor health, food insecurity, housing insecurity, civil rights issues which have enormous potential to improve the social and economic well-being of families, communities, ahead of the nation as a whole. the founder of the center for family learning said, and i quote, it was a hidden secrets in this country until barbara bush invaded it. she, barbara bush, later launched the barbara bush
foundation for family literacy in 1989. a public charity now headquartered in washington d.c. that is laser focused for breaking the cycle of a low literacy through technology innovation, mentoring, and research. next slide please. to barbara bush, illiteracy was also a part of the ignorance on aids. a cause that she threw right into the spotlight in march 22nd 1989. two months into the new presidential administration. she visited grandma's house, a group home in washington d.c. for abandoned babies, and young children who had been diagnosed with hiv aids. there she held and hugged baby donovan, whom you see here, who had been crying uncontrollably when she entered the facility that day. and she scooped him up in her
arms and he was soothes. and had stopped crying. that day, without saying a word, barbara bush made her point. it was safe to hold a baby infected with hiv, or to hug an adult with aids, or to go with school and work alongside someone with the disease. the cofounders of grandma's house, who you see here, said barbara bush impacted the whole world with publicly releasing that photo. next slide please on laura bush. >> laura bush, is best known for her lifelong efficacy of literacy and educational reform. books for her hold extensive under. and as a child, books were an escape from her isolated home town in midland texas. she recognized that literacy and education are more than an
escape into a faraway world. they are a means by which children can overcome obstacles and thrive. as first lady of texas and of the united states, she advocated for an education as a civil right for every child. but she had seen the importance of its long before. laura bush, came of age as a turbulent civil rights era was beginning. graduating from the all whites robert e. lee high school in 1964, and seeing the images on tv of the alabama marches, and in the cities of detroit, and newark in flames. this ignited in her a wish to foster change. she became a teacher, and a librarian in inner city minority schools. and her eyes were opened to a part of the world she had not seen in segregated midland. she carries with her a memory from a field trip she planned
for her fourth grade class in houston. r:x onef her students, he came to the door but his mother would neither come to the door nor give her permission for him to get on the bus. laura bush never forgot to look on that little boys face, a haunting face to face encounter with a child who did not have a chance to experience life and learn. as first lady of texas, she convened a group of experts to explore family literacy in the ways in which young children are prepared for life long learning. the summit contributed to sweeping education reforms in texas. once in the white house, she was a leading advocate for education reform, and soon held a summit on early childhood cognitive development. later briefing the congress on the summit findings, and its
recommendations. she launched the national book festival that still continues. and held a series of literacy events in the white house called the salute to america's authors. the 2000 into gathering celebrated writers of one of the richest literary and cultural periods in u.s. history, the harlem renaissance. laura bush noted in her opening remarks, that these men and women, celebrated their culture, and poetry, and prose while capturing the stark realities of being black in america. at the state of the union in february 2005, president bush announced a new inter agency initiative focused on the growing number of boys dropping out of school and more broadly, on youth at risk. and he asked first lady laura bush to lead it. one of the first programs she visited was homeboy industries
in los angeles. site of the largest gain intervention program in the nation. at the time, los angeles county was home to 1100 games with an estimated 86,000 gang members. if a gang intervention program as a 30% success rate, it is considered effective. homeboy industries success rate is 80%. she later invited homeboys founder, father gregory boyle, to a conference she held on youth at risk at howard university. father boyle brought some of his ex gang members with him. it was their first plane trip and the first time they had ever worn a suit. after the conference, she invited them to a reception at the white house. with that invitation, she said, young men who had been in gang fights and had even spent time in jail could learn that having started down the path to change their lives they were welcome
in the most prominent home in the nation. next slide, please. michelle obama, our nation's first african american first lady is a descendant of slaves, and her life mirrored a changing american society that had made advances for civil rights, but also demonstrated the ongoing struggle for equality, in the american dream. like barbara bush and laura bush before her, michelle obama addressed disparities in education. but she could talk to young black americans with a voice of authenticity that they were willing into here. it was their voice to. and she -- she had experienced what they had experienced. she often spoke of her own example of being told by a high school guidance counselor that she wasn't good enough to go to an ivy league school. michelle obama later attended
princeton and harvard. and her journey set an example of what could be achieved. in a high school commencement speech into peak at kansas, in 2014, commemorating the brown board of education decision, obama spoke emphatically about the struggle of civil rights activists, to desegregate their children's schools, by going all the way to the supreme court. it was the principle of integration that they fought for. and she reminded those students do not take that decision for. grant speech at michelle obama inspired change and other profound ways as well. helping the nation to understand it's posh complicated past and the relationship between slavery and freedom. in her primetime speech at the 2016 democratic national convention in philadelphia,
michelle obama said i week up every morning in a house built by sleeves. her words focused public attention on the history and in sleeved persons in the white house and it crushed the upset of the white house historical association with people looking for more information. her convention remarks resulted in a multi year initiative by the white house historical association unveiled in 2020, next slide please. called slavery in the presidents neighborhood. this say it documents the paradoxical relationship between slavery and freedom in the nation's capital and the white house. i encourage you to look at the site, look at the phenomenal research. with that, thank you from diana, and nancy myself, i believe we're ready for some questions.
>> terrific. we want to ask everyone to come back on screen here so we can get started on the q&a. i want to remind everyone in the audience that we are doing the youtube chat, i've got them in the queue for you, don't wait, for your questions and now. i'm delighted to welcome folks from all over the country. we've got -- ohio, we've got still several, chat is well represented. pennsylvania, toronto, folks from wrong still, texas, nashville, north carolina, houston, texas, not a surprise, oakland, oklahoma, thanks to everyone who join us from across the country. a lot of love for the first ladies and the work they've done. the presentations have been not
just interesting but enlightening because again you've unfolded and unpacked some things that the media doesn't necessarily focus on, which is terrific. so before we jump into the questions, i want to ask you, because you've all spent time studying these women and their legacies, you spent a lot of time over the last year talking about, legacy legacy of the founders, legacy of policies, some of our society and social justice issues. can you talk? a let you decide most yourself who wants to jump in. a little bit about how the first lady's legacies have changed and the specific ones that you really think here is one that i think that there was a certain perception, and now we think very differently. nancy, do you want to jump in? it seems that you are ready to jump in. >> i'll be happy to. i'm sure i needed and diane
have a lot to add, but increasingly, overtime, the importance of the first lady on her own and her legacy has become more and more important. and the modern first ladies like laura bush, lady bird johnson, -- have all lead foundations that continue their incredible work. and i think in the last ten years, there's been a growing group of scholarship which we want to promote that these women did incredible things on their own. sometimes more important than there has been being on elected officials, incredible
situations, that's what's all of us are trying to do, is focus on the incredible achievement that these women have made. 0vñsometimes, they are mirrors o society and sometimes to say that they are leaders. more recently, many of them have been leaders. >> anita or diane, you want to add? >> the one thing that i would add, since i worked at washington, these early first ladies really did establish some pieces that would become the legacy of what first lady does and we kind of changed our mind about it. martha had these events every week with her hurler gatherings. telemedicine used this. we saw examples of that with henry hoover, the marion anderson, there are so many of those kinds of events so i think that we have changed our minds about would even the soft
power or social activist can do in terms of having impact decidedly. but, also martha made it clear that she would be a servant for her husband. she attended his funeral when he was sick. she was concerned about veterans, and look at how many of our first ladies including our current ones are concerned about that. they were things that she put in place from the beginning, abigail adams, and dolly medicine that continue to this day. >> patrick, i think i would just add one thing to nancy and diana's brilliant comments really about framing this, and how we look at first ladies. in this time that we live in, we're very focused on women's leadership and women's empowerment. and i think that throughout history we can look at each of these women and really do show where they have used their platform to such great effect, and using their own experiences
and bringing their own authenticity to problems that they choose to engage, and really did lead on issues as mid nancy has mentioned. they are women leaders. you've been through time and different cultural pressures, they still empowered women to the degree that they could really affect change. >> we've got a terrific question which i think segway's well into this. how aware where the 20th century first ladies aware of the 19th century first ladies efforts in this area? >> in terms of mrs. johnston, who i knew and worked with, she certainly had a good sense of history. and she was certainly aware of what had been done. she was a great leader. and i think thatáx[):u is true e bushes and michelle obama.
so i think that they have a great sense of history and a strong desire to be themselves, to not follow in eleanor roosevelt steps or lady bird johnson's steps, but to be themselves. >> i will add one thing to that, which is funny, but if you thought about it at the time could be considered insulting. this was in 2000, george bush, the election was finally decided in one of the early interviews that laura bush gave. she was asked by a reporter who shall remain nameless or you would be more like hillary clinton or barbara bush? as if she could not be herself. and her response was very astute. she said will i know laura bush pretty well. so i am going to be her.
>> again, you know, they want to be authentic in what they do, and they're conscious of those who have come before them. of course, this is their opportunity now to make a difference. >> very iconic and early quote in their tenure. that's terrific. so you mentioned along the way, concerns about their well-being, as the sort of step out on issues. we've had a couple of questions come in sort of taking opposite positions to their spouse, and the threats that came with that. so ladybird johnson's tour, bomb threats, i know you can fact check me on this, from our viewers, carrying a gun, can you talk a little bit more about that very real presence
that they were feeling threatened? >> patrick allen, tend not to my knowledge carry a gun. henry hoover did carry a gun. but to my knowledge, eleanor roosevelt did not. i will hand discussion to others. diana, anita. >> i think especially, michelle obama was very aware of a lot of the threats that she and her husband were receiving. ladybird was obviously aware of what was going on with having a -- proceed hers, so you look at with the hoover's went through. those were ugly, ugly letters. terrible threats to them. so i don't think that you can be in that position without knowing what's going on. especially currently because
it's in the media. we know about it already even without having the obama papers open because this is covered by the news media some of the threats that they encountered. >> and was there a time, maybe not in the very modern area going back and civil rights period or earlier, where the first ladies were maybe discouraged from stepping out and speaking out, whether it be secret service or their spouses or others in the administration where they would say hey, maybe you should tamped down, are you aware of any efforts to have them sort of dial it down a little bit, because of concerns. >> on the whistle stop trip they were very hesitant for mrs. johnson to make that and many people think that president johnson suggested that to her. when i interviewed mrs. johnston, mrs. johnson picked
that trip on her own. and so the secret service had to come up with protections, as dana said they ran a entered 15 minutes ahead because of bombing threats. and, then this is johnson will say later ron, when she gives her williams speech and yale speech on conservation and the environment, and it's later in the administration, 67, early 68, that she will come back and say in her diary that it is very hard for her to go out and deliver her message when there are protests. and she wonders, she's beginning to get depressed as to whether trying to develop the message on the environment is being overwhelmed by the message of hey, hey, how many -- have you killed today and
getting out of vietnam. so certainly, there was an anxious in her at seven points as to whether her going out was beneficial, or was not. >> eleanor roosevelt, some individuals and her husband's administration sought that she was way to public or vocal. but he was very supportive of her. >> i think that is one thing that really does make a difference on first ladies. on what they want to do and what they are able to do. having support of the president makes a big difference. for example, when laura bush went to afghanistan in 2005. it's an active war zone. certainly, there were threats against our country. threats against the president. but her going there was really
a courageous act. and you know, really had to be planned in secret in really the dark of night. but it was important to show courage, and show support for the people of afghanistan who are trying to climb out of a terrible situation. and you knew that the dangers of the -- were very much around. >> good perspectives. appreciate it. that's why we have historians on to correct the record. i have some specific questions aboutu that we can sort of make our way through this. ellen wilson's efforts. were they shaped or very from the fact that president wilson was openly racist or policies were obviously skewed in a very specific way?
can any of you talk to sort of her positions? >> i don't know that she was directly doing this as a result of the, but a lot of it was what was in her background. she grew up in the south, should come from a background of slavery. family issues very well educated. she was an artist, incredible woman, very accomplished in her own right. and this was just something that was part of who she was, from her background. and i doubt that it had a lot to do with trying to counter this position. and anyka, nancy, you may know more about that. >> i think that that is a good answer. >> okay. what about fast forwarding to rosalind carter and hillary clinton? did they have any initiatives that you might want to touch on in regards to this area?
>> well, i would love to touch on mrs. carter, of course, because you know, her passion and commitment to mental health issues in this country really was a game changer. and, as first lady of georgia, she shared the governors commission, on mental health. and that this was, is such an important issue because of the stigma associated with it. and then treatments, and diagnosis. really needing to come out in the open, and then when she came to washington. she fully intended to be engaged in this issue, and president carter suit who supported her work. and name to the commission on mental health, and wanted to
share it. but the personal loss at the time really prevented the first lady from being able to, for the presidents, to actually have a member of his family be employed, if you will. so, it caused a whole number of changes and new personal authorization act for the white house. that had to define, now a structure, around the office of the first lady. that really had not existed before. so, mrs. carter had great impact not only on the issue of mental health, because she did serve in that capacity as a literary chair of the presidents commission of middle health. she had a long-standing impact on how the structure for modern first lady's office has been able to operate since that time. >> and hillary clinton asked governors of arkansas, pushed
hugely for bettering education, for, particularly for minorities. she was very interested in that. and then of course, when she was first lady, she asked if laura bush got to the international scale in terms of human rights and is known for her famous comments at the beijing conference which is, human rights are women's rights, and humans rights are human rights. so, we just did a sampling of first ladies because at the time -- we are not saying that these are the only first ladies who did things for civil rights. >> of course, of course. well, i always, when we have these conversations, i lose track of time. so we're going a little bit over, but that is ok, i have two questions i feel like a need to ask. we only have a second gentlemen,
i want to ask you all, how do you see rules changing for first ladies, seconded gentlemen, first gentleman. what do we think? >> you know, i'll briefly say, i'm sure the others want to add on this, the country keeps marching on. and we keep changing, and this is a new chapter, now, in our history. and it hopes people become more, you know comfortable with the fact that this road will change, and doctor biden has changed the rolled as first lady. she's now a full-time, you know, working first lady, outside the home. it is a lot to balance. she has great experience of having done it as the second lady of the land, already. and i may add, you know, lynn cheney was also working second lady as well. as a fellow american enterprise institute. now, there is a man as the
second gentleman, who also holds a job outside of the home, but wants to be supportive of his wife. he is invested in her success the way first lady's throughout history have been invested in their husbands success. it is an equalizer. in a manner of speaking. >> and we have a lot of models at the state level. this is new at the national level but it certainly has been going on for 40 years at the state level. and, you know those roles have been balanced. and the world does not come to an end if you have a husband who has a full-time job. they still continue. so, i think that is a bit of what we are saying, i think also the, point that anita made about doctor biden, and lin cheney, is that this is the reality of our family structure now. the wife house is always in many ways, represented -- we've looked at it of kind of models of american families,
and we have a lot of different structures. and so, this is kind of, i think, finally catching up. catching up with where we've been for the last 40 years. >> and i like when hillary clinton and the 2016 campaign said, someone asked her, why would you call bill clinton, and she goes first dude. i like that. the first dude. >> very good one. we will have to see folks that comfortable in that? in many ways, the u.s. is catching up to many other countries, obviously with women as the top elected official. so, we will get there, we will get there. well i have one closing question. obviously, you are all a wealth of knowledge and, you are collaborating and so i would love to know, and i want to share with the viewers what else is coming up? other things that the audience should be aware of that you are all working on they would you would like to share before we
close up? >> yes, we will be together again on may 6th, and in fact we have a little slide here for you. the american university first ladies initiatives direct, and the white house historical association are hosting a symposium on first ladies on may 6th. you can see the length and find more information. i think the registration will go out soon, but it is a all day virtual symposium. diana will be presenting, nancy will be presenting. and i will also host of other first lady authors and scholars, biographers through the sweep of history. we will look at one of the topics that you had mentioned, patrick, earlier, that we look at first ladies differently. and some of the first ladies we considered is one of the panels. on the other thing that you mentioned before us, so thank you very much, is the first ladies association for research and education, as you see here.
flare, this is our logo, the three of us here are three of the seven founders. and we want this to be the primary association to encourage the steady and collaboration around the first ladies. he biographers, archivists, first lady staff journalists. really who are interested in the research and the education about the first lady's. so, more to come on that. it is dedicated with american university. but more will be coming soon, right, diana? and nancy? >> yes. >> yes. about to launch, so -- >> terrific, so, folks only need to wait a couple weeks then. caroline action again. excellent, excellent. i'm sure you will be visiting them to down there. well, i really appreciate the foundation, and we have our viewers, pushing and sharing
your knowledge, your wisdom. and insight on the first ladies, on this topic, very timely. and as you mentioned, more to come in the coming weeks of the symposium. >> weeknights this month are featuring american history tv programs, as a preview of what is available on every weekend on c-span 3. thursday, american history tv visits san francisco, the year of the story of chinese people in america from historian charlie chan, he leads a group of college students through the chinese historical society of america. and then on a tour of china town. that's thursday, starting at 8 pm eastern, and enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span 3. as acting director, todd, johnson testifies on homeland security operational priorities for the agency on thursday morning. before a house appropriations subcommittee. watch live beginning at ten eastern on c-span 3. online at c-span.org or listen