A “Virtual” Salon for Mrs. Taft

A “Virtual” Salon for Mrs. Taft
Helen Taft: First Ladies' Lives

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: One or two class periods


   Before her marriage to Will Taft, Nellie Herron held a salon in her parents’ parlor to which she invited the best and brightest minds from her social circle in Cincinnati.  Although she did not continue this practice after her marriage, she knew all the people who would have been included in anyone’s salon in Washington, D.C.  Our nation’s capital has often attracted the brightest minds as well as the most famous individuals at every point in our history.


   The purpose of this lesson is to introduce students to the personalities behind the news—and behind historical events.  Students may also develop an appreciation of the leading figures of their own time in the fields of the arts, sciences, technology, government, diplomacy, etc.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet Access to print reference materials Text book First Ladies Curriculum timeline Access to current news, sports, and entertainment industry magazines (For Extension)


   Using the information from the Wikipedia resource below, set the stage for this lesson by introducing students to the concept of a salon and to its history.  Note that the salon is not just a French custom; Dolley Madison also held a salon in her Georgetown home prior to her husband’s presidency and in the White House during his administration.  
   Tell students that their job is to create a guest list for Mrs. Taft for the initial meeting of her new salon meeting at some point during her husband’s administration (1909-1913).  After the teacher has decided on the categories to include in the salon (the arts, sports, diplomacy, industry, etc.), divide the class into that many groups and assign each group the responsibility of deciding on 1 or 2 individuals from the first decade of the 20th century to invite to Mrs. Taft’s “gathering.”  
   Using their textbooks, the timeline, and other resources, students will research the assigned time period and draw up a list of possible candidates to present to Mrs. Taft.  Each group will then present their candidates to the class.

Extending the Lesson:

   The teacher may choose to extend this lesson into the present by assigning students the responsibility of selecting individuals from the present to include in a modern-day salon.  Comparisons can be drawn between the list from the past and the present-day one.

Sources & Resources:

 This lesson was developed by Bette Brooks, Kent State University.