Born on this Day — Barbara Walters
Barbara Walters sat down with President and Mrs. Ford in the White House residence for a retrospective interview on December 4, 1976. It would make up half of an hour-long special that aired on January 2, 1977.
Since the Ford administration was drawing to a close this farewell interview featured the Fords’ reflections on their White House years. Walters prompted President Ford to discuss what he considered to be his greatest achievement, improving the general atmosphere of the nation, and his greatest disappointment, not making enough progress towards economic recovery.
The interview also covered topics such as his reaction to losing the 1976 election, his meeting with President-elect Carter, and whether he planned to run for office again. Both President and Mrs. Ford answered questions about their post-Presidential plans and their upcoming move away from Washington, DC.
Earlier in the day the crew had filmed Mrs. Ford giving Walters a tour of the White House that made up the other half of the program. It provided a look into some of the rooms on the third floor, such as the President’s private office, for the first time on television.
Walters was pleased with final product, writing to President Ford shortly after taping, “As a matter of fact, after reading the transcript, I feel it is a definitive interview.”
-from the Ford Library
Style and Influence: First Ladies’ Fashions
From the first days on a campaign trail to the final days living in the White House, the First Ladies of the United States have attracted attention in numerous ways. Both historic and modern First Ladies have harnessed the power of fashion to build identity and inform Americans. In conjunction with our exhibition “Making Their Mark,” we present a distinguished panel to discuss and examine the fashions of America’s First Ladies through conversation and photos. Moderated by Tim Gunn, star of Project Runway, panelists include Valerie Steele, Director and Chief Curator, the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology; Lisa Kathleen Graddy, Deputy Chair and Chief Curator of Political History and the First Ladies Collection, Smithsonian National Museum of American History; and Tracy Reese, a fashion designer who has designed for First Lady Michelle Obama. Presented in partnership with the White House Historical Association.
Tuesday, September 30, at 7 p.m. in the William G. McGowan Theater
The discussion will be streamed live on YouTube.
President Kennedy favored a few dresses worn by Mrs. Kennedy
President Kennedy’s favorites included this black silk velvet and Chinese yellow silk satin evening dress designed by Chez Ninon. Mrs. Kennedy wore it to a White House state dinner honoring President Manuel Prado of Peru on September 19, 1961.
-from the JFK Library
As we continue to explore the Roosevelts through National Archives records this week in conjunction with Ken Burns's The Roosevelts documentary series on pbstv, today we turn our attention to Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.
Eleanor Roosevelt was an active and focused First Lady, transforming the role during her 12 years in the White House. She pushed for a number of domestic and social reforms, and remained professionally active in journalism, penning a monthly column for Woman’s Home Companion magazine and Ladies Home Journal as well as a syndicated daily newspaper column called “My Day.”
On March 6, 1933, Eleanor Roosevelt held the first of her 348 women’s-only press conferences. These press conferences were attended by the major female reporters of the day - including Lorena Hickok, Ruby Black, Bess Furman, May Craig, Emma Bugbee and Martha Stayer.
Eleanor used these press conferences as a way to not only announce her schedule of activities but also as a platform to publicize the work of women leaders, answer her critics, and entertain questions on a variety of subjects. Topics covered everything from domestic issues like social programs, race, youth activism, etc. to international politics and the role of women in war and peace.
Image of “Eleanor Roosevelt’s First Press Conference" and information via fdrlibrary.
The First Lady’s First Press Conference
A week after the President gave his first press conference Betty Ford held one of her own. She fielded questions in the State Dining Room for 25 minutes on September 4, 1974.
Although she had interacted informally with the press since entering the White House, Mrs. Ford took a step many former First Ladies had not by making herself available to the media in an official press conference. Around 150 reporters and photographers attended the session.
During the press conference Mrs. Ford answered questions about her family’s transition to the White House, the impact of the economy on her family’s budget, and the possibility of President Ford running in the 1976 election. She spoke openly on several topics that would come up throughout the administration, including her support of the Equal Rights Amendment and women’s engagement in civic affairs. “I think that by becoming very active in politics, which I deeply encourage, that they will play a great role in the future of our country,” she said.
Reporters asked her about her role as First Lady as well. Mrs. Ford expressed her interest in supporting the arts, particularly in education, and working with underprivileged and retarded children. She also responded to a question regarding the kind of “footprint” she wanted to make during her time in the White House: “I would like to be remembered in a very kind way; also as a constructive wife of a President. I do not expect to come anywhere near living up to those First Ladies who have gone before me. They have all done a great job, and I admire them a great deal and it is only my ambition to come close to them.”
A National Dance Day Post for Betty Ford
Dance played a significant role in Betty Ford’s early life. She began taking social-dance classes as a young girl before branching out into ballet, tap, and modern dance. At age 14 she began giving lessons on Saturday afternoons, teaching her students the foxtrot, the waltz, and the Big Apple.
During the summers of 1937 and 1938 Betty attended the Bennington School of Dance in Vermont, where she spent eight hours a day in classes and at rehearsals. She also was exposed to the work of and met choreographer Martha Graham. In 1939 Betty moved to New York City to study dance at Graham’s school. She became a member of the Martha Graham auxiliary performance troupe and performed at Carnegie Hall.
In 1941 Betty’s mother persuaded her to return to Grand Rapids. Although the move ended her professional aspirations she continued to teach modern dance classes and also started and choreographed for her own dance group. “Dance was my happiness,” she reflected in her memoirs.
Betty Bloomer (at left) in a class at the Bennington College Summer School of the Dance taught by Martha Hill (right center), 1937.
-from the Ford Library
Shortly before noon Gerald and Betty Ford made their way from the Vice President’s office in the Executive Office Building to the White House, where they joined Chief Justice Warren Burger in the Red Room. They then walked down the hall to the East Room where Gerald R. Ford would be sworn in as the 38th President of the United States. This memo is Mrs. Ford’s copy of the sequence of events for the ceremony.
Day 74: Eleanor Roosevelt and the United Nations
“We stand today at the threshold of a great event both in the life of the United Nations and in the life of mankind… . This declaration may well become the international Magna Carta of all men everywhere.”
-Eleanor Roosevelt, Speech to U.N. General Assembly on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, December 9, 1948
In December 1945, seeking to signal America’s commitment to the new United Nations organization— and cement his ties to a powerful Democratic party figure— President Harry Truman appointed Eleanor Roosevelt to America’s first delegation to the General Assembly.
Eleanor quickly became a major force on refugee and human rights issues. From 1946 to 1951 she chaired the U.N. Human Rights Commission leading the effort to draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. An able and determined negotiator, she clashed frequently with Soviet delegates over the definition of human liberties. In the process, she pushed the State Department to recognize that human rights are not only civil and political rights, but social and economic rights too. The Declaration was Eleanor’s proudest achievement at the U.N. It created the modern definition of human rights. Today it is the standard for establishing norms governing international behavior regarding the rights of individuals.
Eleanor’s duties as a delegate to the United Nations included many trips abroad to London, Paris and Geneva. Eleanor received several gifts during these trips including:
- A tortoise shell box presented to ER by an English woman as a token of appreciation in the winter of 1946.
- A color print of the painting by Frank Beresford of Eleanor Roosevelt addressing the United Nations in London, England, on February 12, 1946. Inscribed and presented to ER by the artist.
- A University of Lyon Academic Stole and Cap presented to ER in November 1948 when she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by the University of Lyon, France.
- A silver United Nations medallion presented to ER by the government of France.
- A watercolor of the Rue des Corps-Saints in Geneva’s Old Town by Harry Urban. Presented to ER by the artist in April 1951. The painting hung in the living room of ER’s NYC apartment until her death.
- A group of French commemorative medallions, including one for FDR, from the government of France given to ER during her 1951-52 trip.
- A lithograph of The American Church of Paris by Frank Milton Armington. Presented to ER by the church’s minister, Clayton E. Williams, in December 1951. The print hung in the living room of ER’s NYC apartment until her death.
Dancing in the Street
President Ford and Mrs. Ford as well as their hosts Romanian President and Mrs. Nicolae Ceausescu briefly joined in a folk dance in Victory Square in Bucharest on August 2, 1975.
The Fords had been on their way from the Otopeni Airport to the Spring Palace when they stopped for the dancing. Reporters traveling with the Presidential motorcade filed a pool report describing the event:
“At the far side of the Square the official party was swept up by a circle of folk dancers. The President and Mrs. Ford joined the circle and danced for a few minutes along with the Romanian President and his wife. In the second circle behind the principals, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger also joined a circle of dancers, and it was an unbelievable sight.”
-from the Ford Library