First Ladies Library Blog

Welcome to the National First Ladies Library blog. This replaces the “asked/answered” page and all information from it has been transferred to the blog. Here will be an ongoing public forum on the work of the NFLL and its collections, discussion on new and emerging scholarship and popular publications, news stories, and any other information or discoveries related to directly to the subject of First Ladies. The public is invited to engage here with questions on the subject.

Research, reading and writing on the subject of American First Ladies opens windows into so many fascinating aspects of not just national and international history and culture but contemporary issues as well.

Enjoy our blog and feel free to post your comments.

 

bill clinton first laddie 2016

A 2008 primary campaign button featuring Hillary Clinton’s husband with the unofficial title he half-jokingly suggested would be an appropriate one for the husband of the first woman who is elected president. (ebay)

(This is the tenth and final in an original ten-part series being run exclusively on the National First Ladies’ Library website blog on the history of presidential candidates’ spouses being used as campaign symbols. If any of this information is used, you must credit the NFLL Blog. If the images are used please credit the NFLL and the original publisher as listed)

While entirely premature, this tongue-in-cheek button again played on the uncertainty of what a male presidential spouse would be called.

While entirely premature, this tongue-in-cheek button again played on the uncertainty of what a male presidential spouse would be called.

This year’s presidential campaign has not yet even officially begun, without any primary or caucus state race yet being completed. While polls are, as always, a general gauge to voter preferences,  everything technically remains a matter of speculation.

A 2016 pin calling for Melania Trump as First Lady despite her relative absence on the campaign trail.

A 2016 pin calling for Melania Trump as First Lady despite her relative absence on the campaign trail.

Both of the parties currently have front-runners and, as of this writing, primary season opponents who are polling close behind them.

If, in fact, either of the presumptive leaders as of this writing, were to win the nomination of their parties both would bring with them spouses that don’t fit preconceived perceptions of presidential spouses.

Melania Trump is a native of Slovenia and a former model. Bill Clinton is a former President.

A "Bill" button, 2016. (ebay)

A “Bill” button, 2016. (ebay)

It’s been nearly two centuries since the only foreign-born First Lady, Louisa Adams, has been in the White House. And there has never been a male presidential spouse, let alone a former President of the United States.

But even among the wide, overall field of potential first spouses there is a marked difference from the past.

Two are foreign-born (Melanie Trump and Columba Bush, a native of Mexico), two are men (Bill Clinton and Frank Fiorina), two have worked as Wall Street investment brokers (Mary Pat Christie and Heidi Kruz), two are Latina (Columba Bush and Jeanette Rubio, daughter of Columbian immigrants).

Four of the 2016 presidential candidates' spouses: Jane Sanders, Katie O'Malley, Hiiedi Cruz, Melania Trump. (wikipedia, getty,   unknown original sources)

Four of the 2016 presidential candidates’ spouses: Jane Sanders, Katie O’Malley, Heidi Cruz, Melania Trump. (wikipedia, getty, unknown original sources)

And, for what it is worth, a preponderance of them were born under the sign of Leo. Some are acknowledged as their spouses’ closest advisers while others are entirely divorced from political and political issues.

Jane Sanders for First Lady button, 2016. (dazzle.com)

Jane Sanders for First Lady button, 2016. (dazzle.com)

With the primary season poised to begin next week and the real sifting and filtering of viable candidates to then rapidly proceed, serious attention is, as it should be, focused on the presidential candidates themselves and the important issues they must address.

A Spanish-language biography of Columba Bush, the only candidate's spouse whose story has been explored in such a format - except for Bill Clinton. theodysseyonline.com)

A Spanish-language biography of Columba Bush, the only candidate’s spouse whose story has been explored in such a format – except for Bill Clinton. theodysseyonline.com)

If history is an accurate gauge, the attitudes and influences, the assets and liabilities that the spouses may present as (and if) they appear on the primary campaign trail are likely to emerge and, depending on the rivalries between the candidates themselves, become secondary matters that can turn voters towards or away from them.

It is simply too early to make a rational prediction on who, if any, of them will become factors.

As this ten-part survey would suggest, however, any of them who do become factors are likely to find their names and faces on badges, posters and yes, campaign buttons.

 

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In 2008, Michelle Obama was used to reference the famous persona of World War II's Rosie the Riveter and a play on her husband's campaign slogan.(democraticstuff.com)

In 2008, Michelle Obama was used to reference the famous persona of World War II’s Rosie the Riveter and a play on her husband’s campaign slogan.(democraticstuff.com)

(This is the ninth in an original ten-part series being run exclusively on the National First Ladies’ Library website blog on the history of presidential candidates’ spouses being used as campaign symbols. If any of this information is used, you must credit the NFLL Blog. If the images are used please credit the NFLL and the original publisher as listed)

A 2004 button referencing Laura Bush's post-911 role. (pinterest)

A 2004 button referencing Laura Bush’s post-911 role. (pinterest)

Laura Bush was perceived by the public as a “traditional” First Lady, due perhaps to the goodwill domestic issues she took on, ranging from support programs for at-risk teens to the building and upgrading of public libraries to historical preservation and protection from exploitation of threatened deep-oceans.

She was also deeply involved in efforts that developed as a result of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. in 2001. She directly worked on programs to help re-establish equal access to education for girls in Afghanistan, encourage the return by Afghan women to professional careers, and protect Iraqi antiquities, among others.

An unusual grouping showing a First Lady not just with her husband but their children, from the 2001 Inauguration. (private collection)

An unusual grouping showing a First Lady not just with her husband but their children,. (private collection)

However, from the perception of the average American, it was her role following the terrorist attack, when she was dubbed “comforter-in-chief” for speaking to the children of the nation about how, even as youngsters, they could learn to determine the fine line between rational fear and necessary caution, with the guidance of their parents and teachers.

Laura Bush and Teresa Kerry appearing on the same button during the 2004 campaign perhaps intended for Independent voters unsure of who they would support - or worn to provoke debate. (ronwade.com)

Laura Bush and Teresa Kerry shown together on a button intended for Independent voters unsure of who they would support – or worn to provoke debate. (ronwade.com)

It was a role that was reflected in at least one campaign button from her husband’s 2004 reelection campaign, in which she was depicted as part of a team with him.

The 2004 Republican National Convention also had the twin daughters of George W. and Laura Bush taking the most public role they ever would, speaking jointly to introduce their mother.

Whether it was sold with foreknowledge that the two “First Daughters” Barbara and Jenna Bush would be speaking is unclear, but there appeared in the convention hall souvenir stands a button showing the family of four, simply titled “America’s First Family.”

Evidence suggests, however, that it was a retreaded item, initially sold during the 2001 Inauguration festivities.

This simple button with a ubiquitous Heinz brand ketchup bottle referenced the wealth of Teresa Kerry, inherited after the death of her first husband, heir to the company and a Republican U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania. (pinterest)

This button with aHeinz ketchup bottle referenced the wealth of Teresa Kerry, inherited after the death of her first husband, an heir to the food company and a Republican Senator from Pennsylvania. (liberalvalues.com)

On the Democratic side, 2004 saw the nomination of U.S. Senator from Massachusetts John Kerry as the presidential candidate, with the U.S. Senator John Edwards as his running mate.

A button wryly referencing Teresa Kerry's quip to a reporter. (ebay)

“Another Opinionated Woman” button wryly referencing Teresa Kerry’s quip to a reporter. (ebay)

Kerry’s wife had an interesting political history of her own.

She had already been married to another U.S. Senator, Pennsylvania Republican John Heinz who’d perished in a plane crash, when she married Kerry, a divorcee.

With a vast inheritance from the Heinz  fortune, Mrs. Kerry was promptly symbolized in campaign button by the familiar ketchup bottle.

At the convention, when Teresa Kerry was confronted by several reporters with a hostile question she quipped for them to “shove it,” and the phrase briefly appeared on several novelty items, from buttons to bumper stickers to tee-shirts.

This 2004 pinback paired Teresa Kerry with Democratic vice presidential candidate's spouse Elizabeth Edwareds. (pinterest)

This 2004 pinback paired Teresa Kerry with Democratic vice presidential candidate’s spouse Elizabeth Edwareds. (pinterest)

Another factor raising the profile of spouses in that year’s election was the prominence of the Democratic vice presidential nominee’s wife, Elizabeth Edwards. Outspoken, overtly political and also living with cancer at the time, Mrs. Edwards maintained a high media visibility and was featured on several buttons alone and with Teresa Heinz.

The fact that she had developed her own career as an attorney was a matter that was becoming seemingly routine by 2004, a reflection of the general professional advancement of American women by that time.

One of the official Hillary Clinton for president buttons, 2008. (private collection)

One of the official Hillary Clinton for president buttons, 2008. (private collection)

By 2004, a number of spouses of recent presidential and vice presidential candidates had managed to have their own independent careers while also fulfilling expectations as a political spouse, including Kitty Dukakis, Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Dole, and Lynne Cheney.

The year 2008 was a turning point in presidential history for the simple fact that one former presidential candidate’s spouse decided to pursue the presidency herself.

A button confident that the 2008 election would result in Michelle Obama becoming First Lady. (ebay)

A button confident that the 2008 election would make Michelle Obama First Lady. (ebay) 

That year, former First Lady and incumbent U.S. Senator from New York Hillary Clinton entered the Democratic primaries.

A 2008 button made showing Michelle Obama during her convention speech. (groovydude.com)

An official DNC 2008 button of Mrs. Obama during her convention speech. (groovydude.com)

Ultimately, Mrs. Clinton did not win her party’s nomination.

That victory went instead to the husband of another professional woman who had been an attorney, Chicago city official and hospital administrator, Michelle Obama.

On the Republican side, there was another historical precedent shattered. Following his nomination as his party’s presidential candidate, U.S. Senator from Arizona John McCain nominated Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate.

It was only the second time in history that a woman was chosen to be part of the national ticket and the first time it was done so by Republicans.

McCain-Palin, 2008. (zazzle)

McCain-Palin, 2008. (zazzle)

The presence of a woman on that year’s  G.O.P. team may have somewhat mitigated the high level of attention usually focused on the spouse of the presidential candidate.

Cindy McCain was depicted in the context of recent Republican First Ladies on this 2008 button.

Cindy McCain was depicted in the context of recent Republican First Ladies on this 2008 button.

Although Cindy McCain addressed the convention that nominated her husband, successfully managed one of the nation’s largest beer distributorship, acknowledged her earlier addiction and illegal obtaining of painkillers, had an earlier career as a special education teacher, a topic on which she authored a book, and led multiple international relief efforts, she was invariably depicted as a traditional political spouse.

One unusual pin that year placed her in the context of previous Republican First Ladies going back to Pat Nixon.

A 2012 Ann Romney button.

A 2012 Ann Romney button.

In this regard, the next Republican presidential nominee’s spouse, Ann Romney, was similarly perceived – despite the tact that she had led a radically different life, primarily a stay-at-home mother to her five sons.

The many hairstyles of Michelle Obama was celebrated in this 2012 button.

The many hairstyles of Michelle Obama was celebrated in this 2012 button.

Consequently, there were no campaign items, buttons or otherwise, that sought to portray Ann Romney as being anything other than a traditional political spouse, and the slogans of those items that were struck with her image employed the by-now predictable formats.

In dramatic contrast was the persona of incumbent First Lady Michelle Obama.

In 2012, the popular incumbent First Lady Michelle Obama was shown as a Lady Columbia figure, sowing seeds of growth and change of the various social projects she undertook, as highliighted atop the button. (ebay)

In 2012, the popular incumbent First Lady Michelle Obama was shown as a Lady Columbia figure, sowing seeds of growth and change of the various social projects she undertook, as highliighted atop the button. (ebay)

As her husband pursued his 2012 campaign for a second term, Mrs. Obama enjoyed a soaring popularity due to her four years as a highly visible public figure in her own right, a status that was the result of her numerous projects and media focus on her evolving style in appearance.

Of far greater consequence than her clothing and hair styles, were the several public service endeavors she had undertaken as First Lady, one Mrs. Obama’s

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A 1996 anti-Clinton button critical of Hillary Clinton’s overt political role as First Lady. (ebay)

(This is the eighth in an original ten-part series being run exclusively on the National First Ladies’ Library website blog on the history of presidential candidates’ spouses being used as campaign symbols. If any of this information is used, you must credit the NFLL Blog. If the images are used please credit the NFLL and the original publisher as listed)

The 1992 presidential election introduced a person who would come to figure in nearly all of those that would follow.

Pins from the Democratic presidential primaries invariably depicted Hillary Clinton in her headband, symbolic of her busy life as both a political spouse and professional attorney. (private collection)

Pins from the Democratic presidential primaries invariably depicted Hillary Clinton in her headband, symbolic of her busy life as both a political spouse and professional attorney. (private collection)

Hillary Clinton first became known to American voters that year as the wife of the Democratic presidential candidate, former Arkansas governor Bill Clinton.

A quarter of a century later, she would be the leading Democratic candidate during the primary season for the presidential nomination in her own right.

Hillary Clinton’s advocacy for children’s rights was referenced in this 1992 pin showing the Clintons as political partners. (ebay)

Early in the 1992 state primary races, Hillary Clinton was thrust into the election year news when her professional career as an attorney was raised during a debate by former California governor Jerry Brown, one of her husband’s Democratic opponents. Clinton shortly after said a vote for him would give Americans “two for one” serving as president.

Her professional life, seemingly symbolized by her then-ubiquitous headband, made her a very different type of potential presidential spouse for the public.

Barbara Bush pin, 1992 (loriferber.com)

Barbara Bush pin, 1992 (loriferber.com)

The leading cause with which she was already associated was advocacy on behalf of children’s protective rights, a fact reflected in at least one campaign pin depicting her in the “team” style with her spouse, as had been used since the very first use of a spouse – the 1856 envelope cover of John and Jessie Fremont.

The phrase “family values” had come to dominate the political landscape by 1992, and was used most frequently in reference to incumbent President George Bush, then seeking re-election with Clinton as his opponent,  and First Lady Barbara Bush.

In 1992 the Republican motion of "Family Values," dominated the campaign and was used on this joint George and Barbara Bush button. (ebay)

In 1992 the Republican motion of “Family Values,” dominated the campaign and was used on this joint George and Barbara Bush button. (ebay)

It was used on at least one pin back to pointedly differentiate the implication that “family values” were not reflected by the Democratic candidate and his spouse.

Mrs. Bush was to play a central role in counteracting the increasingly narrow definition of “family values” when she delivered her 1992 Republican National Convention speech by giving examples of wider definitions of “family” for both the delegates and the viewing television audience.

Barbara Bush between her husband and Dan Quayle on a regional button. (ebay)

Barbara Bush between her husband and Dan Quayle on a regional button. (ebay)

For the first time, buttons in favor of an incumbent President’s winning of a second term appeared with the exhortation to keep the “First Family” in the White House, depicting the Bushes together.

And, for the first time since the 1888 poster placing Frances Cleveland between her husband and his vice presidential running mate on a poster, the extremely popular Barbara Bush was placed at the center of images of her husband and his vice presidential running mate, Dan Quayle.

A button touting the First Lady's best known policy effort in a bid for her husband's 1996 re-election. (ebay)

A button touting the First Lady’s best known policy effort in a bid for her husband’s 1996 re-election. (ebay)

With Clinton’s victory and first term as President, Hillary Clinton proved to be not only the greatest activist First Lady since Eleanor Roosevelt, but highly controversial for her overt role in policy.

A 1996 button favoring the politically outspoken incumbent First Lady for a second term in that position. (ebay)

A 1996 button favoring the politically outspoken incumbent First Lady for a second term in that position. (ebay)

Just days after the 1993 Inauguration, President Clinton had tasked his wife with the responsibility of managing the new Administration’s intention to reform health care coverage.

As the effort ensued, political opponents began to make the most of her taking charge of such an important factor of national life, despite not being elected to any federal position but essentially being “appointed” (without salary or Senate confirmation) by the President.

On the other hand, there were many who would come to especially support Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign because the First Lady was so active and made no apologies for the advice she provided and initiatives she espoused.

A 1996 button touting Hillary Clinton's overt political role. (ebay)

A 1996 button touting Hillary Clinton’s overt political role. (ebay)

Thus, much like the pro- and anti- pinback buttons that were struck in 1984 relating to Nancy Reagan, a range of support and opposition to Bill Clinton’s 1996 campaign was reflected in the slogans appearing on Hillary Clinton buttons that year.

1996 dole

This button more overtly suggested Elizabeth Dole’s professional experience as part of a political team. (ebay)

That year’s Republican presidential candidate’s spouse was herself highly political and unprecedented in that she had not only once “ran” as a vice presidential candidate’s spouse (her husband had been on the 1976 Republican ticket with Gerald Ford) but as a Cabinet member.

There were no pinbacks that marked Elizabeth Dole’s unusual status; those buttons using her image were of the type that were now all too predictable.

Bob Dole Eleanor Roosevelt Hillary Clinton 1996. (ebay)

Bob Dole Eleanor Roosevelt Hillary Clinton 1996. (ebay)

One rather convoluted button that year made reference to Hillary Clinton’s disclosure that she had been having “conversations” with the ghost of Eleanor Roosevelt about how to conduct herself as First Lady, really just musings on how her legendary predecessor had faced criticism for her activism. It was referenced on a pro-Dole button in 1996.

More interesting were the ones made four years later.

dole 2000

An Elizabeth Dole for President button, from  2000 in a heart-shape that could easily be mistaken for a First Lady button. (ebay)

In four years, Elizabeth Dole went from being the spouse of a presidential candidate to a presidential candidate herself, albeit just in the Republican primaries of 2000.

It was also an unusual year for the woman who was the outgoing First Lady.

A button from the first campaign electing a First Lady to public office. (private collection)

In 2000, Hillary Clinton again appeared on campaign buttons. This time, it wasn’t for a presidential election but for her own race as the Democratic candidate as the U.S. Senator from New York.

Perhaps because Hillary Clinton had become such an unusually high-profile world figure in her own right by that time, her persona and Senate race seems to have overshadowed the spouses of that year’s two presidential nominees’ spouses, Tipper Gore, wife of the incumbent Vice President, and Laura Bush, wife of the Governor of Texas, who was also the son of the former President.

This Laura Bush button had a subtle message suggesting she would be a traditional First Lady after Hillary Clinton having been an activist one. (private collection)

Although Laura Bush had been a teacher and librarian, and even made reference to her previous work in her 2000 Republican National Convention speech, and Tipper Gore had been active in mental health policy and had previously worked on limiting provocative rock lyrics, buttons showing both women made no reference to any of this.

"The Kiss" square button of the Gores. (ebay)

“The Kiss” square button of the Gores. (ebay)

One button that was out of the norm made reference to the famously lengthy kiss between the Gores made on the podium of the National Democratic Convention that year.

"...Put On Your Pearls, Girls for Barbara Bush," button honoring the former First Lady at a campaign event days before her son was elected President. (bonanza.com)

“…Put On Your Pearls, Girls for Barbara Bush,” button honoring the former First Lady at a campaign event days before her son was elected President. (bonanza.com)

The women involved in national politics depicted on campaign buttons that election year was as wide a range as there had ever been: spouses of political leaders who would seek office themselves, spouses who would not, and one of the only two women in history to be the spouse of a successful candidate, and mother to another.

Certainly one of the most amusing buttons to be produced that year was of former First Lady Barbara Bush, made for one of her appearances at an event on behalf of her son George W.’s campaign. It didn’t reference policy but her famous pearls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A 1984 Reaan re-election button referencing the First Lady Nancy Reagan's famous project. (ebay)

A 1984 Reaan re-election button referencing the First Lady Nancy Reagan’s famous “Just Say No!” project. (ebay)

(This is a seventh in an original ten-part series being run exclusively on the National First Ladies’ Library website blog on the history of presidential candidates’ spouses being used as campaign symbols. If any of this information is used, you must credit the NFLL Blog. If the images are used please credit the NFLL and the original publisher as listed)

Perhaps no candidate’s spouse underwent a more dramatic shift in the public perception of their image in a four year period than did Nancy Reagan.

A pro-Reagan button depicting the First Couple (etsy.com)

A pro-Reagan button depicting the First Couple (etsy.com)

When her husband first ran for President in 1980, Mrs. Reagan was perceived as only a devotedly supportive partner to her husband.

Certainly that was one of her roles that did remain consistent and was reflected in at least one known 1984 campaign button, showing them as President and First Lady.

A 1984 Nancy button. (ronwade.freeservers.com)

A 1984 Nancy button. (ronwade.com)

Four years later, however, her overall public persona had radically changed. She had developed her own public image, and appeared more often on buttons by herself.

Among her husband’s supporters, the more popular types of buttons showed her as a smiling First Lady.

There appeared that year for the first time, simple portraits of candidate spouses, framed by vines of flowers on oblong-shaped buttons.

The 1984 oblong portrait button of Nancy Reagan was the first of its kind to appear in an election. year. (ebay)

The 1984 oblong portrait button of Nancy Reagan was the first of its kind to appear in an election. year. (ebay)

Although popular not only with her husband’s supporters as well as a large percentage of the nation that viewed her less through a partisan lens and more as a national symbol, she was also the first candidate’s spouse since Lady Bird Johnson in 1964 to be used against as a symbol in opposition to her husband’s election.

A 1984 anti-Reagan button referencing Nancy Reagan's designer clothing. (ronwade.freeservers.com)

A 1984 anti-Reagan button referencing Nancy Reagan’s designer clothing. (ronwade.freeservers)

Through the 1981 recession, her redecorating of the White House, acceptance of gowns from designers, and return to a formal entertaining style had led to the political caricature of her as “Queen Nancy.”

Although much of that had subsided by the time President Reagan was seeking his second term in 1984, there was enough of the caricature lingering to appear in on least one anti-Reagan campaign button and numerous postcards printed that year.

Beginning in 1982, she worked assiduously on an area of public crisis and of longtime personal interest to her, preventing the initial use and continued experimentation of illicit drugs.

During a visit to a California school, she responded to a student’s question about how to respond to offers of drugs by quipping, “Just say no!”

An anti-Reagan button using the international symbol for "no." (private collection)

An anti-Reagan button using the international symbol for “no.” (private collection)

The phrase was soon adopted as the name for her efforts, and rapidly became a catch-phrase of the mid-1980s.

This 1984 caricature button critical of Nancy Reagan for her White House style. (ebay)

This 1984 caricature button critical of Nancy Reagan for her White House style. (ebay)

While there were recycled versions in 1984 of the ubiquitous “Ron and Nancy” buttons from 1980, there re-emerged in an even more pointedly new genre of presidential spouses on campaign spouses that used them to attack the candidate

At the 1984 Democratic National Convention, speaker Jesse Jackson satirized Mrs. Reagan’s “just say no” expression and soon enough buttons appeared in reference to his remarks. One included a smiling picture of the First Lady with the international sign for “no” across the image.

A negative 1984 button in reference to Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" endeavor. (ebay)

A negative 1984 button in reference to Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” endeavor. (ebay)

At that year’s National Democratic Convention, history was made when the first woman was chosen to headline a ticket.

After former Vice President Walter Mondale won the presidential nomination, former Vice President Walter Mondale chose U.S. Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro of New York as his vice presidential running mate.

Thus, an entirely new type of woman appeared on presidential  campaign buttons that year – as candidates in their own right.

A solo Ferraro button. (11man.com)

A solo Ferraro button. (11man.com)

Along with the individual facial depictions of Ferraro on buttons, she was often paired with Mondale as part of the political team.

Ferraro was the first woman on a national presidential ticket. (ebay)

Ferraro was the first woman on a national presidential ticket. (ebay)

There was also one that used a derogatory reference to her anatomy as a woman, paired with the rhyming nickname of the presidential candidate.

Whether it was worn by supporters or sarcastic detractors in unclear.

Evidence can only be anecdotal at best as to whether the relative obscurity of campaign buttons that year depicting Joan Mondale, the presidential candidate’s spouse, either in solo or paired with her husband was in reaction to Walter Mondale being paired with a different woman, his running mate Ferraro, on dozens and dozens of different designs with different slogans.

Joan Mondale appeared on only one known button, as a partner to her husband. (amres.com)

Joan Mondale appeared on only one known button, as a partner to her husband. (amres.com)

In fact, it seems that Mrs. Mondale was depicted in campaign pins in partnership with her husband and not alone, a curious development since she had served as Second Lady from 1977 to 1981 and had something of an independent public persona.

First of its kind, a 1981 Inauguration button, depicting the victorious candidates spouses - without their husbands.  (pinterest)

First of its kind, a 1981 Inauguration button, depicting the victorious candidates spouses – without their husbands. (pinterest)

During the January 20, 1981 Inauguration, a new type of button had first appeared, this time depicting not the two figures who had been elected as the President and Vice President but rather their spouses, Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush.

It was an unusual introduction to being seen on a button for the image of Barbara Bush.

The 1988 presidential election pitted the incumbent Vice President George Bush as the Republican candidates against Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis as the Democratic candidate.

Neither of their spouses, however, appeared on much campaign memorabilia in any context suggesting their individuality.

Mrs. Bush's role as family matriarch was referenced in this 1988 button. (private collection)

Mrs. Bush’s role as family matriarch was referenced in this 1988 button. (private collection)

A cameo pin of Barbara Bush, 1988. (private collection)

A cameo pin of Barbara Bush, 1988. (private collection)

There was a re-appearance of the flower portrait image button, this time with Barbara Bush. And there was also another oblong-shaped one of her, in her formal photo portrait as Vice President’s spouse, almost seeming to have been marketed to be worn as an actual cameo pin.

One Barbara Bush pinback did seem to reference her in a more individual context, using the phrase “First Mama,” perhaps due to the emphasis placed that year on her as matriarch over five adult children and nearly a dozen grandchildren, a conscious bit of advertising devised by husband’s campaign managers, contrasting the Bushes with the Reagans.

It may, however, have simply been a recycled idea from the 1976 one that used the same slogan in reference to Betty Ford.

A straightforward Kitty Dukakis button, 1988. (ebay)

A straightforward Kitty Dukakis button, 1988. (ebay)

Although the Democratic candidate’s spouse Kitty Dukakis had been an activist First Lady of Massachusetts and publicly disclosed her own struggle with prescription painkillers and alcohol, there seems to have been nothing manufactured referencing either aspect in the few items made with her image that year.

There seems to have been no buttons struck depicting either of that year’s vice presidential candidates’ spouses, Marilyn Quayle or Beryl Ann Bentsen.

If the 1988 presidential campaigns seemed to offer a dearth of items referencing the candidates’ spouses, that would radically change during the next two cycles, 1992 and 1996.

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The 1976 campaign of President Ford to win his own full term was supported, in part, by not only liberal Republicans but Independents ands Democrats who were ardent defenders of Betty Ford's political views. (ebay)

The 1976 campaign of President Ford to win his own full term was supported, in part, by not only liberal Republicans but Independents ands Democrats who were ardent defenders of Betty Ford’s political views. (ebay)

(This is a sixth in an original ten-part series being run exclusively on the National First Ladies’ Library website blog on the history of presidential candidates’ spouses being used as campaign symbols. If any of this information is used, you must credit the NFLL Blog. If the images are used please credit the NFLL and the original publisher as listed)The presidential election of 1976 converged with the nation’s Bicentennial celebration as well as a push for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Refreshingly frank Betty Ford was a potent figure in her husband's 1976 campaign. (ebay)

Refreshingly frank Betty Ford was a potent figure in her husband’s 1976 campaign. (ebay)

Abigail Adams 1976 pin. (private collection)

Abigail Adams 1976 pin. (private collection)

In campaign remarks she made that year to help her husband President Gerald Ford (who inherited the presidency upon Nixon’s resignation), win the Republican primaries, incumbent First Lady Betty Ford often made reference to Abigail Adams.

The second First Lady, a fellow feminist and a Bicentennial heroine even appeared on a button sold among those of Mrs. Ford at that summer’s Republican convention – even though her long-dead husband had not run for president in nearly two centuries.

The Ford poster. (GRFL)

The Ford poster. (GRFL)

Still, the spirit of feminism as well as timely women’s issues were a central part of the 1976 election, addressed not only by the candidates of the two major party candidates, but their spouses as well. It was a year where even though they were “just wives,” political spouses regularly began addressing the serious issues of the campaign and were now expected to respond to overt, even sharp political issues.

This button references Betty Ford's CB "handle" (nickname). (ebay)

This button references Betty Ford’s CB “handle” (nickname). (ebay)

A great part of what was advanced by his campaign as a key element of President Ford’s character was his simple honesty.

Her persona became an important part of Ford’s overall campaign and for the first time in a presidential race, a spouse was featured on large campaign posters with the candidate.

Nothing more personally and dramatically illustrated this to the nation than Betty Ford’s disclosing that she had breast cancer. Mrs. Ford’s decision had an astoundingly immediate affect on millions of American families, overnight breaking a taboo on even the open discussion of what could become deadly without early detection and treatment. It created a unique constituency for this wife of a Republican President, reaching across all demographics and political sensibilities.

Matchbooks were made with the slogan "Best Fitted for the Office: Betty for First Lady," in 1976. (pinterest)

Matchbooks with the slogan “Best Fitted for the Office: Betty for First Lady ’76.”(ebay)

An odd Ford button: pro-her, anti-him. (ebay)

An odd Ford button: pro-her, anti-him. (ebay)

Betty Ford also made no apologies for attempting to influence the President to support gender equity issues, even if her views on several specific and controversial matters, such as abortion and couples co-habitating without being married, proved to be more in alignment with Democrats and liberals of both parties. In fact, as the campaign unfolded, it create a curious disconnect among voters.

There were liberals and Democrats who supported Ford because of his wife’s views – and conservatives and Republicans who opposed him because of his wife’s views. Supporters might wear the popular “Vote For Betty’s Husband” buttons (see the lead image), while foes were likely to don the, “Betty Yes! Jerry No!” button.

Mrs. Ford also served as a symbol of a growing schism within her party, representing the more established wing that was liberal on social issues.

Even though the convention had not yet taken place, one rare campaign button from the 1976 Republican primaries declared, "Nancy Reagan for First Lady." (private collection)

Even though the convention had not yet taken place, one rare campaign button from the 1976 Republican primaries declared, “Nancy Reagan for First Lady.” (private collection)

During the primaries, President Ford was seriously challenged by former California Governor Ronald Reagan. His wife Nancy did not hesitate to point out her strikingly different and more conservative social views, mirroring those of her husband and his wing of the party.

Reagan came close but did not take the nomination from Ford, yet perhaps as a sign of how serious a challenge he appeared to be during the primaries, there was an optimistic button made before the convention exhorting voters, “Nancy Reagan for First Lady.”

Like the Republican candidate’s spouse that year, for the first time a Democratic candidate’s spouse was also featured on a piece of campaign ephemera during that year’s primary season, rather than the general election.

A 1976 presidential primary campaign button in favor of LaDonna Harris, a Native American rights activist, and wife of a candidate that year. (pinterest)

A 1976 presidential primary campaign button in favor of LaDonna Harris, a Native American rights activist, and wife of a candidate that year. (pinterest)

During what was his second attempt to win the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976, former US Senator Fred Harris of Oklahoma, a button was made declaring, “LaDonna Harris for First Lady.”

The spouse of the Democratic presidential candidate that year would prove to be just as liberal on women’s issues as Betty Ford, but was comparatively unknown to the public as a former Georgia governor’s wife – compared to a First Lady who made national headlines for what she said. Consequentially, there was a limited number of items

76

One of several versions of a “Rosalynn Carter for First Lady in ’76″ campaign buttons made in the official colors of the Carter campaign. (ebay)

It’s unclear whether the Carter campaign officially sanctioned the buttons that were created with pictures of Rosalynn.

It does not appear so, but a button that was notable for any of the familiar red-white-and-blue touches, but rather green was issued called for her to be First Lady.

Green and white, rather than any variation on the national tricolors were the official brand colors of the Carter campaign and a dramatic departure from all previous presidential campaigns.

Despite being relatively unfamiliar to the public in 1976, this button made simple use of Rosalyn Carter's facial image to convey support for her husband's presidential bid. (ebay)

This button used Mrs. Carter’s facial image without further identification of her. (ebay)

Judging by the size, font and plain design it appears that a non-partian company manufactured it since a matching one in red was also issued at the same time, with Betty Ford.

There were few other campaign buttons made of Mrs. Carter in 1976, nor were there many with distinct slogans referencing her honest disclosure of how involved she had been in her husband’s gubernatorial career and the early stages of his successful presidential campaign. There were two notable exceptions, however.

1976 Rosalynn Carter and Joan Mondale

1976 Rosalynn Carter and Joan Mondale button. (private collection)

The public had a relative unfamiliarity with Rosalynn Carter at the start of the 1976 presidential primaries and early main campaign.

As her husband’s campaign moved on from the nominating convention, however, her activism and ubiquitous presence in the media and on the road later that summer and all through the fall made her immediately recognizable. So much so that in the weeks before Election Day there appeared a new campaign button, in blue, black and white, that used her image without mentioning her name.

A 1980 Carter reelection campaign button using the First Lady. (private collection)

A 1980 reelection button using the First Lady. (private collection)

One other unusual button appeared that summer, using the rare combination of the spouses of both the presidential and vice-presidential candidates, Rosalynn Carter along with Joan Mondale.

During the 1980 Carter re-election campaign, there were relatively few buttons using the incumbent First Lady. Another one using the Carter campaign’s signature green color appeared, this time.

Unlike 1976, when Ronald Reagan sought the 1980 Republican presidential nomination, he won it handily.

While the legendary romance between Nancy Reagan and her husband was always at the root of their relationship, theirs was also as joint a partnership as Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

The Reagans began appearing jointly on campaign pins early on, during the primaries and through the general election. (historyteacher.net, ebay, ronwade, campaignbuttons-etc.com)

The Reagans began appearing jointly on campaign pins early on, during the primaries and through the general election. (historyteacher.net, ebay, ronwade, campaignbuttons-etc.com)

Mrs. Reagan’s presence was an important factor in reassuring him through difficult times, and through much of the winter and spring primary 1980 caucuses and races, they campaigned together.

Still, as a former Hollywood actress and governor’s spouse of a large and politically important state like California, Mrs. Reagan also developed a national profile rather independently from her husband. While she sought to humanize her husband with tender personal stories, she did not shy away from defending his views on any number of issues.

One button showed the Reagans co-starring in their only feature film together. (ebay)

One button showed the Reagans co-starring in their only feature film together. (ebay)

Consequently, there was a figurative avalanche of campaign pins in 1980 that depicted Nancy Reagan as part of a team with her husband, far more so than appearing on those alone.

There was at least one with the indelible image of the Reagans, both of them being film and television actors, their faces pressed affectionately against each other in a publicity still from their only co-starring feature film, Hellcats of the Navy.

While she always emphasized that she was disseminating his views when asked questions on controversial issues of the campaign, the perspective she presented was distinctly conservative, and often at variance with the views expressed four years earlier by the Republican presidential candidate’s spouse, then-incumbent Betty Ford.

In fact, to spell out the specific moral issues that she and her husband believed important to restore to the American culture and values, Nancy Reagan became the first presidential candidates’ spouse to release her memoirs.

The first memoir released during a presidential campaign by a candidate's spouse. (amres.com)

The first memoir released during a presidential campaign by a candidate’s spouse. (amres.com)

A move usually made by the candidates themselves, the book Nancy, also provided a rudimentary biography of her life up to the point of her husband’s 1980 campaign. Although the book was penned by ghostwriter Bill Libby, it was all based on taped interviews with Mrs. Reagan, in preparing for the campaign and she vetted the manuscript carefully before it was published, as did Mike Deaver, an important public relations adviser to the campaign and trusted friend to both of the Reagans.

It was only the second time in history that this was done, the first being the biography written about Ida McKinley in 1896. When the book’s first printing as a hardback, it visibly stood out in bookstores and airport gift shops because of its paper cover in bright green. As soon as a second printing, in paperback form was released, the cover had changed to a large photograph of Mrs. Reagan.

Neither for nor against Reagan, this 1980 button referenced the Republican candidate's first wife, actress Jane Wyman. (ebay)

The Jane Wyman button. (ebay)

Green, of course, was the branded color of the official Carter re-election campaign, as it had been of his first, 1976 campaign.

There were some other unusual pinback buttons struck that year. One of them was a sure seller for both those who supported Reagan against Carter – and those who supported Carter against Reagan.

On the top half of it was the slogan in black letters against a white background, “Jane Wyman Was Right.”

Turned upside down, it read instead in white letters against a black background, “Jane Wyman Was Wrong.”

Jane Wyman had been Ronald Reagan’s Academy Award-winning actress first wife, who had divorced him because she was disinterested in his growing interest in politics and drifting from acting.

The Brown-Ronstadt, button. (ebay)

The Brown-Ronstadt, button. (ebay)

There was one other unusual button from the 1980 campaign, on the Democratic side.

Briefly, the bachelor Governor of California Jerry Brown entered the Democratic presidential primaries, challenging President Carter. The button depicted him with his girlfriend at the time, rock singer Linda Ronstadt.

Living together unmarried, the governor and singer were reflecting a changing nation’s mores – and represented at least one belief shared by those who wore the novelty “Jerry & Linda in 1980″ campaign item.

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A large button handed out along the route through southern states welcoming Lady Bird Johnson's campaign train. (ebay)

A large button handed out along the route through southern states welcoming Lady Bird Johnson’s campaign train. (ebay)

(This is a fifth in an original ten-part series being run exclusively on the National First Ladies’ Library website blog on the history of presidential candidates’ spouses being used as campaign symbols. If any of this information is used, you must credit the NFLL Blog. If the images are used please credit the NFLL and the original publisher as listed)

If the 1952 presidential election had established the public visibility and familiarity with candidates’ spouses by their presence on the gewgaws and souvenirs that mark every one of the quadrennial races, the 1964 one opened up a chance for them to have a voice of political meaning.

A postcard outlining the itinerary schedule of the  1964 Lady Bird Special.

A postcard outlining the itinerary schedule of the 1964 Lady Bird Special. (ebay)

Inheriting her position when her husband succeeded to the presidency following the assassination of President Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson had been the incumbent First Lady for only nine months by the time LBJ was nominated as the Democratic presidential candidate in 1964.

Starting on October 6, 1964, Mrs. Johnson began a journey of over a thousand and a half miles, through eight southern states for four days on an old-fashioned whistle-stop campaign train, with about fifty stops for speeches.

A whistle giveaway from Lady Bird Johnson's solo campaign tour by plane in late October 1964; a smilier one was given away during her train tour. l

A whistle giveaway from Lady Bird Johnson’s solo campaign tour by plane in late October 1964; a smilier one was given away during her train tour.  (ebay)

A matchbook with the color and logo of the Lady Bird Special was also handed out along the journey.

A Lady Bird Special matchbook. (ebay)

It was dubbed “The Lady Bird Special,” and undertaken just four months after her husband had signed the Civil Rights Act, a move that threatened to alienate many white southerners who had traditionally voted Democratic.

A racist anti-LBJ 1964 button, made reference to Lady Bird Johnson's touting the Civil Rights Act during her whistlestop tour of the south. (ebay)

A racist anti-LBJ 1964 button. (ebay)

The entire effort was branded, by her favorite color of yellow, with a cartoon symbol of a train, coordinated with napkins and placemats for food served to guests along the way, matchbooks, even whistles.

A supportive button made and likely worn during Lady Bird Johnson's campaign tour of the south. (ebay)

A supportive button  f Mrs. Johnson using an airline slogan. (ebay)

As expected, the First Lady was confronted by those southerners who opposed the progress of racial equality that the Johnson Administration law sought to enact.

One of the few 1964 presidential campaign buttons referencing Peggy Goldwater, wife of the Republican presidential candidate. (ebay)

One of the few 1964 presidential campaign buttons referencing Peggy Goldwater, wife of the Republican presidential candidate. (ebay)

Alongside campaign buttons playfully using her first name to forge some friendly slogans, there also appeared hostile ones that did likewise, such as “Fly Away Black Bird.”

On the other side of the aisle, there were also the expected campaign buttons promoting Peggy Goldwater for First Lady, the wife of the Republican presidential candidate, United States Senator from Arizona Barry Goldwater.

This campaign also led to the even most unusual version of the familiar First Lady button that had been appearing since the 1940 “race for First Lady” between Edith Wilkie and Eleanor Roosevelt.

This 1964 unusually paired the incumbent LBJs and their dogs.  (ebay)

This 1964 unusually paired the incumbent LBJs and their dogs. (ebay)

While there were those predictable buttons, this campaign year reading “Start Packing Lady Bird, the Goldwaters are Coming,” was the only pictorial version of it.

This one depicted the President and Mrs. Johnson with their two beagle dogs “Him” and “Her,” looking like dead ringers for the popular Charlie Brown cartoon strip dog “Snoopy.”

A Pat Nixon button during the 1968 primaries used her legal first name but proved too unfamiliar to voters. (private collection)

A Pat Nixon button during the 1968 primaries used her legal first name of “Thelma” but proved too unfamiliar to voters. (ebay)

The year 1968 was a watershed in so many aspects of national life, most especially in terms of the women’s movement for equal rights in all aspects of American life.

Certainly, it was a turning point in terms of the public perceptions of the spouses of the two major party presidential candidates that year, Pat Nixon and Muriel Humphrey.

Although both women would be viewed by the general public as the quintessentially traditional political wives, in reality their stories were as much in line with the feminist ideal.

Pat Nixon's appearance had changed from the 1960 campaign (left) to the one in 1968 (right). (private collection)

Pat Nixon’s appearance had changed from the 1960 campaign (left) to the one in 1968 (right). (private collection)

Mrs. Nixon had worked in a series of professions, supporting herself even after her marriage and the first incumbent First Lady to publicly support the Equal Rights Amendment, the pro-choice Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision and a woman on the Supreme Court.

Muriel Humphrey would go on to serve as a United States Senator from Minnesota, completing her late husband’s term.

Pat Nixon was featured as a partner on this 1968 button. (ebay)

Pat Nixon was featured as a partner on this 1968 button. (ebay)

Still nothing better illustrated how traditionally both women were “sold” in the 1968 campaign than the recipes issued by the official campaign publicity departments.

Pat Nixon's meatloaf recipe for "More" was distributed on paper door-hangers. (carlanthonyonline.com)

Pat Nixon’s recipe for was distributed as door-hangers. carlanthonyonline

Pat Nixon’s was a “door-hanger,” a printed recipe on a card with a hole at the top, allowing it to be placed on a front door handle when a Nixon campaign worker came across a home where the resident didn’t answer the door.

Muriel Humphrey’s was a printed card with a soup recipe, as well as a printed booklet of her family’s favorite dishes.

Muriel Humphrey's meatloaf recipe from a campaign booklet of her family favorites. (Duke University)

Muriel Humphrey’s meatloaf recipe from a campaign booklet of her family favorites. (Duke University)

Even the actual recipes of both Mrs. Nixon and Mrs. Humphrey were the sort of economical homey standards that any middle-class housewife managing the grocery budget could afford.

The well-organized “Pat for First Lady” endeavor of the 1960 Nixon campaign was not repeated. Nor were any of the surplus of “Pat For First Lady” buttons used. During the ensuing years Mrs. Nixon had changed her hairstyle into one more reflective of the late Sixties rather than the late Fifties.

A 1968 Humphrey campaign button made play on a popular TV commercial slogan for Muriel cigars. (private collection)

A 1968 Humphrey campaign button made play on a popular TV commercial slogan for Muriel cigars. (private collection)

During the early primary campaign, there were even some buttons released using her legal first name of “Thelma” but these were discontinued, the public being familiar with her “brand” as half of the well-touted “Dick and Pat” team.

A Muriel Humphrey pictorial button made by the same company that made one of Pat Nixon (see above). (ebay)

A Muriel Humphrey button made by the same company that made one of Pat Nixon (see above). (ebay)

Much like 1964′s “Fly With Lady Bird” played on an airline television commercial slogan, a 1968 button in support of Vice President Hubert Humphrey as the Democratic presidential candidate was issued by referencing Mrs. Humphrey with a play on words of a popular television commercial at the time for cigars with a brand name that was the same as her first name.

Four years later, when President Richard Nixon was seeking re-election, polls showed an overwhelming support for him over his Democratic rival United States Senator George McGovern, despite the growing Watergate scandal and a massing anger about the United States’s lingering presence in the Vietnam conflict.

In 1972, as usual, there were far less buttons issued for an incumbent First Lady whose husband was seeking a second term and there were few made of Pat Nixon.

A 1972 anti-Nixon  utton used a play on words of Mrs. Nixon’s first name (ebay)

Eleanor McGovern's name was put to good use by referencing the legendary Democratic First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. (ronwade.com)

Eleanor McGovern’s name was put to good use by referencing the legendary Democratic First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. (ronwade.com)

Like the 1940 anger at President Roosevelt’s seeking a third term and his New Deal policies being vented at Eleanor Roosevelt on buttons, and the 1964 resentment of President Johnson in the south for his signing the Civil Rights Act being expressed at buttons disparaging Lady Bird Johnson, there appeared a similar one expressing anger at President Nixon for his Vietnam policy that made play with the First Lady’s name.

However small a percentage there were of those who thought Nixon should not be renominated as the Republican’s candidate, seemingly for his failure to end US involvement in Vietnam, one of his 1968 campaign promises, was a button showing a nuclear mushroom cloud that read, “The Nation Can’t Stand Pat! Dump Nixon!

Democratic candidate McGovern represented the more liberal wing of his party, and the first name of his wife proved too irresistible for supporters who also held former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt up as a legendary heroine of the party. It led to the amusing 1972 campaign button that read, “Another Eleanor in the White House.”

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The 1952 Republican presidential ticket featured a button that, for the first time, showed the spouses of both the presidential and vice-presidential candidates together, Mamie Eisenhower and Pat Nixon. (ebay)

The 1952 Republican presidential ticket featured a button that, for the first time, showed the spouses of both the presidential and vice-presidential candidates together, Mamie Eisenhower and Pat Nixon. (ebay)

(This is a fourth in an original ten-part series being run exclusively on the National First Ladies’ Library website blog on the history of presidential candidates’ spouses being used as campaign symbols. If any of this information is used, you must credit the NFLL Blog. If the images are used please credit the NFLL and the original publisher as listed)

The 1952 presidential campaign of Republican candidate and legendary four-star general who had led Allied Forces to victory, Dwight D. Eisenhower occurred in the postwar era when women were encouraged to “return to the home” after participating in the wartime workforce.

The 1952 Eisenhower campaign created the first systematic effort to draw women into the party (original source unknown)

The 1952 Eisenhower campaign created the first systematic effort to draw women into the party (original source unknown)

The candidate himself was married to a woman who, publicly at least, strictly confined her role to managing their home life rather than be a partner in his political life. Despite these facts, the 1952 Eisenhower campaign was the turning point in terms of identifying and targeting American women as a powerful voting bloc and coaxing them out of their homes to organize local, volunteer Republican clubs and get out to the polls on Election Day.

One of the few Mamie Eisenhower buttons that used her face. (ebay)

One of the few Mamie Eisenhower buttons that used her face. (ebay)

Political strategists working with a strong sense of marketing came to early on identify the 1950s housewife as an important but neglected demographic in terms of potential political and economic power. Whether or not married American women were working or supported by their husbands, did or didn’t have children, owned or rented their home, the fact was that they made most of the financial decisions of their households. A specific and, as the election proved, successful appeal made by the Eisenhower campaign was the cost of living, which had risen under the Democratic presidency of Harry Truman. Further, President Truman’s commitment of American troops in the Korean conflict was identified as an issue of especially personal importance to most women voters.

The simple design of this 1952 button simply swapped her name for her husband's popular nickname but used the familiar slogan of his campaign. (pinterest)

The simple design of this 1952 button simply swapped her name for her husband’s popular nickname but used the familiar slogan of his campaign. (pinterest)

Essentially the Eisenhower campaign took on general issues then facing the nation and presenting them through a lens that spoke more directly to the perspective of American women than had any other previous presidential campaign. And it did so with Mamie Eisenhower as the friendly, smiling, eager face of target marketing.

For the first time, a presidential campaign officially sanctioned buttons using the name and face of the candidate’s spouse, even offering a slight but matching variation on its primary slogan of “I Like Ike,” with “We Want Mamie.” There would even be a sub-genre button made especially for those women with sons in the Korean War or who identified with Mrs. Eisenhower, who’s son John was fighting in the conflict, and was the doting grandmother to his three small children (a fourth was born during the Eisenhower Administration).

The largest button to that date supporting a candidate by touting his wife as First Lady. (Smithsonian)

The largest button to that date supporting a candidate by touting his wife as First Lady. (Smithsonian)

Two other factors favored the campaign’s effort to make Mamie Eisenhower a leading symbol.

In contrast to the warm and close Eisenhower family was the Democratic presidential candidate, Adlai Stevenson, who had been divorced some years earlier by his wife.

Ellen Stevenson did not help matters by telling the press that her husband’s devotion to his political career was the root of their problems and that she was going to be voting for Eisenhower.

Even Ike wore an "I Like Mamie" button, jumbo size. (carlanthonyonline.com)

Even Ike wore an “I Like Mamie” button, jumbo size. (carlanthonyonline.com)

Mrs. Stevenson claimed not to hold any grudge towards her ex-husband, nor did she believe there was any lingering resentment towards him that she felt, but she certainly only hurt his public image during the campaign.

Stevenson had a daughter-in-law who often appeared with him, telegraphing for the 1950s public the visual cue of an all-American family, but it did nothing to make up for him having no wife.

The other factor which boosted “Operation Mamie,” was the spouse of the Republican vice presidential candidate, Pat Nixon.

A wordless image of the popular First Lady was used in Eisenhower's 1956 re-election campaign. (ebay)

A wordless image of the popular First Lady was used in Eisenhower’s 1956 re-election campaign. (ebay)

Unlike Mrs. Eisenhower, Mrs. Nixon had come from a working-class background, worked to not only earn her own income when she was single, but also to obtain a college education. After earning her own income in a series of professions that included being a teacher, model, actress, hospital aide, and economist, she had been a volunteer who worked on all of her husband’s campaigns while also raising two small daughters.

A 1960 Pat Nixon pin and ribbon. (Smithsonian)

A 1960 Pat Nixon pin and ribbon. (Smithsonian)

Despite an age difference of nearly two decades, Mamie and Pat became friends almost immediately upon meeting, and with extraordinary vitality, the younger Mrs. Nixon maintained a grueling schedule of campaign appearances, giving women voters the face-t0-face experience of meeting and speaking with her personally.

A 1960 Pat Nixon car antenna flag. (ecrater.com)

A 1960 Pat Nixon car antenna flag. (ecrater.com)

Thus, her image was also appropriated for use, not only the first time a vice presidential candidate’s spouse was depicted on a campaign button (the lead image of this article), but the first time a woman in that position was paired with the presidential candidate’s spouse.

The 1956 Eisenhower-Nixon reelection campaign repeated some of the methods used to attract women voters but to a dramatically less degree, the power of incumbency carrying the victory – especially since Stevenson was again the Democratic presidential candidate.

Pat Nixon for First Lady nail files. (ebay)

Pat Nixon for First Lady nail files. (ebay)

Having been through the two preceding presidential elections, when Pat Nixon’s husband became the Republican nominee, she was perhaps better prepared than had any other previous presidential spouse for what to expect in a national campaign.

The 1960 Nixon campaign for the presidency not only used the 1952 strategy of appealing to women through the candidate’s spouse, but did so with greater organization and marketing tools.

The only known Jacqueline Kennedy campaign button. (ebay)

The only known Jacqueline Kennedy campaign button. (ebay)

There were “Pat for First Lady” car flags, emory boards, and buttons of every size and color. The campaign even organized a “Pat for First Lady Week,” set aside to focus on issues identified as being of especial concern to women voters.

A lapel pin of Jacqueline Kennedy made in Holland during the 1960 campaign but selling better during Kennedy state visits to Europe. (loriferber)

Jackie Kennedy lapel pin made in Holland during the campaign but selling best during Kennedy state visits to Europe. (loriferber)

On the Democratic side, despite the tremendous amount of media coverage given to Jacqueline Kennedy, there appeared only one campaign pin issued, it appears, from the official campaign advertisers.

Somewhat optimistically, it was labeled “America’s First Lady.”

Kennedy campaign advisers were especially sensitive about the candidate’s spouse. Starting with the primaries, the media had fixated on the unusually young woman’s elite life style, from her taste for expensive and sleek couture, favorite sport of fox hunting, the mansions of her mother and stepfather, and affinity for European vacations, as opposed to having travelled extensively through the United States as had Pat Nixon.

A special perfume was created for 1960 Democratic women voters named "Jacqueline." (ebay)

A special perfume was created for 1960 Democratic women voters named “Jacqueline.” (ebay)

None of it was especially promising in making her seem accessible to the average American voter. Thus, there was a conscious effort not to promote Jackie Kennedy as a campaign emblem.

Nevertheless, acting without the official sanction of the campaign, merchandisers supporting Kennedy for President produced a number of items for the women voters market, including a perfume named “Jacqueline,” and some jewelry pennants.

There was even a Dutch company that created stickpins with her name and picture that were sold in the United States during the campaign and enjoyed even greater sales once she became First Lady and made her first state visit with JFK to several European nations in the spring of 1961.

A homemade sign depicting Jackie Kennedy at a rally where her husband was speaking. (Life)

A homemade sign depicting Jackie Kennedy at a rally where her husband was speaking. (Life)

There was also no refraining the exuberant crowds who came out to see and hear the candidate at rallies across the country from expressing the appeal, rather than the aversion, that was beginning to develop for his wife,

Since she was pregnant, Jackie Kennedy was strongly advised not to undergo the physical rigor of getting out by train, car and plane where she would jostled by crowds.

Her absence, however, only seemed to increase a fascination with her.

The button slogan that would become a regular feature of presidential campaigns to come, simply with a changing of an incumbent First Lady's first name and the last name of the presidential candidate of the opposition party. (ebay)

The button slogan that would become a regular feature of presidential campaigns to come, simply with a changing of an incumbent First Lady’s first name and the last name of the presidential candidate of the opposition party. (ebay)

At several rallies, photographs show that the most enthusiastic of her admirers crafted homemade signs with her image, waving them as the appreciative JFK acknowledged the signs.

And, for the second time, the prompt for the incumbent First Lady of one political party to begin vacating the White House for the spouse of the presidential candidate of the opposition was issued: “Mamie Start Packing. The Kennedys Are Coming.”

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This 1940 pin was the first to use a quip that would reappear - with different names - in decades of campaigns ahead. (westward.com)

This 1940 pin was the first to use a quip that would reappear – with different names – in decades of campaigns ahead. (westward.com)

(This is a third in an original ten-part series being run exclusively on the National First Ladies’ Library website blog on the history of presidential candidates’ spouses being used as campaign symbols. If any of this information is used, you must credit the NFLL Blog. If the images are used please credit the NFLL and the original publisher as listed)

From the day Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated, on March 4, 1913, until the final half of his last of eight years in office, he and his family never entered or left the White House gates without seeing women in yellow, purple and white sashes holding up banners demanding that he support their right to vote.

A souvenir postcard made at the time of the Wilson marriage.

A souvenir postcard made at the time of the Wilson marriage.

Suffrage remained a dominant issue, even as Wilson sought a second term in 1916. That year, his wife was a subject of curiosity to crowds that gathered to hear his campaign speeches at his summer home, the estate Shadow Lawn, in New Jersey. Edith Bolling Galt Wilson was still considered the president’s bride, having just married him in December of 1915, when he was left widowed by the death of his first wife Ellen. The Wilson romance was a maturer one, between two adults who had both lost spouses. There was far less frenzy than there had been when Cleveland married the 21 year old college girl Frances in the White House in 1886. A souvenir postcard of their first appearance together after the engagement was announced, was printed to commemorate the wedding. Whatever degree of interest the public may have continued to have in the second Mrs. Wilson a year after the wedding, during the re-election, it did not loom long and large enough for her to figure prominently on any of the campaign items. None are known to have been made with the Republican candidate’s spouse, Antoinette (Mrs. Charles Evans) Hughes.

One Wilson 1916 re-election campaign item was made using the image of Edith Wilson, walking with her husband.

One Wilson 1916 re-election campaign item was made using the image of Edith Wilson, walking with her husband.

There was one button, using a photo showing the Wilsons walking together out of a conference, that was manufactured for the campaign, but it was not produced in large numbers and remains a rarity today. In August of 1920, as the husbands of Margaretta Cox and Florence Harding were running for president as the Democratic and Republican candidates,, the 19th Amendment was finally passed giving women the right to vote. The two women represented entirely different demographics, Mrs. Cox being an attractive young mother and Mrs. Harding, a grandmother and businesswoman, yet neither of them warranted enough public interest to find themselves used on campaign items. This was somewhat surprising in the case of Florence Harding, given that she was an overt feminist and had long declared her support of women’s suffrage.

One of the surviving paper parachutes dropped with the small sandbag, declaring "

One of the surviving paper parachutes dropped with the small sandbag, declaring “Richland County Wants America to Make Mrs. Warren G. Harding The First Lady of the Land.”

Until the final weeks of the election, the Harding campaign was conducted largely from the candidate’s own rambling front porch, in small-town Marion, Ohio. Delegations came to hear him speak, as well as any number of entertainment, political and other celebrities. Both Hardings were especially receptive to women’s groups, the passage of suffrage an inevitability by then. Curiously, none of the professional public relations directors of the campaign sought to make the natural connection between the millions of new American voters and Mrs. Harding. There was one unusual 1920 campaign item was made referencing Florence Harding.

Rickenbacker. (US Air Force)

Rickenbacker. (US Air Force)

During his visit to Marion that summer, the famous World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacher, a native of Columbus, Ohio, came to visit the Hardings. He did his part for the campaign by flying through several adjoining counties and dropping small red paper parachutes with small sandbags that carried a printed slogan that each of the counties wanted voters to “make Mrs. Warren G. Harding [t]he First Lady of the Land.”

Eleanor Roosevelt and Kate Smith at the 1924 Democratic National Convention. New York Daily News)

Eleanor Roosevelt and Kate Smith at the 1924 Democratic National Convention. New York Daily News)

Then came the longest stretch in presidential campaign history since the decades preceding the 1856 campaign images of Jessie Fremont with no references on amy items to any of the wives of the presidential candidates from either party: no Grace Coolidge or Ellen Davis in 1924, no Lou Hoover or Kate Smith in 1928, no Lou Hoover or Eleanor Roosevelt in 1932, no Eleanor Roosevelt or Theo Landon in 1936. Why there was a disappearance entirely of any campaign items featuring the spouses of presidential candidates for the next four election cycles is difficult to determine. It wasn’t hard to figure out why suddenly there was a return of candidates’ spouses on campaign items in 1940.

This 1940 anti-FDR pin replied to a rhetoric consideration of Eleanor Roosevelt with a saying that meant, "no way." learntoquestion.com)

This 1940 anti-FDR pin replied to a rhetoric consideration of Eleanor Roosevelt with a saying that meant, “no way.” learntoquestion.com)

In making is unapologetic bid for a third term as President, Franklin D. Roosevelt enraged those voters who had opposed his New Deal policies all through his first two terms. Seeking to quell disquiet within his own party and have convention delegates agree on his choice of Henry Wallace as his running mate, the President asked the First Lady to make the case for him at the Chicago convention.

Due to her own unprecedented words and deeds as a social activist First Lady, however, Mrs. Roosevelt had just as many political enemies, as her husband. The 1940 election led not only to an anomolous return to the use of candidates’ spouses on campaign items, but the first instance of the items cynically derisive.

The most popular of the anti-Eleanor Roosevelt 1940 campaign buttons. (ebay)

The most popular of the anti-Eleanor Roosevelt 1940 campaign buttons. (ebay)

From the same company that crystallized in a few words some sarcastic anti-third term quips, as well as swipes at the Roosevelt sons on charges of military favoritism also came the “Eleanor? No Soap!” campaign pin, and the more famous “We Don’t Want Eleanor Either!” one.

An ant-FDR 1940 campaign button critical of Eleanor Roosevelt's social policy work. (ebay)

An ant-FDR 1940 campaign button critical of Eleanor Roosevelt’s social policy work. (ebay)

A third campaign button critical of Mrs. Roosevelt, referencing the First Lady’s penchant for social reform projects funded by the federal government was simply titled “Project #UMP-000.” It pictured a simple wood outhouse, the implication being that she wasted taxpayer’s money on ridiculously simple “reforms” that were made unnecessarily expensive.

A 1940 button promoting Wendell Wilkie by using his wife Edith. (ebay)

A 1940 button promoting Wendell Wilkie by using his wife Edith. (ebay)

More simple and direct were the Republican Party campaign buttons that year using their candidate’s wife, Edith Wilkie. There were also postcards of Mrs. Wilkie distributed at the Republican Convention and also sold afterwards, until Election Day.

Postcards again appeared using a presidential campaign wives, with Edith Wilkie (antiquesnavigator.com)

Postcards again appeared using a presidential campaign wives, with Edith Wilkie (antiquesnavigator.com)

After 1940, however, there was again a period of no spouses being used as campaign symbols.

This 1940 pin was the first to use a quip that would reappear - with different names - in decades of campaigns ahead. (westward.com)

This 1940 pin was the first to use a quip that would reappear – with different names – in decades of campaigns ahead. (westward.com)

In 1944, with President Roosevelt leading the United States through the thick of World War II at the time of his unprecedented bid for a fourth term, and with Eleanor Roosevelt, a wartime role model more popular than she had been during the depression and especially beloved as an advocate of the nation’s serviceman, came a feeling of it being almost unpatriotic to attack him through her

.Nor did Frances Dewey, wife of that year’s Republican candidate, New York Governor Thomas Dewey, appear on any buttons or badges.

The same held true in 1948, when Frances Dewey “ran” against Bess Truman, wife of the incumbent Democratic president, seeking a term of his own.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Frances Cleveland button, her image set against a Kansas sunflower. (Columbus Dispatch/Eric Albrecht)

A Frances Cleveland button, her image set against a Kansas sunflower. (Columbus Dispatch/Eric Albrecht)

(This is a second in an original ten-part series being run exclusively on the National First Ladies’ Library website blog on the history of presidential candidates’ spouses being used as campaign symbols. If any of this information is used, you must credit the NFLL Blog. If the images are used please credit the NFLL and the original publisher as listed)

Considering how highly visible she would become as First Lady, there were surprisingly no badges, ribbons, buttons or other appropriated images of Lucy Hayes during her husband’s 1876 presidential campaign.

A cabinet card sold to the public of Liucy Hayes. While some sources list it as being made in 1880, thus during the campaign, it is known that she posed for the photographer who went only by the name of Mora, in 1877, when she was Firstr Lady. (pinterest)

A cabinet card sold to the public of Liucy Hayes. While some sources list it as being made in 1880, thus during the campaign, it is known that she posed for the photographer who went only by the name of Mora, in 1877, when she was Firstr Lady. (pinterest)

It may have been simply due to the fact that, at least during the election season awareness of Mrs. Hayes and the rare fact that she achieved a college education and took an active role outside the home in statewide charitable institutions was confined largely to Ohio.

At one point during her White House years, there was a composite family portrait made and sold to the public, showing the President, his wife and their children, in the same larger engraving format intended for wall framing as had been done with the Lincolns and the Grants during the Civil War.

With her husband’s 1880 campaign being conducted from the front porch of the family’s farmhouse in Mentor, Ohio, Lucretia Garfield seemed to have unwittingly earned a somewhat larger public profile.

Edith Mayo, a former Smithsonian curator of political history recalled that Mrs. Garfield had been depicted on a smaller-size campaign poster promoting her husband’s candidacy.

There were also printed cards made in matching pairs of James Garfield and his wife sold to the public during the campaign, a mark of technological advance from the days where carte-de-visite cards were the only available format.

The matching 1880 campaign cabinet cards of the Garfields. (bidsquare.com)

The matching 1880 campaign cabinet cards of the Garfields. (bidsquare.com)

Larger in size and more durable, they were known as cabinet cards. The twin Garfield cards continued to be printed and sold after his election and inauguration.

Shortly after Garfield won the nomination, chromolithographer Louis Kurz, an Austrian immigrant who served in the Civil War, established with his financing partner Alexander Allison the Chicago firm of Kurz and Allison.

Although he sought to capitalize on nostalgia among aging veterans by creating famous battle scenes, he also acted quickly to produce the first of his famous series of scenes showing famous figures and their families.

Using released images of candidate Garfield, his wife and his elderly mother, Kurz crafed a composite image posing them as if they were all together, around the proverbial hearth of home.

The first of four Garfield lithographs by Kurz and Allison. (Library of Congress)

The first of four Garfield lithographs by Kurz and Allison. (Library of Congress)

The print was sold as a campaign item among Republican loyalists.

At some point before Election Day, he made a second one, larger and more elaborate which showed the trio along with the five children of the candidate.

Kurz would go on to do two more Garfield family lithographs for framing and hanging on the walls of American homes.

The second Garfield lithograph made as a campaign item, its first printing being dates as October 17, 1881. (Library of Congress)

The second Garfield lithograph made as a campaign item, its first printing being dates as October 17, 1881. (Library of Congress)

It is not entirely certain what prompted this or when exactly these were produced.

Both have a copyright registration of 1882, suggesting that public sentiment following the assassination of President Garfield created a market for these.

Kurz would make similar posthumous family prints of Civil War figures, former President Grant and former Confederate President Jefferson Davis, when they died, capitalizing on the mourning among their admirers.

Kurz resumed his lucrative industry during the 1888, 1892 and 1896 campaigns.

During the 1888 campaign Kurz made print of Benjamin and Caroline Harrison, but released this second printing version after the election but before the inauguration, with the infusion of their adult children who it was publicly disclosed would be living in the White House with their parents, and their own small children. (Library of Congress)

The second Harrison family print, first printed on December 24, 1888 (Library of Congress)

Using the same pattern he had in depicting Lucretia Garfield and her family, during the 1888 campaign he made family prints of the Republican presidential candidate and his wife, Benjamin and Caroline Harrison.

After the election but before the inauguration, he released a second version, this time including their adult children who it was publicly disclosed would be living in the White House with their parents, and their own small children their adult children.

The McKinley family print, the candidate sitting between his wife Ida and mother Nancy. (Library of Congress)

The McKinley family print, the candidate sitting between his wife Ida and mother Nancy. (Library of Congress)

In 1884, Kurz skipped out on his industrious effort since the Democratic presidential candidate, Grover Cleveland, was then a bachelor.

Not having any children, however, was not a factor apparently preventing his efforts.

In 1896, he made a print of Republican presidential candidate William McKinley, his elderly mother Nancy McKinley and his wife Ida McKinley.

The Bryans. (Library of Congress)

The Bryans. (Library of Congress)

He had a considerably more crowded version to produce when it came to that year’s Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, his wife Mary Bryan and their three children.

Baby Ruth seated on Frances Cleveland’s lap in this 1892 campaign print by Currier & Ives. (Library of Congress)

It is unclear if the Bryan family print was updated to coincide with his 1900 candidacy in his second race against by-then incumbent President William McKinley.

In 1888, President Cleveland had been defeated in his re-election quest by Benjamin Harrison.

Four years later, when he again faced off against by-then incumbent President Harrison, the former President not only had a wife, but a child. In the second year of his first term, Cleveland had famously married in the White House, making the young Frances Folsom his bride.

Frances Cleveland's image was used to sell products like kidney and liver pills. (NFLL)

Frances Cleveland’s image was used to sell products like kidney and liver pills. (NFLL)

They left the White House without children, but in the interim four years their first child Ruth was born.

Thus, with the 1892 Cleveland campaign, he finally made his way onto a print, this time by the famous New York engraving company Currier & Ives. It showed “Baby Ruth” being held by Frances Cleveland.

Frances Cleveland on an 1888 campaign ribbon. (amres.com)

Frances Cleveland on an 1888 campaign ribbon. (amres.com)

Not since the 1856 Republican presidential candidate’s spouse Jessie Fremont had there been a woman potentially on her way to the White House who captured the public imagination more than Frances Cleveland.

By the time President Cleveland was making his first re-election campaign, in 1888, his wife had become the most famous and beloved woman in the country.

Frances Cleveland was featured with her husband on the official program of the Democratic Convention which nominated him for a second time in 1888. (Library of Congress)

Frances Cleveland on the 1888 Democratic Convention program. (Library of Congress)

Women copied her hairstyle, her posture and gestures. Manufacturers of women’s powders and pills promising lovely skin, sewing machines, wallpaper and other household furnishings all appropriated her image on their advertising icon.

It was soon enough noted by political opponents of the Cleveland that she was a visible asset to her husband’s reputation, despite the fact that her persona was in no way linked to his policies.

Even though women did not have the political power of the vote, they were considered a general influence on their husbands. As the 1888 campaign ensued, there were a small number of women’s groups who organized as “Frances Cleveland Influence Clubs.”

Frances Cleveland appeared on an 1892 campaign double-ribbon. (JimSteinhart copyright 2011)

Frances Cleveland appeared on an 1892 campaign double-ribbon. (JimSteinhart copyright 2011)

While President Cleveland was outraged at his wife’s image being exploited, he must have either approved or turned a blind eye to the fact that the First Lady’s image was used with his on the cover of the National Democratic Convention’s official program.

A coin depicting both Clevelands with a hole drilled at the top, so it could be worn as a campaign emblem. (pinterest)

A coin with both Clevelands with a hole at the top enabling it to be worn as a campaign emblem. (pinterest)

It wasn’t long before the wife of the 1888 Democratic presidential candidate’s appeared between and above both Cleveland and his vice-presidential running mate on a campaign poster, and some silk ribbon badges with him.

Any number of pins and buttons depicting Frances Cleveland were made by local welcoming committees during her regional tours with the President. Some of these seemed to have been recycled for use during the 1888 campaign.

Caroline Harrison was included in an 1888 campaign poster depicting multi-generations of her husband's family, including their two adult children and his grandfather, the late President William Henry Harrison. (carlanthonyonline.com)

Caroline Harrison was included in an 1888 campaign poster depicting multi-generations of her husband’s family, including their two adult children and his grandfather, President William Henry Harrison. (carlanthonyonline.com)

Perhaps to counteract the frequently seen campaign image of the popular Mrs. Cleveland, supporters of her husband’s opponent Benjamin Harrison used the image of his wife, Caroline Harrison on some paraphernalia, though to a far less extend.

Mrs. Harrison on an 1888 campaign ribbon. (amres.com)

Mrs. Harrison on an 1888 campaign ribbon. (amrescom)

The following election, the second face-off between Cleveland and Harrison saw far less use of Frances Cleveland, and seemingly none of Caroline Harrison.

In 1896, Mary Bryan, the Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, received a considerably larger degree of press coverage.

Mrs. Bryan’s sudden thrust into the national news focused on the unusual fact that she had earned her law degree, and was a full political partner to her husband.

Despite having three young children, she traveled extensively with him as he stumped the nation on his whistle stop tours, delivering speeches.

The 1896 campaign poster using Mary Bryan, with her husband and children. (original source unknown)

The 1896 campaign poster using Mary Bryan, with her husband and children. (original source unknown)

While all of the publicity she received may have factored into her being used on a campaign poster, it may also have been simply a matter of following the pattern used with Frances Cleveland and Caroline Harrison.

A more peculiar campaign item that was made during the 1896 campaign was the joint appearance of the Democratic candidate’s wife not with her husband – but with the Republican candidate’s wife, Ida McKinley.

A paper plate made to appear like china carried the images of both Ida McKinley and Mary Bryan, along with images of their homes. It may have been used as a fan. (Historic New England)

A paper plate made to appear like china carried the images of both Ida McKinley and Mary Bryan, along with images of their homes. It may have been used as a fan. (Historic New England)

Although frequently described as a paper plate made to resemble a china one, the item seems more likely to have served the more practical use of being a hand fan, always welcome in an era before air-conditioning.

The reasons Ida McKinley was featured on any number of  items used to promote her husband’s 1896 election were far different than any previous candidates’ spouses.

An 1896 campaign souvenir card showed not only William and Ida McKinley but their long-dead daughter Katie. (NFLL)

An 1896 campaign souvenir card showed not only William and Ida McKinley but their long-dead daughter Katie. (NFLL)

Although McKinley ensured that his wife’s condition of seizure disorder was never disclosed with any detail and that the word “epilepsy” was never used in connection with her, he had built a legendary reputation for his herculean devotion to her well-being.

McKinley’s commitment to Ida’s care was publicized not only as a personal virtue, but extrapolated to signal that he was capable of supreme sacrifice and dedication in all that he did, and such qualities would ensure that his Administration would be disciplined and capable.

Mrs. McKinley, eager to do everything and anything possible to promote her husband, was a willing subject used on a number of campaign items.

The McKinley chromo-lithograph. (NFLL)

The McKinley chromo-lithograph. (NFLL)

There were postcards showing her with McKinley, including one that inserted the image of their long-dead daughter Katie.

A large, color chromo-lithograph that depicted them in dual cameo profiles was printed in large quantities and copies of it are still readily available in antique stores and at auctions.

An Ida McKinley stickpin. (NFLL)

An Ida McKinley stickpin. (NFLL)

One particular item, although not made in large numbers, was especially appealing. It was a badge, consisting of a ribbon and a large, glass-globed photographs of the Republican candidate’s spouse.

The Ida McKinley campaign badge (NFLL)

The Ida McKinley campaign badge (NFLL)

The National First Ladies’ Library and the Smithsonian are known to each have an example of it. Mrs. McKinley, who had a collection of campaign buttons with her husband’s image, was also known to own one.

The 1896 campaign use of Ida McKinley as an 1896 campaign symbol appears to have been something of a turning point.

She seems not to have been used again when her husband ran for re-election in 1900.

However, there does exist a button identifying her and her husband as “The President and Mrs. McKinley,” that might have been issued that year – or to commemorate one of their regional junkets where massive crowds came out to greet them.

Following his 1901 assassination and the assumption of the presidency by his second Vice President Theodore Roosevelt assumed office.

A1904 silk calendar printed with an image of Edith Roosevelt. (Smithsonian)

A 1904 silk calendar printed with an image of Edith Roosevelt. (Smithsonian)

This button have been issued for use in the McKinley 1900 campaign. (pinterest)

This button have been issued for use in the McKinley 1900 campaign. (pinterest)

When Roosevelt ran for his own full term in 1904, however,  despite his wife and children being enormously popular celebrities in the press, none of them appeared on any of his colorful campaign items.

There is only one item that made use of Edith Roosevelt’s image in 1904, a silk calendar; that it was produced and sold in her husband’s re-election campaign year, it was distributed not to promote his candidacy but for an apparent commercial enterprise, much as Frances Cleveland had been exploited.

By the first decade of the 20th century, with enlarged photographs more easily printed and sold, the era  of the presidential candidate’s wife and family appearing on prints marketed during the quadrennial election cycle was over.

The odd print using photographs of Nellie Taft and her family set in a drawing room - that was drawn. (Library of Congress)

The odd print using photographs of Nellie Taft and her family set in a drawing room – that was drawn. (Library of Congress)

One such final image was struck in 1908, showing Republican presidential candidate William Howard Taft, his wife Nellie Taft and their three children Robert, Helene and Charlie.

Using real photographs rather than drawings engraved from pictures, the scenario looked awkward and fake.

During the boisterous 1912 presidential election when former President Theodore Roosevelt failed to take the Republican presidential nomination away from incumbent President Taft and decided to run as a third-party candidate on the Progressive ticket, neither of their wives appeared on any campaign paraphernalia. Not was Ellen Wilson, wife of the victorious Democratic presidential candidate, used on any badges or buttons.

There was, briefly and in very limited quantities it seems, some use of the spouses on a turn-of-the-century version of the old carte-de-visite, as images of postcards that were sold during the latter part of their husbands’ presidential campaigns.

A postcard of the Taft family. (cincinnativiews.com)

A postcard of the Taft family. (cincinnativiews.com)

Carrying no slogan or reference to the sender’s support of any particular presidential candidate, postcards showing formal photographs of Nellie Taft and Ellen Wilson seem to have been marketed strictly as novelty items intended to make sales, not elect presidents.

Color close-up facial portraits of Edith Roosevelt and Nellie Taft would also be used on small plates, intended for display rather than carrying food.

Edith Roosevelt plate. (ebay)

Edith Roosevelt plate. (ebay)

The uniformity of the plates’  design and size  indicate that these were produced by the same manufacturer as part of a series first begun sometime between 1893 and 1897, with earlier versions depicting Frances Cleveland and Ida McKinley (one of Mrs. Lincoln was also created, posthumously).

In the case of all of the first three First Ladies of the 20th century, their images would also be appropriated for use on tin trays that were made after the 1904, 1908 and 1912 elections as souvenirs anticipating the March 4, 1905, 1909 and 1913 Inauguration Days when brisk sales from vendor carts along Pennsylvania Avenue were always guaranteed.

The Wilson tray. (firstladies.org)

The Wilson tray. (firstladies.org)

The wives, however, were but one of several images used, the President and their children and usually an image of their new home also part of the design.

These postcards, plates and trays were likely made for a largely women’s market.

Susan B. Anthony was perhaps the woman most regularly featured on political-related emblems. (ebay)

Susan B. Anthony was perhaps the woman most regularly featured on political-related emblems. (ebay)

While national newspapers and weekly magazines had, by the turn of the century, ensured that the names and faces of First Ladies were turned into national celebrities, their appeal was still rooted in their symbolism as role models of domesticity, ruling the roost of the nation’s first and foremost house.

In truth, of course, there was also a concurrent and growing movement, soon to culminate in success, seeking to not replace the traditional place of the woman in the home, but to expand it, into the realm of civic life, which had always strictly been the domain of the man.

The thirty or so years preceding 1920, when all American women were finally guaranteed the right to vote by constitutional amendment was a period when presidential election years were more likely to find that the images of women on buttons, badges and ribbons were not the wives of presidential candidates, but the women seeking to grant all women the right to vote.

 

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Jessie Benton Fremont, the first presidential candidate's spouse to be depicted on campaign paraphrenala.

Jessie Benton Fremont, the first presidential candidate’s spouse to be depicted on campaign paraphernalia. (siegelauctions.com)

(This is the first in a ten-part series of articles providing the first history of the use of images of presidential candidates’ spouses on items used during presidential campaigns, beginning in 1856)

During even the earliest presidential elections, spouses of some candidates took such an avid interest in the success of their husbands that they pushed to boundaries of what was considered the acceptable role of women in any sphere outside of their family life. It was not until 1845 that the first organized movement to demand that women be granted the equal right to vote. It would be another 75 years before they received it.

The Washington home where Louisa Adams famously campaigned for her husband as a political hostess, photographed about 50 years after the Adams occupancy. (Library of Congress)

The Washington home where Louisa Adams famously campaigned for her husband as a political hostess, photographed about 50 years after the Adams occupancy. (Library of Congress)

During the 1808 and 1824 “electioneering” of the ultimately successful candidates James Madison and John Quincy Adams, both of whom lived in Washington and were serving as Secretaries of State their wives used their considerable social skills to cultivate personal commitments of loyalty among members of Congress, who served as the electoral body that ultimately chose the winner.

One begins to see the first stirring of public interest in the potential role that candidates’ spouses might play in a presidency during the 1828 election, circling around the controversial divorce of Andrew Jackson’s wife from her first husband.

Not until another quarter of a century, during the 1852 presidential campaign is there considerable press coverage again about a candidate’s spouse, in this case the wife of Democrat Franklin Pierce, in this case simple straightforward coverage of her dislike of politics.

It was the next presidential election, coinciding with the founding and first candidate of the Republican Party that suddenly one finds a spouse thrust into the public realm by being used as a campaign symbol.

That year, the new party’s candidate John Fremont, famous as a western explorer and U.S. Senator from the new state of California, brought to national attention a woman already famous in her own right,  his thirty-two year old wife Jessie Benton Fremont.

Jessie Benton Fremont. (kshs.org)

Jessie Benton Fremont. (kshs.org)

Born in Virginia, daughter of the Democratic U.S. Senator from Missouri, Jessie Fremont was as intelligent as she was beautiful, and not afraid to show it, engaging herself openly in political discussions with other political figures and national press reporters that emphasized her husband’s breadth of experience.

With experiences as a Senate daughter familiar with White House social life, the court life of Europe and the rugged deprivations of the far West, Jessie Fremont assumed an unusually overt prominence in public life for a 19th century woman.

When it came to her husband’s presidency candidacy, the novelty of her prominence was consciously integrated into the printed material used to rally support.

While it is unclear whether or not either John or Jessie Fremont were asked for permission to use her image, that year those citizens who supported the Republican presidential candidate showed their loyalties by the envelopes they used. The envelopes showed who they wanted to be not just President, but also “first lady of the land,” a term prematurely applied to Mrs. Fremont and just then coming into popular use in the national press.

An envelope bearing the dual image of the Fremonts used by his 1856 supporters during his campaign for the presidency.

An envelope bearing the dual image of the Fremonts used by his 1856 supporters during his campaign for the presidency. (siegelauctions.com)

An envelope cover showing Jessie Benton Fremont alone, used by her husband's supporters of his 1856 presidential candidacy.

An envelope cover showing Jessie Benton Fremont alone, used by her husband’s supporters of his 1856 presidential candidacy. (siegelauctions.com)

At least two different versions exist, one depicting both of the Fremonts, and another of just Mrs. Fremont.

"John and Jessie" Fremont 1856 Campaign Ribbon --- Image by © David J. Frent/David J. & Janice L. Frent Collection/Corbis

“John and Jessie” Fremont 1856 Campaign Ribbon — Image by © David J. Frent/David J. & Janice L. Frent Collection/Corbis)

The envelopes using the image of Mrs. Fremont may well have been commissioned by Fremont campaign managers since the image of the candidate with his wife is the same one used on a popular campaign poster.

There  is also a silk ribbon of just her, with the campaign slogan, “John and Jessie,” printed beneath it which has survived a century and a half.

The expression, “Oh, Jessie!” as a substitute for “Oh, hell!” was then a popular colloquialism and appropriating the name of the candidate’s spouse made ironic use of it for political purposes. While this expression was not itself used, a slight play on words led to the campaign slogan “Our Jessie!”

Fremont ultimately lost to the Democratic candidate, but the idea of an overtly political first lady  was strongly established.

As an obituary of her recalled, “it was broadly whispered afterwards that if the lovely Jessie had been the actual candidate she, and not Buchanan, would have occupied the Presidential chair.”

Mary Lincoln, painted from photographs in 1864 by Francis B. Carpenter. (Museum of Art, University of Indiana, baumconservation.com)

Mary Lincoln, painted from photographs in 1864 by Francis B. Carpenter. (Museum of Art, University of Indiana, baumconservation.com)

In the next election, the next Republican presidential candidate’s spouse was a woman who assumed a similarly overt political role in the promotion of her husband’s campaign. Mary Todd Lincoln, from a prominent Kentucky family of Whigs, was as strident as Jessie Fremont in her opposition to slavery and as convinced that her husband was the right person to lead the nation.

With the first break of southern states from the United States coming before her husband was even elected to the presidency in November of 1860, however, it may well have been that sensitivity to sectionalism discouraged any use of Mrs. Lincoln’s image on the growing number of campaign emblems that were being used.

The December 1860 Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper front cover image and the original photograph of Mary Lincoln with her sons Willie and Tad that was used for the adapted engraving. (carlanthonyonline.com)

The December 1860 Leslie’s Illustrated newspaper cover image and the original photograph of Mary Lincoln with her sons Willie and Tad that was used for the adapted engraving. (carlanthonyonline.com)

Too, Mrs. Lincoln was not as nationally known as Mrs. Fremont had been at the time her husband first ran for president and her not being viewed as either an asset or liability was the reason her image was not used.

She was, however, prominent enough in the public mind just weeks after her husband’s victorious election that the nation’s leading weekly publication determined she was already important enough to be depicted.

During the transition period between Election Day and Inauguration Day, a photograph that had been recently made of Mary Lincoln with her two youngest sons Willie and Tad was used to create the full-page engraving gracing the cover of the December 15, 1860 of Leslie’s Weekly Illustrated Newspaper. 

A 1861 carte-de-visite card of Mary Lincoln sold to the public. (rail splitter.com)

A 1861 carte-de-visite card of Mary Lincoln sold to the public. (rail splitter.com)

From the very beginning of her tenure as First Lady, Mary Lincoln was a popular if controversial subject who garnered more national press coverage than any of her predecessors since Julia Tyler.

Harper's Weekly featured this full-length image of the First Lady in its November 8, 1862 edition

Harper’s Weekly featured this full-length image of the First Lady in its November 8, 1862 edition

Within the first months of her husband’s presidency, for example, her photograph was printed and sold publicly as a carte-de-visite cardboard card, a popular format for people to collect and review the images of famous Americans, often placing them in large albums.

A year later, in 1862, she was featured in another newspaper engraving, in an image showing her full-length, in one of her famously rich gowns.

Thus, even to a nation that still considered the young movement pushing to give women the right to vote a rather radical concept, the appearance of Mary Lincoln on campaign badges two years later, during President Lincoln’s re-election campaign in 1864 must have seemed simply a natural course of progress.

One of two known Mary Lincoln badges used during the 1864 campaign. (New York Times)

One of two known Mary Lincoln badges used during the 1864 campaign. (New York Times)

There are at least two known pieces of campaign paraphernalia that used images of Mary Lincoln  in 1864 , one of which is in the permanent collection of the National First Ladies’ Library.

Both items are “badges,” an early form of what would shortly evolve into the modern-day campaign button.

A Lincoln "badge" with ribbon that was pinned to the outside of clothing.

A Lincoln “badge” with ribbon that was pinned to the outside of clothing.

They were essentially carte-de-visited card images that were framed not in cardboard but in metal, often pinned to a colorful ribbon and with a small hole bore into the top of it, enabling it to be pinned to the wearer’s coat, jacket or dress.

Unlike the Jessie Fremont envelopes, that were printed in mass production, the Mary Lincoln badges, like those depicting her husband had to be hand-made.

Both known surviving versions are extremely rare to find today, a reflection that may not be due alone to the item’s fragility as the relatively limited number that were created.

The matching pair of "badges," of the Lincolns worn by Republican supporters of his 1864 re-election. (New York Times)

The matching pair of Lincoln badges. (New York Times)

Like the dual portrait images of the Fremonts on the 1856 campaign envelopes, one of the Mary Lincoln badges was part of a pair with an image of President Lincoln in the same type of metal frame.

Julia Grant. (Library of Congress)

Julia Grant. (Library of Congress)

During the 1868 presidential campaign, for a third, consecutive time, the spouse of a Republican presidential candidate made no effort to conform to conventional ideas on the role of women in the public realm of politics.

Even before her husband had begun his legendary military career, culminating in his role as the Union general who led the defeat of the Confederacy in the Civil War, Julia Grant was convinced that her “Ulys” was destined to lead the nation as president.

A contemporary item that likely resembles the 1868 presidential election badges that depicted Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant during her husband's first campaign. (ebay)

A contemporary item that likely resembles the 1868 presidential election badges that depicted Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant during her husband’s first campaign. (ebay)

During the Civil War, “Mrs. General Grant” also posed for a studio photograph in 1864 and made no protest to it being sold as a carte-de-visite card to the general public, thus permitting herself to be thrust into the wider, national consciousness not only by her very existence but her appearance.

Thus, by the time Ulysses S. Grant was running for president four years later, his wife was already a familiar public figure. In one private, family letter there is reference to the fact that Mrs. Grant’s image was used in a badge, perhaps similar to the ones using Mrs. Lincoln.

A poster for the 1872 Victoria Woodhull presidential campaign. (symonsez.wordpress.com)

A poster for the 1872 Victoria Woodhull presidential campaign. (symonsez.wordpress.com)

Although no extant copy of the original badge can be found in the collections of historical presidential campaign collections, the image that was almost certainly used was the most widely circulated one of her from the Civil War era. An apparent ersatz version of it, however, has recently appeared on the ebay auction site in the form of cufflinks.

By the time Grant was seeking re-election in 1872, another woman would appear on campaign paraphernalia, not as a candidate’s spouse – but as a candidate herself. That year, the radical women’s equality advocate, writer and publisher Victoria Woodhull made history as the first woman to campaign for the presidency.

Although the majority of Americans viewed her effort more with curious bemusement, it was serious enough that it produced at least one known campaign item using her image, a poster.

As the movement to finally win the vote for women, the issue would find itself counterpointed in the increased use of candidates’ wives as the ideal images of domesticity.

 

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