First Ladies

Lincoln outlived her husband and three of her four children.

Why Historians Should Reevaluate Mary Todd Lincoln's Oft-Misunderstood Grief

A new exhibition at President Lincoln's Cottage connects the first lady's experiences to those of modern bereaved parents

In “Deep Time,” curators used each fossil, including the sea scorpion Eurypterus lacustris, to weave a detailed timeline of Earth’s history.

Secretary Lonnie Bunch on What Makes for a Great Museum Exhibition

A well-curated show makes the unknown feel familiar—and reveals the unexpected

A framed display of locks of George and Martha Washington's hair is estimated to sell for upward of $75,000.

Trove of Presidential Memorabilia, From Washington's Hair to JFK's Sweater, Is Up for Sale

RR Auction is offering a collection of nearly 300 artifacts, including a signed photo of Abraham Lincoln and a pen used by FDR

A dress worn by Martha Washington from the collection of the National Museum of American History. The gown's basic style is typical of the early 1780s.

Women Who Shaped History

Why Martha Washington's Life Is So Elusive to Historians

A gown worn by the first First Lady reveals a dimension of her nature that few have been aware of

Gorman's inaugural poem contains lines stating “But while democracy can be periodically delayed / It can never be permanently defeated.”

Inauguration History

Meet Amanda Gorman, the U.S.' Youngest Inaugural Poet

The 22-year-old revised her original composition, "The Hill We Climb," in the aftermath of the January 6 storming of the Capitol

Closed to the public and financially strained, museums nevertheless managed to create thought-provoking alternatives to in-person viewing.

Virtual Travel

The Top Ten Online Exhibitions of 2020

From a Smithsonian show on first ladies to Mexican muralists, Rembrandt and the making of the Met, these were some of our favorite virtual experiences

A new exhibition "Every Eye Is Upon Me: First Ladies of the United States" is on view at the National Portrait Gallery; clockwise from top left: Mamie Eisenhower, Lady Bird Johnson, Grace Coolidge, Nancy Reagan, Dolley Madison, Abigail Fillmore, Frances Cleveland and Sarah Polk.

How History Records the Peculiar Role of America’s First Ladies

A new exhibition, "Every Eye is Upon Me," pays tribute to the ever-changing role of the women who hold this unelected office

Eleanor Roosevelt talks to a child at the ceremonies inaugurating the slum clearance in Detroit, Michigan.

Women Who Shaped History

Why Eleanor Roosevelt's Example Matters More Than Ever

A new biography shows how decency, determination and generosity of heart can change the world

Woodrow Wilson, seen here at the start of the Paris Peace Conference in January 1919, never publicly acknowledged the pandemic's toll on his country.

Trending Today

What Happened When Woodrow Wilson Came Down With the 1918 Flu?

The president contracted influenza while attending peace talks in Paris, but the nation was never told the full, true story

When curators gather, the topics are lively. Did Dolley Madison save the day? Do astronauts eat freeze-dried ice cream? And where exactly did the Pilgrims land?

Smithsonian Curators Help Rescue the Truth From These Popular Myths

From astronaut ice-cream to Plymouth Rock, a group of scholars gathered at the 114th Smithsonian Material Culture Forum to address tall tales and myths

Rose Cleveland (left) and Evangeline Simpson Whipple (right) exchanged passionate love letters throughout the course of their nearly 30-year relationship

New Book Chronicles First Lady Rose Cleveland’s Love Affair With Evangeline Simpson Whipple

Rose and her longtime partner are buried side by side in the Italian town where they once shared a home

How First Lady Sarah Polk Set a Model for Conservative Female Power

The popular and pious wife to President James Polk had little use for the nascent suffrage movement

“First ladies still tend to be more mysterious than the presidents,” says Smithsonian curator Lisa Kathleen Graddy. “We’re always hoping once the First Lady is out of office (above: Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama, January 20, 2009) she’s going to let us in a little more.”

History of Now

The History of First Ladies’ Memoirs

Freed from the political constraints of living in the White House, these famous women have over the decades shared their personal opinions with the public

Roosevelt and LeHand.

Cool Finds

Rare Home Movies Show the Private Lives of the Roosevelts

The 16mm film depicts the first couple picnicking, boating, and socializing with their friends, family and advisors

Years after she captured this tender, reflective image of the First Lady, photographer Diana Walker sent a print of the photograph to George H. W. Bush. “It does seem like so long ago, but seeing this image brings everything back into focus,” President Bush wrote in response: “The photo now hangs in my office in Maine, and I enjoy it every day.”

Smithsonian Curators Reflect on How Barbara Bush Will Be Remembered

As both the First Lady and the mother of a President, Mrs. Bush leaves a legacy of a national grandmother with an iron backbone

Ask Smithsonian

Who Was the First First Lady to Adopt a Cause and More Questions From Our Readers

You asked, we answered

The Bond Between Mary Todd Lincoln and Her Seamstress

The connection between first lady Mary Todd Lincoln and her African-American seamstress Elizabeth Keckley was a remarkably strong one

How Edith Roosevelt Completely Transformed the White House

Edith Roosevelt was a reluctant First Lady. Despite this, she had the presence and determination to bring about a major innovation to the White House

How Eleanor Roosevelt Redefined the Role of First Lady

Eleanor dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of the oppressed, including pushing FDR to set up the National Youth Administration

Why Nancy Reagan's Sense of Style Wasn't Appreciated

Like Jackie and Dolley before her, Nancy Reagan brought her own unique style to the White House. But economic times were tough

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