The First Ladies

November 19, 2011 – Indefinitely

Martha Washington wore this silk taffeta gown in the early 1780s. The silk is painted with a design of flowers, butterflies, and other insects. The collar and cuffs are reproductions.

National Museum of American History
1300 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC

3rd Floor, Center, Rose Gallery, enter from American Presidency Floor Plan

The First Ladies explores the unofficial but important position of first lady and the ways that different women have shaped the role to make their own contributions to the presidential administrations and the nation. The exhibition features more than two dozen gowns from the Smithsonian’s almost 100-year old First Ladies Collection, including those worn by Frances Cleveland, Lou Hoover, Jacqueline Kennedy, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama. A section titled “Changing Times, Changing First Ladies” highlights the roles played by Dolley Madison, Mary Lincoln, Edith Roosevelt, and Lady Bird Johnson and their contributions to their husband’s administrations. The First Ladies encourages visitors to consider the changing role played by the first lady and American women over the past 200 years.

Related book: The Smithsonian First Ladies Collection