Exhibits at the First Ladies' Library 

All images and text in these brochures are for the express purpose of providing information about the exhibit. The National First Ladies’ Library and Historic Site cannot provide copies of images nor give reproduction rights.

Current Exhibit

The mission of the National First Ladies’ Library is to educate the public about the lives, accomplishments and contributions of our nation’s First Ladies. Many factors make the task overwhelmingly difficult. Women’s history was not deemed important at the birth of our country. American women have come a long way from the days when they had no right to vote, could not divorce, inherit wealth, hold a job after marriage, own property, or have an equal education. Successful women married well, became social assets to their husbands and raised proper children; they were to be seen and not heard. But from what our research has taught us, very few, if any of the First Ladies can be categorized that way. Most all were highly educated for their time, born into wealth or prominence, and valued by their family and later their husbands. Some divorced, but most married for love and were partners to the men they knew would be President.

Forgotten First Ladies had all of the challenges we have come to expect in putting together an exhibit. However, the outcome is one that we also expected. The more that was learned about the women the more each was admired. The First Ladies in this exhibit were extraordinary individuals, and absolute assets to their husbands not only as wives, but as valued confidantes. It should be noted that in all cases the First Ladies and Hostesses in this exhibit were prominent and admired during the President’s administration. Some were controversial, but each was certainly known by Washington Society as well as the American public.

How, we might ask, can such women have been forgotten? We cannot answer that for you. But as time marches on the public’s memory is very short. In Forgotten First Ladies we are presenting the ladies we have come to know. They are important because their stories are part of the story of our country, and we call that History.

Tour Hours: Tuesday - Saturday at 9:30 & 10:30 a.m. and 12:30, 1:30 & 2:30 p.m., plus Sundays in June, July & August at 12:30, 1:30 & 2:30 p.m.

Tours begin at the Education & Research Center, 205 Market Avenue S.

Previous Exhibit

The Mom-in-Chief exhibit in the Education Center focuses on the everyday, private and special events between a mother and her children and how they become front page news while she fulfills her role as First Lady. Family celebrations, such as weddings and births, become reasons for national merriment. Likewise intimate loss, such as illness or death, becomes the country’s sorrowful observances too. The exhibit looks at the highs and lows of family life while living in the White House

All tours are guided and include both the changing exhibits at the Education & Research Center and the Saxton McKinley House, the restored Victorian home of President William and First Lady Ida Saxton McKinley. Tours last approximately 1 1/2 hours.

Tour Hours: Tuesday - Saturday at 9:30 & 10:30 a.m. and 12:30, 1:30 & 2:30 p.m., plus Sundays in June, July & August at 12:30, 1:30 & 2:30 p.m.

Tours begin at the Education & Research Center, 205 Market Avenue S.

Past Exhibits

The Art of First Lady Ellen Axson Wilson, American Impressionist
One of only a few female artists engaged in the American Impressionist movement, Ellen Axson Wilson balanced her artistic career with her duties as First Lady. Visitors to this exhibition of landscape paintings will come away with a deeper understanding of an overshadowed First Lady. Exhibit runs until May 16th.
  Eyes on First Ladies: The Power of the Press
A First Lady must use the media and all its elements: newsprint, photographs, radio, television and the internet as a vehicle to promote her causes. In return, she hopes for a favorable review from media skeptics who watch her every word, her gestures, her hairstyles and clothing.


From Frontierswoman to Flapper: Ohio's First Ladies

It is remarkable that Ohio is the home of seven First Ladies who were born or lived in the state. Their lives spanned from the colonial days of the United States to ushering in the Jazz Age of the 20th Century.

Exhibit Brochure


Rising to the Occasion

During national crises, we often look to our First Ladies for comfort and encouragement. 

Exhibit brochure

Exhibit article, "Exhibit looks at influence of first ladies in times of crisis

Marian Wright Edelman
Photo courtesy of the
William J. Clinton Presidential Library

Heroes of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Heroes of the Presidential Medal of Freedom features several significant women from different walks of life who have received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for their dedication and work on behalf of our country.
encore America's Goodwill Ambassadors: First Ladies Travel the World
This exhibit concentrates on the extremely important, but non-political role First Ladies play in international diplomatic relationships for our country.  This exhibit will feature First Ladies Elizabeth Monroe, Harriet Lane, Helen Taft, Lou Hoover, Jackie Kennedy, Pat Nixon, Rosalynn Carter, and Hillary Clinton.


Encore!  The Artistry of America's First Ladies
This exhibit celebrated the artistic talents of several First Ladies including: Louisa Catherine Adams, who played the harp and pianoforte and wrote numerous poems and plays; artists Caroline Harrison's watercolors and Ellen Wilson's oils on canvas; Jacqueline Kennedy's poetry and delightful sketches; the dancing career of Betty Ford; and much more.



Caring Hearts: The Health of a Nation
This new exhibit focuses on the First Ladies' efforts to raise awareness of national health care concerns. The main highlight of the attraction will be The Heart Truth’s First Ladies'Red Dress Collection. This collection brings together the red suits and dresses of seven of America’s First Ladies in support of The Heart Truth campaign and the effort to raise awareness of heart disease, the #1 killer of women.


Team Players: Triumph and Tribulation on the Campaign Trail: Presidential campaigns that celebrate our freedom to choose a leader by election of the people are events unique to our country. Today the potential first spouse is expected to be involved in campaign issues, and her activities are as closely scrutinized as the candidate’s.

White House "Tails": Pets of the First Families:
From June 7, 2008 to October 24, 2008, the NFLL is hosting "pets of the White House". This exhibit features nine papier-mâché figures representing the beloved pets of some our nation’s First Families. They were first used by First Lady Laura Bush in her 2002 White House Christmas entitled All Creatures Great and Small. Florists and calligraphers, part of the regular White House staff, were called upon to create over 20 of the special ornaments that represented pets ranging from the ordinary to very extraordinary. Read more...
Party Politics: Entertaining at the White House: The NFLL is thrilled to be hosting a special exhibit this summer featuring a collection of White House China.   The select pieces are from the private collection of Carter administration diplomat Set Momjian.  Other contributions to the exhibit were made by the Benjamin Harrison Home, the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center and the Massillon Museum. The collection featured includes china pieces from the Monroe, Polk, Lincoln, Hayes, Harrison, Roosevelt, Wilson, Eisenhower, Johnson, Regan and Clinton administrations.   Each unique design has an equally as unique story behind its creation and pattern.  
Making The Grade: First Ladies & Education: The National First Ladies’ Education & Research Center presents an “educational experience” with the Oct. 3rd opening of their featured exhibit. This exhibit showcases the unique contributions of First Ladies Lady Bird Johnson, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Grace Coolidge, Caroline Harrison, Lucretia Garfield and Abigail Fillmore. Items have also been borrowed from 13 historical libraries and historical sites nationwide.

Private Wives ~ Public Lives celebrates some of the private, personal interests of four of our nation’s First Ladies: Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Louisa Adams, and Jane Pierce. The exhibit also highlights the public causes championed by four additional First Ladies: Dolley Madison, Mary Lincoln, Edith Wilson, and Lou Hoover.

Spirits, Suffrage and Struggle Exhibit The Spirits, Suffrage and Struggle exhibition celebrates the Suffrage Movement and the eighty-fifth anniversary of the Right to Vote with banners, postcards, place settings and more. Garments worn by First Ladies include: Rose Elizabeth Cleveland, a pro-temperance and pro-suffrage supporter; Edith Wilson, who strongly opposed suffrage; and Florence Harding, who was the first First Lady to vote for her husband in a presidential election.
Progressive Age Exhibit

The First Ladies of the Progressive Age exhibit examines the evolving role of First Ladies at the beginning of the twentieth century. The lives and legacies of First Ladies Edith Roosevelt, Helen Taft, Ellen Wilson, Edith Wilson, Florence Harding, Grace Coolidge and Lou Hoover are included.