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.

Rosalynn Carter in the White House Green Room (The Carter Center)

Rosalynn Carter in the White House Green Room (The Carter Center)

A student made a recent inquiry to the National First Ladies Library about which First Ladies who were considered “southern” may have especially held political views on public issues contemporary to their tenure in the White House.

A colorized version of a familiar image of Mary Lincoln. (Corbis)

A colorized version of a familiar image of Mary Lincoln. (Corbis)

In using the broadest definition of the role of First Lady, which does not confine that to simply those women who were married to Presidents but also to those daughters, nieces, and daughters-in-law who fulfilled the public duties of that role, one finds a number of women might qualify under the widest parameters of southern women who were First Ladies. The categorization of them becomes less well defined when one ponders whether or not to include those who may not have been born and raised in the southern states but who chose to marry men with homes in the southern states and to establish their life there and also adopt prevailing views, particularly as it related to slavery and states rights.

Here is a definitive list, using the broadest parameters, of those who can be considered southern First Ladies:

Martha Custis Dandridge Washington (born, raised and lived in Virginia)

Martha Jefferson Randolph (born, raised and lived most of her life in Virginia; the president’s daughter served as public hostess for two of the eight social seasons of his administration)

Dolley Payne Todd Madison (born in North Carolina, raised in Pennsylvania, lived part of her life in Virginia)

Rachel Jackson. (The Hermitage)

Rachel Jackson. (The Hermitage)

Elizabeth Kortright Monroe (born and raised in New York, lived part of her life in Virginia)

Rachel Donelson Jackson (born in Virginia, lived in Tennessee, died after her husband’s election, before his presidency)

Emily Donelson (born, raised and lived in Tennessee, niece of Rachel Jackson, served as public hostess for about half of her uncle’s administration)

Sarah Polk. (Polk Ancestral Home)

Sarah Polk. (Polk Ancestral Home)

Sarah Yorke Jackson (born and raised in Pennsylvania, lived much of her life in Tennessee, daughter-in-law of the president by his adopted son, served as public hostess for the latter part of his administration)

Angelica Singleton Van Buren (born and raised in South Carolina, lived in New York, served as public hostess for her widowed father-in-law)

Letitia Christian Tyler (born, raised and lived in Virginia, first wife of the president)

Priscilla Cooper Tyler (born and raised in Pennsylvania, lived in Virginia and Alabama, served as public hostess for her father-in-law since her mother-in-law was unable to do so due to a stroke)

Letitia Tyler Semple (born and raised in Virginia, lived in Maryland and Washington, D.C., served as public hostess following the death of her mother and departure of her sister-in-law from Washington)

A depiction of Angelica Van Buren on the White House South Lawn. (ebay)

A depiction of Angelica Van Buren on the White House South Lawn. (ebay)

Julia Gardiner Tyler (born and raised in New York, lived in Virginia, Washington, D.C. and New York, the second wife of the president and married to him when he served in the Confederate Congress)

Sarah Childress Polk (born and lived in Tennessee, educated in North Carolina)

Margaret “Peggy” Mackall Smith Taylor (born and raised in Maryland, lived in Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi)

Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Taylor Bliss (born in Kentucky, raised on Army posts through southern, midwestern states, educated in northern states, lived in Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia, served as public hostess for her father’s administration since her mother chose not to do so)

Mary Todd Lincoln (born and raised in Kentucky, lived in Illinois and New York)

Eliza McCardle Johnson (born, raised and lived in Tennessee)

Edith Wilson (artinamerica.com)

Edith Wilson (artinamerica.com)

Martha Johnson Patterson (born, raised and lived in Tennessee, served as public hostess for her father since her mother lived with tuberculosis and was unable to do so)

Ellen Herndon Arthur (born in Virginia, raised in Washington, D.C., lived in New York – died eighteen months before her husband succeeded to the presidency)

Ellen Axson Wilson (born and raised in Georgia, educated and lived most of her adult life outside of the southern states)

Edith Bolling Galt Wilson (born and raised in Virginia, lived most of her life in Washington, D.C.)

Rosalynn Smith Carter (born, raised and lived most of her life in Georgia)

As to those who were especially political in their roles:

Without question, Rosalynn Carter was the most overtly involved in politics and policy of her husband’s administration, certainly to a degree almost never seen in the presidency. One can conduct secondary source research on this from several excellent sources; one can also conduct original research at the Carter Presidential Library, using those of her papers which have been opened to the public.

Ellen Wilson (Library of Congress)

Ellen Wilson (Library of Congress)

Ellen Wilson was also quite involved in social issues which involved contemporary political matters, most notably her efforts to upgrade the sub-standard housing of Washington’s African-American community around the U.S. Capitol Building and the simultaneous enforcement of new “Jim Crow” laws in the city, as well as new policies dictating racial segregation in the federal workplace. Several excellent secondary works (biographies) of her will provide good primary resources to consult further. Her biography Ellen Wilson by Frances Saunders is an excellent source.

A colorized version of a familiar image of Mary Lincoln. (Corbis)

A colorized version of a familiar image of Mary Lincoln. (Corbis)

Edith Wilson had strong if ill-informed opinions that were political in that they involved her husband, but it was his interests and not a natural inclination towards political matters which led her into political matters. Her biography Edith and Woodrow by Phyllis Levin chronicles this well.

Mary Lincoln similarly approached political issues during her husband’s presidency – from the viewpoint of his interests, but also held strong political views of her own which sometimes contradicted his and pre-dated her marriage. The best sources for this are Jean Baker’s biography Mary Lincoln, Life and Letters of Mary Lincoln by Justin Turner and his daughter and Ruth Painter Randall’s biography of this First Lady. The assiduous endnotes will help serve as a guide to original sources.

Priscilla Cooper Tyler. (NFLL)

Priscilla Cooper Tyler. (NFLL)

Perhaps the most politically-overt of southern First Ladies of the 19th century were Sarah Polk and Julia Tyler. There is no good biography of the former but the Polk Ancestral Home in Tennessee will be a good starting point. An excellent joint biography of Julia Tyler and John Tyler is the 1962 …And Tyler Too, by Robert Seager. He uses many of her family papers at Yale University and it is well-resourced.

Like her stepmother-in-law Julia Tyler, Priscilla Tyler was an adopted southern woman, but her daughter is the person who first raised the Confederate flag in Alabama and she held strong emotional views in support of the C.S.A. Her papers are at the University of Alabama and original research may turn up more specifics

Likewise, one may find some new and interesting information on Angelica Van Buren, a native of South Carolina during her life in New York during the Civil War. Some of her papers are included among those of President Van Buren at the Library of Congress and the University of South Carolina has a collection of her books and may also have some of her letters.

For further information, pllease read through the individual biographies of these First Ladies under “research” on the National First Ladies Library website and also consult our bibliography which provides the above sources and many others on each individual First Lady.

 

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The Canton, Ohio headstones over the graves of "Little Ida" and Katie McKinley, the long-dead daughters of the President and his wife, became a tourist attraction during his presidency.

The Canton, Ohio cemetery headstones over the graves of “Little Ida” and Katie McKinley, the long-dead daughters of the President and his wife, became a tourist attraction during his presidency.

November first, the day after Halloween, is the religious All Souls Day in the Catholic faith. In the Mexican culture, it has usually been marked with iconography of skeletons and other unearthly representations of dead family members as the centerpiece of small shrines consisting of objects associated with the lost relative and candles kept lit in the dark.

William and Ida McKinley in their White House bedroom.

William and Ida McKinley in their White House bedroom.

It wasn’t one day each year but every day for nearly thirty years, however, that a President and First Lady remembered their two “lost girls,” daughters who died in 1873 and 1875.

William and Ida McKinley may have moved into the White House in 1897 without any living children but they did what it took to convince themselves and convey to others that their lost girls were still very much alive in a form other than physical.

In fact, at least one Senate wife who befriended the couple spoke of them as “ghosts in the long-ago moonlight.”

Ida McKinley in 1870.

Ida McKinley in 1870.

Eleven months after her wedding to young attorney William McKinley, the witty, worldly former assistant bank manager Ida Saxton had given birth to their first child on Christmas Day in 1871, naming her Katie, after her own mother. Mrs. McKinley had always been unusually close to her mother, many observers presuming they were actually sisters.

Two weeks before Ida gave birth to her second child in April of 1873, named for herself and known as “Little Ida,” however, her mother succumbed to a painful and terminal cancer. Some suggest that it was while managing the high steps of a closed coach or buggy while attending her mother’s cemetery burial that the pregnant Mrs. McKinley took a severe fall.

One of the only two pictures taken of Katie McKinley before she died at three and a half years old.

One of the only two pictures taken of Katie McKinley before she died at three and a half years old.

Whenever or wherever the fall might have taken place, the result was a spinal trauma and apparent concussion, with ensuing neurological problems. Just four years before, she had been hiking upwards of ten miles a day. Now she was beset with chronic immobility and late-onset epilepsy. She was just 26 years old.

Two weeks later, “Little Ida” was born in a condition that was described as “sickly.” She only lived for four months, dying of cholera.

With Ida seeking every possible medical treatment for her seizures and immobility, William McKinley particularly focused his care and love on their first-born, remaining daughter.

Katie McKinley. (NFLL)

Katie McKinley. (NFLL)

Even at just three and half years old, Katie McKinley was known for being highly animated, affectionate with her little dog, making friends with other children and going to visit them, and marked by a merry demeanor.

She was the very picture of health, her long, blond curls were thick and shiny, her blue eyes large and attentive, her cheeks pink and glowing. The child was developing a distinct personality.

A year and ten months after her baby sister died, Katie McKinley contracted scarlet fever and also died.

Ida McKinley. in later life, with the cherished rocking chair of her long-gone daughter Katie.

Ida McKinley. in later life, with the cherished rocking chair of her long-gone daughter Katie.

The unfounded fear of “passing on” epilepsy to an unborn child was the likely reason the McKinleys never had another child but they did the next best thing: they continued to think and speak daily about Katie McKinley. If she had died in the flesh, she was not permitted to pass away in their hearts and minds.

The First Lady stands beneath Katie McKinley's image.

The First Lady stands beneath Katie McKinley’s image.

Oddly ghoulish as many people would find it, wherever Ida McKinley would live from that point on, she would place some of Katie’s clothes across her little rocking chair to display beneath the oil portrait later made of the child from one of the only two photographs taken of her.

She would also speak of Katie in the present tense, making reference over the years to the age she would now be were she physically present.

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

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

When her father ran for President, Katie McKinley appeared on campaign paraphernalia, the local Canton, Ohio photography studio which had made the only known images of her as a child rather presumptuously letting it be used on postcards, badges and buttons. Rather than protest this, McKinley and his wife were ecstatic about it, eager to have their daughter be part of their political epoch. Still, it often led the political delegations visiting Canton to mistakenly presume that Katie was, in fact, still alive in the more conventional form.

By willful insistence that Katie had come with them to the White House in “some form” and by mentioning and remembering her if even as a ghost or spirit, the President and Mrs. McKinley seemed able to better accept the fact that she would never return to them in physical form. And, truth be told, it may have proved comparatively healthier than never speaking of or acknowledging the trauma.

An example of the "ghost baby" photos popular in the Victorian age, where a dead child was posed to look as if asleep and a permanent image of them made before they were buried and their faces forgotten.

An example of the “ghost baby” photos popular in the Victorian age, where a dead child was posed to look as if asleep and a permanent image of them made before they were buried and their faces would otherwise be forgotten.

In numerous ways, Ida McKinley quite radically defied the conventional expectations of women by refusing to assume even ostensible interest in domestic matters. Likewise, despite her tremendous grief, she did not indulge in the era’s popular practice of having a dead child photographed before it was buried.

A Victorian mother with her dead child's image superimposed on her lap as a ghost.

A Victorian mother with her dead child’s image superimposed on her lap as a ghost.

Despite even her belief in the Hindu tenet of reincarnation, Ida McKinley also resisted either posing with her “lost girls” before their burial or permit a ghostly impression of them superimposed onto one of her own.

Even her conception of her eldest daughter’s ghost was apart from the prevailing ideas on such specters, which were believed to be arrested in time at the moment of their death.

For the President and First Lady, Katie McKinley was no mere “angel baby” in the popular tradition of Victorian mourning beliefs but rather a ghost who was aging along the real-time passage of years.

When the President encountered a particularly poised woman in her late 20s, for example, he seemed almost mesmerized looking at her, as if she might be a manifestation in some odd way of Katie, who would have been the same age.

A "lost child" posed in its bassinet before burial.

A “lost child” posed in its bassinet before burial.

It was different with the ghost of “Little Ida,” who was still a new-born child without a developed personality when she died at four months old. She was the one cast not as a “real child of this earth,” but as the “Christmas angel.” She was later described by relatives who had met the baby as having “come to earth for only a little while…those who saw her could never quite believe that she was meant to be kept here, frail thing that she was…”

Close friends of the couple only further indulged the idea of their daughters still being alive as conscious spirits, with them in the White House.

A friend gave the McKinleys a diorama Easter egg showing Katie and Little Ida on the White House South Lawn.

A friend gave the McKinleys a diorama Easter egg showing Katie and Little Ida on the White House South Lawn.

Noticing how affected the First Lady became during the 1897 Easter Egg Roll on the White House South Lawn, which she watched with some friends and their children from the South Balcony, one of them soon after crafted a sugar egg with an enclosed diorama, spied through a hole in the egg, as a gift for the President and his wife.

The image showed Little Ida and Katie McKinley standing together, now both matured but still young, on the South Lawn. The McKinleys treated the little artistic effort as if it were a jeweled Faberge egg.

A Valentine's Day angel card sent the McKinleys, likely to represent "Little Ida."

A Valentine’s Day angel card sent the McKinleys, likely to represent “Little Ida.”

When Ida McKinley hosted the first known celebration of Valentine’s Day with a dance, including the first known playing of the new ragtime music, one of the guests accepted by sending a gift of her own.

She mailed to the McKinleys a heart-shaped card showing a golden-haired angel toddler, apparently to suggest the four-month old “Little Ida” who had never been photographed.

A snapshot of the McKinley daughters burial place marked by their name in flowers.

A snapshot of the McKinley daughters burial place marked by their name in flowers.

Since the McKinleys spoke quite openly of their maturing spirit of Katie and perpetually-infant angel Little Ida, it wasn’t long before the press began reporting the presence of the “lost girl” ghosts of the White House.

When the President and First Lady arrived for visits home to Canton, Ohio they never failed to make a pilgrimage to their cemetery to visit the final resting places of their daughters.

One of the stereo-optical cards made of the lost girls' graves.

One of the stereo-optical cards made of the lost girls’ graves.

When they were in the White House, they sent lavish floral displays to be placed on the graves; this led to public disclosure of precisely where the headstones of the McKinley “lost girls” was located.

Photographers snapped it and the graveyard tableaux soon appeared on stereo-optical cards.

A tourist poses with the markers for Little Ida and Katie McKinley. (McKinley Presidential Library)

A tourist poses with the markers for Little Ida and Katie McKinley. (McKinley Presidential Library)

Tourists exploring the President’s hometown from as far away as California were sure to include a pilgrimage to Westlawn Cemetery for a snapshot of Katie and Little Ida six feet under.

The President and Mrs. McKinley at the summit of Mount Tom in western Massachusetts, June 1899.

The President and Mrs. McKinley at the summit of Mount Tom in western Massachusetts, June 1899.

Nobody at the time could have guessed that the First Lady’s keeping Little Ida and Katie McKinley alive by the sheer will of imagination affected anyone but her and her husband.

As he weighed military options while devising perhaps his most momentous foreign policy decision, however, the ghosts of his “lost girls” proved to be an emotionally powerful factor in the President’s thinking.

And it would come to alter the fate of millions of living people.

Ida McKinley, the new biography by the website author.

Ida McKinley, the new biography by the website author.

The dramatic account of how that occurred is detailed for the first time in this author’s new book, Ida McKinley: The Turn-of-the-Century First Lady through War, Assassination and Secret Disability, published today and available for sale.

It can be purchased here.

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Candidates Spouses at National Conventions

Bess Truman, right, with dughter Margaret at the 1944 Democratic Convention which nominated her husband as the vice presidential candidate.

Bess Truman, right, with daughter Margaret at the 1944 Democratic Convention which nominated her husband as the vice presidential candidate – and led to his presidency within the year.

For much of the 19th century and into the 20th century, there was a quaint custom called “Notification Day” which came several weeks after the convention, and involved the national committee men coming to the home of the candidate and officially “notifying” him the party’s nomination, which he then accepted in a speech.

Florence Harding. (NFLL)

Florence Harding. (NFLL)

In 1920, U.S. Senator Warren Harding was in Chicago during the Republican Convention which nominated him but remained at his campaign hotel headquarters and made no acceptance speech and did not appear before delegates; his wife Florence Harding was also overtly political like Nellie Taft and had helped to manage her husband’s campaign during the primaries.

She sat in a prominent place overlooking the convention floor, interacting with delegate and being sought out by reporters, with whom she openly discussed the machinations and proceedings behind each day of balloting at the 1920 Republican National Convention proceedings.

Thus, she became the first candidates’ spouse to witness her husband being nominated.

Margarette Cox, the 1920 Democratic candidate's wife. (original photographer unknown)

Margarette Cox, the 1920 Democratic candidate’s wife. (original photographer unknown)

That year’s Democratic candidate’s spouse, Margaretta Cox did not attend the convention which nominated her husband, James Cox.

Herbert Hoover broke the custom by appearing at the 1928 Republican National Convention but his wife Lou sat in the balcony watching and listening to his acceptance speech. Democratic candidate Al Smith’s wife Catherine Smith did likewise at the convention nominating her husband.

Although Franklin D. Roosevelt attended the 1932 and 1936 conventions which nominated him for a first and second term, he did not appear at the convention which nominated him in 1940. Having also attended him at the first two, his wife Eleanor Roosevelt went alone to the 1940 one, making a speech to delegates, the first candidate’s spouse or First Lady to do so.

Theo Landon with children Nancy and  John. (Kansas Historical Foundation)

Theo Landon with children Nancy and John. (Kansas Historical Foundation)

Theo Landon “refused” to join her husband Alf at the 1936 Convention in Chicago which nominated him as the Republican presidential candidate, explaining to the press that protecting and raising her two young children (one of whom grew up to become Nancy Kassenbaum, U.S. Senator from Kansas) meant she was “needed at home.”

Thomas Dewey voting in 1944 with his wife Frances. (prweb)

Thomas Dewey voting in 1944 with his wife Frances. (prweb)

In 1944, Thomas Dewey attended the Republican Convention which nominated him as the presidential candidate in Chicago and was joined by his wife Frances there. FDR did not go to the Chicago Democratic National Convention which nominated him for his fourth term. It occurred during World War II and was he was then holding meetings in the South Pacific. Eleanor Roosevelt did not attend either. This was the last time that a nominated presidential candidate did not attend the convention. However, the Democratic vice presidential candidate’s spouse, Bess Truman, did attend. In less than a year, due to President Roosevelt’s death in April of 1945, she would be First Lady.

In 1948, both incumbent President and Democratic candidate Harry Truman and his opponent, Republican presidential nominee Dewey attended the conventions which nominated them and made acceptance speeches. Both conventions were held in Philadelphia.

Frances Dewey (black hat) stands behind her husband as he makes his acceptance speech at the 1948 Republican Convention.  (UNiversity of Rochester)

Frances Dewey (black hat) stands behind her husband as he makes his acceptance speech at the 1948 Republican Convention. (University of Rochester)

Both Bess Truman and Frances Dewey watched the proceedings. Mrs. Dewey did go to the podium, where she watched from behind her husband with others to hear him deliver his acccptance speech.

In 1952, the Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson was divorced. That year, the Republican presidential nominee Dwight Eisenhower was joined by his wife Mamie Eisenhower at the podium and she was welcomed and acknowledged there by the delegates – but she did not speak.

Showing off a new charm for her bracelet to Preisdent Eisenhower at the 1956 convention which re-nominated him for a second term.

Showing off a new charm for her bracelet to Preisdent Eisenhower at the 1956 convention which re-nominated him for a second term. (Life)

In 1956, Stevenson and Eisenhower again ran against each other and Mamie Eisenhower again appeared at the podium but did not speak.

In 1960, Republican presidential nominee Richard Nixon was joined at the podium by his wife Pat Nixon.

However, since she was pregnant, Jacqueline Kennedy did not attend the Democratic National Convention which nominated her husband in Los Angeles.

This was the last time a candidates’ spouse of either party did not appear at the convention which nominated her husband.

Ever since then, the wife of the nominee of each party has been a highly visible figure during the convention week. The list includes:

Teresa and John Kerry.

Teresa and John Kerry.

1964, Lady Bird Johnson (D) and Peggy Goldwater (R)

1968, Pat Nixon (R) and Muriel Humphrey (D)

1972, Pat Nixon (R) and Eleanor McGovern (D)

1976, Rosalynn Carter (D) and Betty Ford (R)

1980, Nancy Reagan (R) and Rosalynn Carter (D)

1984, Nancy Reagan (R) and Joan Mondale (D)

1988, Barbara Bush (R) and Kitty Dukakis (D)

John and CIny McCain.

John and CIny McCain.

1992, Hillary Clinton (D) and Barbara Bush (R)

1996, Hillary Clinton (R) and Elizabeth Dole (R)

2000, Laura Bush (R) and Tipper Gore (D)

2004, Laura Bush (R) and Teresa Kerry (D)

2008, Michelle Obama (D) and Cindy McCain (R)

2012, Michelle Obama (D) and Ann Romney (R)

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Nancy Reagan at the 1996 Republican Convention. (Corbis)

Nancy Reagan at the 1996 Republican Convention. (Corbis)

A final component in multiple inquiries received from the media and public about candidates’ spouses who attended national conventions was the question of which former First Ladies attended these quadrennial events and whether they took on any public role at them. This is the second of a two-part series.

At the 1964 Democratic Convention, there had been a preliminary plan to have the recently-widowed Jacqueline Kennedy address the convention which nominated incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had succeeded to the presidency nine months earlier upon the assassination of her late husband.

Former First Lady Jackie Kennedy joined incumbent First Lady Lady Bird Johnson at a 1964 National Democratic Convention reception.

Former First Lady Jackie Kennedy joined incumbent First Lady Lady Bird Johnson at a 1964 National Democratic Convention reception.

Concerned that such an appearance would provoke such tremendous sentiment at the convention for the late President Kennedy that it might provoke delegates during the state roll call to spontaneously vote for his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Johnson campaign managers successfully prevented it. However, there is no indication that Jacqueline Kennedy had even seriously considered addressing the convention.

Instead, Mrs. Kennedy appeared at a hotel near the convention hall to receive delegates at a massive reception, alongside her successor Lay Bird Johnson, the incumbent First Lady Lady. Leaving immediately after the event, she was on her plane when a call came through from President Johnson asking her to then come into the convention hall and be photographed with him. She politely declined.

Following her second marriage and widowhood, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis appeared at the 1976 Democratic National Convention, which nominated Jimmy Carter for president. Relieved that her brother-in-law U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy had decided not to pursue the nomination that year, her purpose had actually been professional rather than political. By then an editor of books at Viking Press, Mrs. Onassis had come with the intention of convincing Chicago Mayor William Daley of cooperating with a biography which was being published by her employer.

Jackie Kennedy Onassis at the 1976 Democratic Convention. (Corbis)

Jackie Kennedy Onassis at the 1976 Democratic Convention. (Corbis)

Although she failed to enlist Daley’s involvement, she took a visibly prominent seat at the front of a balcony and when her presence was announced by the convention chairman from the podium, the convention broke out in pandemonium. Startled, she stood to acknowledge the cheering but was discouraged when the band struck up the musical

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis appeared at another Democratic National Convention, held in New York City. Having been the first prominent financial contributor to the presidential campaign of Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton a year earlier, Mrs. Onassis felt personal triumph in his nomination as the Democratic candidate in 1992. Although she chose to sit in a less prominent place, she had insisted on attending the convention the night Clinton won the nomination and delivered his acceptance speech.

Former First Lady Pat Nixon appeared at no conventions following the 1972 National Republican Convention in Miami, Florida which nominated her husband for a second presidential term.

Former First Lady Betty Ford found herself somewhat conflicted when she joined her husband at the 1980 National Republican Convention in Kansas City. At that event, one of the issues being debated as an element of the party’s platform was whether to continue supporting the call for an Equal Rights Amendment, which had been one of the defining political issues of her tenure as First Lady.

Invited to lead a parade march of Republican women supporting the ERA plank and then speak at the rally which followed, she recognized that her appearance was unlikely to convince those who opposed it to re-draft that year’s party platform and was more likely to incite media reports of a fractious party. She recalled watching the parade go by her hotel window and feeling despondent on the compromise she nevertheless felt was for the party’s greater good.

Betty Ford joined her husband at the podium of the 1980 Republican Convention (GRFL)

Betty Ford joined her husband at the podium of the 1980 Republican Convention (GRFL)

Along with her husband, Betty Ford attended the next five successive conventions. In her last such appearance, Mrs. Ford also joined her husband at the 2000 National Republican Convention in Philadelphia during which he had to be briefly hospitalized for suffering a minor stroke during the proceedings.

No former First Lady has attended more Democratic National Conventions than Rosalynn Carter. Despite her own political activism, however, she has never spoken at any of the six conventions she has thus far attended: 1984 in San Francisco, 1988 in Atlanta, 1992 in New York, 2000 in Los Angeles, 2004 in Boston, and 2008 in Denver.

Always in attendance along with former President Carter, who has not been reticent about differences with the Democratic Party leadership on specific issues over the years, her lack of a speaking role may be due to his being the one among them who has sought to have his addresses delivered live and during prime-time. In 2008, for example, when the former President was permitted only to deliver brief remarks via video but then appeared onstage with Mrs. Carter waving to delegates once the recording had played, the podium was lowered before they were able to walk off it.

Former President and Mrs. Reagan together attended the 1992 National Republican Convention in Houston. Four years later, despite concerns about leaving the side of her ailing husband, Nancy Reagan traveled the sort distance from her home in Los Angeles, California to attend the 1996 Republican National Convention being held in San Diego.

Three former Repubican First Ladies joined two of their husbands at the 2000 convention Ford, Bush and Reagan. (Washington Post)

Three former Repubican First Ladies joined two of their husbands at the 2000 convention Ford, Bush and Reagan. (Washington Post)

Mrs. Reagan had an important symbolic role at the 1996 Republican convention. Becoming only the second former First Lady to address a national convention, she thanked delegates for their years of support for her husband through his political career and appealed to their loyalty for him to encourage equal fervor for the candidacy of the party’s nominee that year, U.S. Senator Robert Dole.

Apart from her status as a former First Lady, Barbara Bush had a highly personal motivation for attending the National Republican Conventions of 2000 and 2004. A prominent presence during the full week of both events, she proudly watched her son George W. Bush win and accept the party’s nomination on both occasions.

With the dual status of being an incumbent First Lady and a candidate for the U.S. Senate, Hillary Clinton addressed the 2000 National Democratic Convention in Los Angeles. She returned four years later, this time as a former First Lady and incumbent U.S. Senator, addressing the 2004 convention which nominated John Kerry as the party’s presidential candidate.

Hillary Clinton at the 2004 Democratic Convention. (Corbis)

Hillary Clinton at the 2004 Democratic Convention. (Corbis)

Hillary Clinton’s appearance and speaking role at the 2008 National Democratic Convention was perhaps the most historic and certainly unique. That year, she came in the role of a presidential candidate seeking the nomination in her own right. Although her candidacy was close, the nomination went to U.S. Senator Barack Obama.

Although Laura Bush was still the incumbent First Lady when she introduced the 2008 National Republican Convention nominee’s spouse Cindy McCain, she did not appear at the 2012 one.

Which First Lady, incumbent or former, appeared at and addressed more national conventions?

With Eleanor Roosevelt doing so at the 1940, 1952, 1956 and 1960 National Democratic Conventions, and Hillary Clinton doing so at the 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 ones, the record is tied between them.

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Eleanor Roosevelt Speaking at the 1960 Democratic National Convention. (Corbis)

Eleanor Roosevelt Speaking at the 1960 Democratic National Convention. (Corbis)

From what can best be currently determined from existing scholarship, the first former First Lady to attend a national convention was Edith Roosevelt.

Edith Roosevelt at the 1912 Republican Convention in Chicago. ((Morris, EKR)

Edith Roosevelt at the 1912 Republican Convention in Chicago. ((Morris, EKR)

She joined her husband former President Theodore Roosevelt at the 1912 Republican Convention in Chicago, Illinois as he fought against the odds to gain his party’s presidential nomination away from the incumbent President William Howard Taft.

When her husband failed to win the nomination, Edith Roosevelt expressed disgust with the intra-party fighting which continued. She chose not to accompany her husband two months later to the national convention of his newly-formed breakaway Progressive Party, which nominated him.

“I have lived, most reluctantly,” she said, “through one party split.”

Although she was the niece of incumbent First Lady Caroline Harrison and lived in the White House while serving as her secretary and assistant, Mary Lord Dimmock went on to marry the widowed, former President Benjamin Harrison four years after her aunt’s 1892 death.

While her status as a presidential spouse was ambivalent, her status as a presidential widow was not.

Former First Lady Edith Wilson and Jesse Jones at the 1928 Houston Democratic National Convention.

Former First Lady Edith Wilson and Jesse Jones at the 1928 Houston Democratic National Convention.

Recognized with honors as a member of a former presidential family, she attended the 1916 Republican National Convention which nominated her friend Charles Warren Fairbanks of Indiana as the vice presidential candidate.

At the 1928 Democratic National Convention in Houston, Texas, former First Lady Edith Wilson assumed a role of high visibility. With the death of her husband, former President Woodrow Wilson four years earlier, Edith Wilson developed a public profile as the symbol of him, his Administration and his ideals, particularly his failed dream of a League of Nations.

She proceeded to Houston from Washington in the private train care of the former U.S. Ambassador to France Hugh Wallace and his wife, joined by her friend financier Bernard Baruch. In Houston, she was the houseguest of famed financier and Democratic Party Jesse Jones.

She later recalled an unexpected incident which led to a precedent – of sorts, during one of the convention’s evening sessions: “Mr. Jones took me up on the platform. Then without any warning to me at all he stepped on to the rostrum and announced to the delegates, ‘Mrs. Woodrow Wilson will now address you!’”

Speaking in what was described as a “low and resonant” voice, she merely acknowledged the applause. Her voice was evidently not recorded nor was there a transcription of what she said beyond thanking the delegate welcome for her. Edith Wilson did not recall exactly what her words were, recalling only, “I said what I could.”

Former First Lady Nellie Taft, right, with her daughter Helene at the 1940 Republican Convention.

Former First Lady Nellie Taft, right, with her daughter Helene at the 1940 Republican Convention.

Four years later, Edith Wilson attended the National Democratic Convention in Chicago, accompanied by Bernard Baruch, where they were joined by writer Clare Booth, who was then a Democrat.

When former First Lady Nellie Taft attended the 1940 National Republican Convention in Philadelphia, she willingly posed for photographs and spoke to reporters in a hotel suite serving as the campaign headquarters of her son, U.S. Senator Robert Taft, who was seeking his party’s nomination.

Although the nomination went to Wendell Wilkie, Mrs. Taft remained seated in the convention hall with her daughter Helene Taft Manning, taking in the proceedings to the end.

It was not so much as a symbol of her late husband but as a powerful political broker in her own right which led former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to attend three successive National Democratic Conventions, in 1952, 1956 and 1960.

Eleanor Roosevelt at the 1952 Democratic National Convention.

Eleanor Roosevelt at the 1952 Democratic National Convention.

Although she skipped the 1948 National Democratic Convention in light of the fact that she was then a U.S. representative of the newly-formed United Nations, her presence at the 1952 convention was intended to help Adlai Stevenson win the party’s nomination.

Mrs. Roosevelt at the 1956 convention. (original photographer unknown)

Mrs. Roosevelt at the 1956 convention. (original photographer unknown)

Stevenson’s candidacy being opposed by incumbent President Harry Truman who supported Averell Harriman.

Stevenson won not only the 1952 nomination but did so again in 1956, crediting Mrs. Roosevelt’s support as a key factor in his success, despite losing the general election both times.

Former First Lady Bess Truman did not accompany her husband, former President Harry S. Truman to the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.

Four years later, however, former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower did go with her husband to the 1964 Republican National Convention, held in San Francisco.

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Mamie Eisenhower joined her husband on his 1952 whistlestop campaign. (Corbis)

Mamie Eisenhower joined her husband on his 1952 whistlestop campaign. (Corbis)

By Carl Sferrazza Anthony, Historian of the National First Ladies Library

This article is adapted from the response to a multi-part media inquiry received at the National First Ladies Library posed during the 2012 campaign. This is the second installment of a two-part series.

Once presidential candidates began regularly appearing at the national political conventions which nominated them, their wives and families were almost always present to witness the event. Initially, many did not come to the podium with their husband but rather remained in the rafters watching.

At the 1952 Republican cnvention, Mamie Eisenhower became the first spouse to appear on the podium with her husband. (Corbis)

At the 1952 Republican convention, Mamie Eisenhower became the first spouse to appear on the podium with her husband. (Corbis)

In 1952, Mamie Eisenhower set a new precedent by appearing with her husband and waving to acknowledge the cheers of the delegates.

In an effort to gain a greater margin of support from women voters, the Republican Party that year built an entire publicity campaign around the popular Mrs. Eisenhower. Although not intended to replace the serious aspect of the issues being addressed in that year’s election, this publicity campaign was an adjunct to it, intended to appeal to sentiment. Since then, the media departments of the two political parties have given special focus to “packaging” a candidate’s spouse in carefully-crafted biographies and arranging for well-chosen print and broadcast interviews.

Barbara Bush during a 1992 campaign event. (Time)

Barbara Bush during a 1992 campaign event. (Time)

Not only through media interviews candidates’ spouses have also come to serve the role of emphasizing the candidate’s personal accomplishments and attributes in a way that would be perceived as egotistical if the candidates themselves did so. Beginning with the 1992 National Republican Convention speech by Barbara Bush, many spouses have also done so in full-length speeches.

While the audiences hearing these addresses live are often supporters at the convention or rallies, the nation at large listens to them on television or the Internet. (There is a separate article here on the history of candidates’ spouses addressing national conventions.)

Elizabeth and Bob Dole campaigning in 1996. (Corbis)

Elizabeth and Bob Dole campaigning in 1996. (Corbis)

An extension of this public speaking role has evolved to include spouses who deliver important policy-related speeches as substitutes for the candidate who is unable to do so because of scheduling conflicts or appearance delays. This has been especially true in the last twenty years with women who have their own professional experience in public policy such as Rosalynn Carter, Elizabeth Dole, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama.

Another venue for such public appearances and speeches is borne by the constant fundraising necessity of sustaining the cost of national campaigns. With a tremendous public appeal which often crossed party lines, Barbara Bush repeatedly assumed this role to the point where it established a precedent for all successive candidates’ spouses of both parties.

Teresa Heinz Kerry and her husband John Kerry during his 2004 campaign. (Getty)

Teresa Heinz Kerry and her husband John Kerry during his 2004 campaign. (Getty)

Beyond serving the purpose of reflecting the candidate’s character through his marital life, candidates’ spouses have also come to serve as excellent surrogates who speak with authority on the issues of the campaign but can often do so in a manner which, traditionally, translates into a more readily-understandable explanation of complex policy issues for the general voting public.

This article focuses on the public role of candidates’ spouses. In conjunction with but apart from such a role, they can exercise enormous influence in a variety of substantive ways. A few examples include: editing or reviewing the candidate’s speeches, or advising them on rewording the text to best present complex issues in simple language (Mamie Eisenhower); cultivating key support within the party leadership (Ellen Wilson) or members of Congress (Dolley Madison); recommending scheduling changes that best serve the personal or political inclinations of the candidate (Louisa Adams, Jacqueline Kennedy); offering strategy advice on how to best appeal directly to women on issues of concern to that demographic (Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter).

Bill and Hillary CLinton on the campaign trail in 1992. (Life)

Bill and Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail in 1992. (Life)

Despite the strong tradition and public expectation of spousal support of presidential candidates, there was a notable exception to this in 2004. During the state primary races, the wife of Vermont governor and Democratic candidate Howard Dean refused to relinquish her own professional responsibilities as a physician in order to campaign.

Although Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination is the only example of a woman candidate, there was an equal degree of public and media expectation of her spousal support during that process. In light of the unusual fact that this spouse happened to be a former President of the United States, it was unsurprising that it was a role he assumed with eager vigor.

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Ida McKinley campaign ribbon badge. (NFLL)

Ida McKinley campaign ribbon badge. (NFLL)

There is not now, nor has there ever been, any type of formal requirement for the spouses of national candidates, be they husbands or wives, to assume a role in the campaign effort to win the presidency.

A button from the 1964 campaign. (ebay)

A button from the 1964 campaign. (ebay)

There is, however, a public and media expectation which has grown stronger over the last century that a woman married to a man seeking the highest elective office in the country would be the one person who would most strives to demonstrate a faith in his abilities.

And certainly for a presidential candidate in the midst of their campaign, there is no greater priority than being able to meet public expectations.

While a person seeking the presidency is doing so to initiate their vision of improving or at least stabilizing the nation’s standard of living for as many citizens as possible and safeguarding the nation’s standing internationally. Certainly since the earliest forms of visual mediums such as lithographs and engravings, a potential U.S. President has also been considered in light of how well voters believe that person will serve as a standard symbol of the American nation. Even when only men were able to vote, the primary element reflecting the symbolism of a President has been his family.

The Springfield, Illinois home of Abraham Lincoln during a campaign event. Mary Lincoln has been identified as sitting in the upper left window. (LC)

The Springfield, Illinois home of Abraham Lincoln during a campaign event. Mary Lincoln has been identified as sitting in the upper left window. (LC)

Beginning with Abraham Lincoln’s 1864 re-election campaign, for example, one of the most popular forms of campaign paraphernalia were large, color-tinted engravings showing candidates at home at the hearthside, in the bosom of their family.

Even if these were technically propaganda in that such romanticized items failed to accurately represent the candidate’s home life, there was public appeal in the idealization of the candidate-husband, wife, children and even often an elderly parent. By intention, these engravings served as visual role models of the American family.

The rapid advancement of technology which afforded actual photographs and then moving images of the candidate and his family may have altered the format this idealization was transmitted but it served the same essential of emotional appeal to voters.

Through the early 20th century, candidates seeking first their party’s nomination and then those chosen who ran in the general election for the presidency maintained a degree of distance from the general public, reflecting a belief that it was undignified to go out and actively ask voters to support them. Instead, newspaper and magazine reported on the policy stand, speeches and personal character of these men in articles often accompanied by photographs which included images of their wives.

The James Garfield family. (LC)

The James Garfield family. (LC)

The advent of the “front-porch” campaign, the first of which was in 1860 when Lincoln welcomed constituency delegations to his Springfield, Illinois home created a natural platform for the wives of candidates to begin appearing publicly.

With the socialization of women still overwhelmingly being domestic, it was considered perfectly natural that the “lady of the house” would be eager to welcome “guests” on the front steps or under the veranda of her private home.

On the increasingly common chance that voters were received in the candidate’s home, it also became natural for his wife to serve as a hostess in the parlor to welcome and thank those supporters of their spouse. It was in such a domestic-political context that women like Lucretia Garfield, Caroline Harrison and Ida McKinley first became known to the general public.

By the time the effectiveness of a candidate remaining on the front-porch of his private home to address massive delegations had reached its end, the long fight to grant women the equal right to vote of the last front-porch campaign. These two turning-points culminated in the 1920 presidential campaign of Republican candidate Warren G. Harding.

Florence Harding speaking to new women voters during the 1920 presidential campaign.

Florence Harding speaking to new women voters during the 1920 presidential campaign. (OHS)

From the spacious and appealing large front-porch of her Marion, Ohio home, Florence Harding began to directly appeal to women delegations, discussing economic, professional and social issues she believed to be of especial interest to them as they headed to the polls for the first time, following passage of the 19th Amendment that summer.

Florence Harding, seasoned in the newspaper business, was also unusually comfortable with the press and spoke freely with them, granting interviews for national newspapers and magazines.

It was an important turning point in the public visibility of candidates’ spouses.

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The Children of Jacqueline Kennedy

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy shortly after m moving into the White House with three-year old daughter Caroline and several-mont

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy shortly after m moving into the White House with three-year old daughter Caroline and several-month old son. (Mark Shaw)

This article is adapted from a recent public inquiry pointing out that there is no entry for the first-born of Jacqueline Kennedy under the section marked “children” in her National First Ladies Library online biography.

by Carl Sferrazza Anthony, Historian of the National First Ladies Library

The gravestone of the Kennedy daughter whom Jacqueline Kennedy informally and privately referred to as Arabella.

The gravestone of the Kennedy daughter whom Jacqueline Kennedy informally named “Arabella.) (flickr)

Until research in 1997 discovered the fact, there was no public record of the name of Jacqueline Kennedy’s stillborn child in 1956. Several of her siblings at that time disclosed that the child was never baptized, registered with a birth certificate or legally named. Instead, Jacqueline Kennedy would later make reference to this lost first-born with the sentimental name of “Arabella.”

In 1963, when the child’s remains were later transferred from a local Catholic cemetery in Newport, Rhode Island to be placed alongside those of President Kennedy and the infant Patrick Kennedy, the widowed First Lady did not want a gravestone marked with the informal “nickname” which she had given her.

It is not even clear that President Kennedy was aware of this “name.” Nor was Jacqueline Kennedy known to ever make a written record of this name; it was simply a reference spoken among those with whom she was closest at the time. She made no known further mention of the name after the initial period of loss.

President-elect Kennedy pushing his wife through the hospital lobby following the birth of their son John.

President-elect Kennedy pushing his wife through the hospital lobby following the birth of their son John. (UPI)

Naturally, the loss of any child is a traumatic experience, perhaps a first one in particular. In later editing the book A Thousand Days by her friend, historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jacqueline Kennedy affirmed that she and the President had “five children in ten years,” which he interpreted to be an understandably defensive view from her perspective, having been pregnant with that many children in that number of years.

Ethel Kennedy with ten of her eleven children. (original photographer unknown)

Ethel Kennedy with ten of her eleven children. (original photographer unknown)

She made this remark, Schlesinger thought, in reaction to comparisons often made between her and her sister-in-law Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy, who gave birth to eleven children, all of whom lived to adulthood.

The other “child” which Jacqueline Kennedy referred to was actually a miscarriage she suffered, also an experience before the birth of her daughter Caroline in November 1957.

Jacqueline Kennedy holds her infant son John. (Richard Avedon)

Jacqueline Kennedy holds her infant son John. (Richard Avedon)

Along with her son John, Jr. who was born after his father’s November 1960 election to the presidency but before his January 1961 inauguration, Mrs. Kennedy gave birth to her son Patrick Bouvier Kennedy in August of 1963, while she was First Lady.

Unfortunately, he died of an infant lung ailment within two days.

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Wife of the Republican President runnng for re-election, First Lady Nellie Taft shocked the entire Democratic National Convention by showing up and taking a front-row seat.

Wife of the Republican President runnng for re-election, First Lady Nellie Taft shocked the entire Democratic National Convention by showing up and taking a front-row seat.

by Carl Sferrazza Anthony, Historian of the National First Ladies Library

Helen “Nellie” Taft was not only the first incumbent First Lady who attended a national convention which nominated a presidential candidate, she is still the only one to have appeared at the one held to nominate the candidate who challenged her own husband for the presidency, the convention of the opposing party.

The Republican Convention was held in Chicago and ended on Friday, June 22, 1912 with her husband, the incumbent President William Howard Taft winning re-nomination. Since this also meant that the challenge to him for the nomination from former President Theodore Roosevelt had failed, Mrs. Taft now believed that the only great threat to her husband’s re-election was to be his Democratic opponent.

The Democratic Convention began three days later, on Monday, June 25. It was held in Baltimore, just one hour by train from Washington. Overtly political in all matters related to her husband’s re-election (and her own strong determination to have another four years as First Lady), she attended the convention as the guest of her friend Harriet T. Mack, whose husband Norman E. Mack was National Chairman of the Democratic Party. They were joined by two younger women, a Miss L.L. Francis and Miss Mildred Aubry.

Republican First Lady Nellie Taft in her front-row seat at 1912 Democratic Convention.

Republican First Lady Nellie Taft in her front-row seat at 1912 Democratic Convention.

Reporters inside the convention hall noted that the First Lady sat front and center in the “enemy territory” of the opposition party and that her presence intimidated the fiery Democratic speaker William Jennings Bryan who was a candidate for the nomination.

Being faced directly by President Taft’s wife, Bryan decided to abandon the harsh criticism he had planned to make of her husband. Ultimately, it was Woodrow Wilson who was chosen as the 1912 Democratic presidential nominee. Neither he nor his wife Ellen Axson attended.

Mrs. Taft also returned to Baltimore the following day, for all of the sessions of the convention.

In August, however, former President Roosevelt and those Republicans disenchanted with the party’s nomination of Taft formed their own breakaway party, the Bull Moose Progressives, and nominated him as their candidate. With Roosevelt making it a three-way presidential race, the Republican vote was split and Wilson won the election.

Nellie Taft would again attend another political convention. This time she appeared at the 1940 Republican National Convention held in Philadelphia. Her son Robert Taft, a U.S. Senator, was seeking the nomination but it was won by Wendell Wilkie.

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Candidates’ Spouses Who Spoke at National Conventions

Eleanor Roosevelt became the first First Lady to address a convention nominating her husband.

Eleanor Roosevelt became the first First Lady to address a convention nominating her husband. (Washington Post)

by Carl Sferrazza Anthony, Historian of the National First Ladies Library

The first candidate’s spouse who spoke at the national political convention which nominated her husband as their party’s presidential candidate was in 1940. The woman also happened to be the incumbent First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt on Easter Sunday in 1941. (Corbis)

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt on Easter Sunday in 1941. (Corbis)

Although she had not done so at the two previous conventions which nominated her husband, in 1932 and 1936, she was prompted to deliver her address by a phone call from her husband. President Roosevelt was concerned over the resistance of many delegates to the choice of Henry Wallace as the vice presidential candidate.

Reached at their home in Hyde Park, New York, Mrs. Roosevelt then immediately boarded a plane for Chicago. Arriving in that city, she was whisked to the convention hall and right to podium. Her stirring speech touched on the fact that the nation was facing “no ordinary time,” as it struggled to emerge from the Great Depression and prepare for potentially entering the war in Europe which had broken out a year earlier.

No candidates’ spouses of either party again addressed a nominating convention until 1972. The woman in question was Pat Nixon and like Mrs. Roosevelt, she did so as an incumbent First Lady. The speech also made Pat Nixon the first Republican candidates’ spouse to address the convention.

Pat Nixon was the second First Lady to address a national presidential convention, 1972.

Pat Nixon was the second First Lady to address a national presidential convention, 1972. (RMNL)

She was introduced with a great little film, narrated by Jimmy Stewart, focusing on her work as a global goodwill ambassador and leader of domestic voluntary projects.

In her brief remarks, Mrs. Nixon came to thank the delegates and those Republicans who had been loyal supporters of her husband throughout his political career since this would be the last time he intended to run for public office.

In 1984, Nancy Reagan became the third incumbent First Lady, third candidates’ spouse and second Republican to address the convention.

She made spontaneous remarks, thanking the delegates for being supportive of both her and the President during the difficult times of his first term.

Nancy Reagan waves from the stage to her husband on the screen - and he waves back.

Nancy Reagan waves from the stage to her husband on the screen – and he waves back.

Most notable about her speech was that in the middle of it, her husband suddenly appeared on a jumbo screen behind her. He was seated in their hotel suite watching her on television – and she turned around to watch him, watching her.

In 1992, Barbara Bush became the fourth incumbent First Lady, fourth candidates’ spouse and third Republican to address the convention.

Mrs. Bush’s address was the most substantive speech since that of Eleanor Roosevelt in 1940.

Following her 1992 National Republican Convention speech, Barbara Bush listens to her grandson.

Following her 1992 National Republican Convention speech, Barbara Bush listens to her grandson.

The tone of other convention speakers was pointed in attacks of both the Democratic nominee and his wife, but Mrs. Bush gave a strong speech emphasizing her husband’s integrity.

It became the standard for the speeches of all future candidates’ wives of both parties in “humanizing” their spouses.

Ironically, Mrs. Bush’s remarks about the need for parents to rely on other relatives, neighbors and friends to help raise their children forecasted the 1996 convention speech by the spouse whose husband was running against her own that year.

Incumbent First Lady Hillary Clinton speaks to the 1996 Democratic National Convention.

Incumbent First Lady Hillary Clinton speaks to the 1996 Democratic National Convention.

In 1992, the Democratic presidential candidate’s spouse Hillary Clinton did not address the convention.

By 1996, however, she was then the incumbent First Lady and gave a highly political speech which focused on American families and the challenges which many faced and the legislative intentions of a second Clinton term to address them.

Elizabeth Dole walked among delegates to deliver her 1996 National Republican Convention remarks. (Corbis)

Elizabeth Dole walked among delegates to deliver her 1996 National Republican Convention remarks. (Corbis)

That same year of 1996 marked the first time in presidential history that the spouses of both party candidates addressed the conventions.

Besides Mrs. Clinton’s speech there were the remarks of Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole’s wife, Elizabeth Dole.

She became the first non-First Lady spouse to address a convention.

Thus a pattern of speeches by the candidates’ spouses was established which has been followed at every national presidential convention since then: Tipper Gore (2000), Laura Bush (2000 and 2004), Teresa Heinz Kerry (2004), Michelle Obama (2008 and 2012), Cindy McCain (2008) and Ann Romney (2012).

Broadcasts of most of these speaking appearances of presidential candidates’ spouses may be found online, although some are abridged, at the website for C-Span.

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