First Ladies Exhibition – the 10th version of the first ladies exhibit in nearly 100 years

First Ladies Exhibition (Michelle Obama inaugural gown donation) at National Museum of American History

First ladies’ gowns return to view at National Museum of American History ahead of museum renovation. The First Ladies Exhibition featuring Michelle Obama’s inaugural gown as a centerpiece, 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 US nation.

The new exhibition “The First Ladies” 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. It’s the 10th version of the first ladies exhibit in nearly 100 years. The last one closed in October as the museum moves historic objects out of its west wing for a major renovation beginning early next year.

“There is no job description for first lady of the United States,” said Lisa Kathleen Graddy, curator of the collection. “Each one remakes the undefined and challenging position to suit her own interests, the needs of the presidential administration and the public’s changing expectations of women in general and first ladies in particular.”

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