Miscellaneous Articles about First Ladies

ATTENTION:  These pages are no longer being maintained.
This section of the website has been replaced by the First Ladies' Library Blog.  

Please click here to visit the blog for the newest articles.

Miscellaneous Articles 

 First Ladies to First Speak at National Conventions

The first wife of any presidential candidate to speak at a national convention was Eleanor Roosevelt, at the 1940 Democratic National Convention, held in Chicago. She was, of course, at that time the incumbent First Lady.

The first incumbent Republican First Lady to do so was Pat Nixon, at the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami, Florida.

The first non-incumbent presidential candidate's spouse to address a convention was Elizabeth Dole, at the 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego.

Finally, Eleanor Roosevelt, Nancy Reagan and Hillary Clinton are the three former First Ladies who have addressed national political conventions.

 Florence Kling Harding Ancestry

 The siblings of Amos Kling which I did identify in my biography of Mrs. Harding were identified through two venues of research.

The first is, to me, the most solid and reliable of all and that is the grave markers at the Marion Cemetery. While I cannot recall with absolute accuracy these many years later if there is a definitive "Kling family plot" there, I do know that one if not two or three of his brothers fought in the Civil War for the Union Army and one died during that service.

The second source were newspaper articles about Florence Harding's uncles written at the time of the 1920 presidentical campaign: of course, these forms of documentation can be less reliable, but checked against the death records as noted in the markers at the cemetery I believe the family connections I noted in my book are the accurate ones.

As to ancestry, this was a great problem.

There were unsubstantiated claims that her particular branch of Kling ancestors may have come from Wurttemburg region of present-day Germany and may have been Jewish, which would suggest that the region had not been the family's long place of residence since many edicts at the time had Jewish families constantly relocated. In addition, there was a suggestion that her "French" grandmother, as she called her, with the maiden name of Vetallis (a Latin derivative) may have been Catholic. Thus, there may have been reason in that far less religiously-tolerant time for Florence Harding to feel the need to disguise whatever genuine ancestry she knew about.

In fact, a definitive Kling family geneology written by a Margaret Kling at the time of the Harding presidency, stated that the researchers had striven mightily to prove a defintiive link to the First Lady's paternal family but that, admittedly they were not able to do so. From your research it seems that you may perhaps be related to this more prominent Kling family rather than that of Florence Harding's.

First Ladies' Speeches at National Conventions

By establishing the parameters which you have, I am glad to inform you that there is a records of those speeches, although perhaps not all of them are transcribed. The primary source where you will find these is on the C-Span website which has a thorough compilation of all speeches given at the National Democratic Convention and National Republican Convention since 1988.

In some instances, the convention speeches by candidates' spouses have been transcribed by C-Span, although in draft form and may require corroboration against the accompanying film footage. I am also certain that in at least one case, the 1996 speech by Hillary Clinton, her speech is abridged. I am not certain if the entire length of the speeches given by Elizabeth Dole that year, Laura Bush and Tipper Gore in 2000, Laura Bush and Teresa Kerry (who, I believe, at least made "remarks" but perhaps not a formal address) in 2004, Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama in 2008, and Michelle Obama and Ann Romney in 2012.

In the event you do not find the full speeches on the CSpan site, a second series of sources where the a number of the speeches are likely to be found will be at the Clinton Presidential Library in Arkansas (the 1996 Clinton speech and the 2000 Gore speech) and the soon-to-open George W. Bush Presidential Library in Texas (the 2000 and 2004 Bush speeches).

If you fail to find the full speeches of Dole in 1996, Kerry in 2004, Obama in 2008 and McCain in 2008, another potential source might be the headquarters of both the National Democratic Committee and the National Republican Committee, the Dole Papers (which are, I believe at the University of Kansas in Lawrence), and/or the offices of both incumbent U.S. Senators John McCain and John Kerry.

Recently, I completed for another public inquiry a definitive list of the history of candidates' spouses and the growing role and visibility which they have played at the national party conventions which have nominated their husbands. The NFLL does intend to eventually make this public on our website.

Info about Laura Bush, is it worth making the trip to Canton?

As for a research trip to the NFLL in Canton: Well, I might suggest that you do a survey of the holdings which are currently processed and opened at the George Bush Library in College Station, Texas which relate to Barbara Bush's tenure as First Lady.

I'm not certain of the precise date but the George W. Bush Library is also set to open in the spring. Whether it would work with your planned travel schedule or not, I'm not sure. Nor do I know how much material from Laura Bush's tenure will be immediately available.

I think you might contact both institutions directly and see whether they would have materials of specific interest to your research.

The National First Ladies Library is not a repository of primary source materials, especially those which would repeat the holdings of Presidential Libraries. We do have some original holdings but these largely relate to earlier First Ladies.

The research papers there, however, include not only my own (which is material you would have already seen in my books) but likely a rich source of information on Barbara Bush in the donated papers of Donnie Radcliffe, the Washington Post reporter who covered First Ladies from Pat Nixon to Hillary Clinton. She also authored books on Barbara Bush and Hillary Clinton early in their White House years. Michelle Gullion, the archivist, will have a good idea of how much of the Radcliffe Papers have been processed.

As for secondary sources, many of them rare and essentially unavailable elsewhere, the NFLL is the greatest single resource in the country. However, this is more the case with First Ladies pre-1961 than the two Bush First Ladies and Michelle Obama.

With the dawn of the digital age at the turn of the century, I would make an educated guess that practically all that will be available on Laura Bush (until her husband's library opens) and Michelle Obama will be found by some deep online digging.

Lastly, I would also suggest you review carefully the NFLL's online bibliography where those items (which will include some dissertations sent to us over the years) which are physically present on site, and may warrant the trip to Canton, will be noted with a star. 


Florence Harding voice recording

During the years of my research on Florence Harding I found reference to her making a voice recording in private with Evalyn McLean - for fun, apparently on a "talkie" device given to Mrs. McLean by her friend D.W. Griffith. However, there was also a gramaphone recording device in the Harding's home in Washington when he was a U.S. Senator and read one of his campaign speeches to be sold in 1920, during the campaign. In all my my adventures and explorations for material on her, I never once came across it. I quite thoroughly went through every box and item in the McLean papers, etc. Nothing.

A few years ago, someone sent me a recording was made of a woman who seemed to "sound" regionally like Mrs. Harding on a record that was made of historical sound recordings during the 1976 Bicentennial. The suggestion was that the President had participated in some ceremony on the South Lawn in which he ignited a rocket and Mrs. Harding was recalling the event. The brief voice recording begins, "My husband placed the rocket on the lawn, lit it and it took off...."

After some extensive research, all indications were that it was, in fact, Esthert Goddard, wife of fuel-rocket inventor Robert Goddard and she was speaking of his first launching successful rocket launcing experiment which he conducted on the lawn of his aunt in Massachusetts - in 1926. Mrs. Gooddard died at age 95 in 1998.

Jackie Kennedy Interview/Overview

1.) What impact did Jackie have on her husband while he was in office?
She broadened his perspective on the performing arts and fine arts, encouraged him to take a more active role as a father, and often offfered her opinion on the personalities of political and world leaders.

2.) Was Jackie a role model to women around the U.S.? Why?
Yes, as a mother and a wife and also an intelligent woman who spoke several languages, read, wrote and spoke with perfect grammar, travelled, took interest in other cultures - and certainly with her clothes.

3.) Did Jackie change the future first ladies by the things that they should be responsible for?
She was so popular that those which came after her were always being compared to her and so many of those First Ladies staffs tried to get attention with the press for their clothes, their projects and foreign travel - also her White House historic restoration and her work in historic preservation set a pattern for them to also adopt a signature social cause or issue that was intended to help a large constituency of people, be they women with breast cancer, environmentalists and those interested in nature, those with mental health issues, etc.

4.) Did Jackie have an impact on women trying to become less traditional?
Yes and no. No during the early time as First Lady when she defined herself pretty much as wife, mother and hostess but more so as she began to travel, discuss issues like nuclear armament reduction, etc.  And definitely yes after the White House - almost too much so because her marriage to Onassis seemed so shocking to traditionalists because of their difference in age and national citizenship.

5.) Did John treat Jackie as an equal to him while he was in office?
Hard to know the full truth on that since she really kept that aspect of their life as private as she could; he did not initially think of women as posessing the same intellectual capacity because many women did not have the level of professional experience that men did - it was very segregated in that women were still being socialized along the accepted rule that their place was in the home and with children, not in politics; all that said, the more Jackie expressed her opinion, made observations about political situations, and shared what she witnessed in foreign countries without him, the more he grew to respect her intellect.

6.) Was the way Jackie was raised bring out her independent and confident women ways?
I think it was in part just the way she was, no matter how she was raised - she was highly, highly individualistic and even though she seemed to follow all the rules of polite society and etiquette on the surface, beneath the surface she admitted to having a bit of a subversise thinking and did not want to follow the rules - that really outraged and horrified her mother who was very old-school.

7.) Did Jackie's fashion impact the women of the U.S.?
Very much so - hat, dresses, sunglasses, gloves, were all copied and were more youthful and even those who were older adapted the "Jackie Look" for themselves.

8.) Did Jackie have a positive impact on the U.S?
This is a tough one to answer - I would say definitely yes at the time she was in the White House and now she is becoming such an icon that she is almost mythological like Napoleon or Cleopatra - the one-named legend of Jackie.

9.) Has Jackie impacted your life or the way you live?
Besides my two-volume history on the First Ladies, I also wrote a book on the Kennedy family in the White House and also a biography of her - from all that research and writing, I think that I worked on expanding the range of historical subjects beyond just American history as a result of the way she thought; also my understanding of mythology and the way public figures all play a specific role in the imagination of the general public as part of a large and shared narrative story; also, perhaps my efforts to always improve the quality of my writing.

10.) How did Jackie impact society?
Her husband's funeral and the way she conducted herself was considered to be as Charles De Gaulle put it, "gave the word an example of how to mourn" - she created a system to forever keep the White House preserved, she also gave respect to the American arts and encouaged the idea that the US was equal in many areas of the arts, and finally her work on historic preservation in Washington was copied in many other large cities and small towns.