History at Home: Fabulous First Ladies

Our last History at Home explored handmade and vintage goods featuring the American presidents, so I thought it was only fair that our country’s First Ladies got their due. As Abigail Adams once said, “Remember the ladies.” The First Lady is the official White House hostess – but often (especially in the years since Eleanor Roosevelt) her role as First Lady extends well beyond the household sphere. This roundup of some of my favorite quirky vintage and handmade First Lady-themed swag will get your home and office looking swell!

1. Florence Harding letterpress print from Two Paper Dolls. $30

Florence Harding, wife of President Warren G. Harding, was kind of a badass. She was married before Warren (and totally lied about it afterwards, claiming she was a widow rather than a divorcée), she ran Warren’s newspaper business, and she even had her own astrologer. Florence’s words captured on this fun letterpress print epitomize the role of the First Lady (and arguably the role of wives everywhere). Hang this print at your desk for a constant reminder of the fabulous Florence Harding.

2. Eleanor Roosevelt 8 x 10 print from Elizabeth Mayville. $20

Eleanor Roosevelt is my favorite First Lady of all time. She was strong, sassy, and hyper-intelligent. She was a Michelle before Michelle was even born. Although Eleanor was self-conscious about her own looks – and was called ugly, among other things, by her own family – this portrait of Eleanor makes you think twice about her beauty. Eleanor had beauty that radiated from within – and somehow Elizabeth Mayville’s portrait brings that out.

3. Jackie Ohh II sunglasses from Ray Ban. $150

First Ladies are often the nation’s trendsetters. Michelle Obama made us proud to wear J. Crew, Hillary gave us the business-casual headband, and Jackie Kennedy left a fashion legacy of quintessential mid-century glamour. Lucky for us, Jackie O.’s effortless preppy style will always be “in.” Channel your inner Mrs. Kennedy with some fabulous oversized frames like these classic sunglasses from Ray Ban.

4. Hillary Clinton Love sticker from Dirt Squad. $2.50

Whatever your politics, you have to admit that it would be a pretty awesome moment in our country’s history if any lady – and especially a former First Lady – became president. This “Hillary” sticker is the perfect way to announce your love of Hillary: Senator, First Lady, Secretary of State…and possible future president.

5. The Adams Family print from Puns Intended. $5

Puns are amazing. History-themed puns are better. History-themed puns featuring Abigail Adams are the BEST. Abigail Adams was such an influential and impressive First Lady – her brilliant letters to John undoubtedly influenced the way our country was built. And just as Morticia Addams was the matriarch of the Addams Family, Abigail was the matriarch of the Adams Family. Show off your Abigail love with this adorably punny print!

6. Lady Bird Johnson letterpress print from Two Paper Dolls. $30

“The clash of ideas is the sound of freedom.” A quote so beautiful it could only have come from someone who witnessed just this sort of thing in action – especially someone who spent time in the White House and was married to a president. Lady Bird Johnson supplied plenty of great quotes in her day (“Where flowers bloom, so does hope” is one of my favorites) but this is a particularly good one. A perfect print to inspire you to think and to voice your opinions!

7. US Revenue Cutter Harriet Lane Blueprint from Blueprint Place. $15

During James Buchanan’s presidency, his niece Harriet Lane acted as his First Lady. Harriet was actually a pretty great First Lady, even if her uncle wasn’t the best president. Harriet was so cool, they named a ship after her – a US Revenue Cutter, built in 1857. The USRC Harriet Lane was captured by Confederates, got caught up in some skirmishes near Cuba, and was eventually abandoned at sea in 1881 when a fire broke out in one of her cargo holds. This blueprint, handmade on a real, old-fashioned blueprint machine, is a lovely little reminder of First Lady Harriet Lane. And you will totally impress your friends when you tell them why you have a ship blueprint hanging on your wall.

8. Nancy Reagan campaign button from Peace, Love, and Retro. $8

Campaign buttons are always fun, but I find the family-focused campaign buttons particularly interesting. Rather than directly advertising the candidate (in this case, Ronald Reagan), political campaigns often focus on First Ladies and children in an effort to appeal to women voters. This vintage “Nancy Reagan for First Lady” button totally represents this concept. Nancy was active in her husband’s campaign – she went on the campaign trail with him (and gave speeches to highlight his “personal side”) and even appeared in a commercial in 1980 alone in order to defend him. This vintage button is an artifact of its era – and would make a wonderful keepsake or a fun accessory for any First Lady-lover.

9. Eleanor Roosevelt quote print from Whisker Prints. $9

Eleanor Roosevelt quotes are everywhere out there. Although I’m a little tired of seeing them on everything, I admit that Eleanor Roosevelt was brilliant and said lots of really poignant things that deserve to be quoted. This quote is one of my favorites – and I love the look of the typography printed on a vintage page. Hang this in your house to remind you to do things that make you happy!

10. Michelle Obama tank from Look Human. $23

As a historian, I can say with a degree of certainty that Michelle Obama has the sickest arms of any First Lady in American history (though I’m sure Mrs. Washington’s were lovely). Wear this tank to the gym to remind you of your arm role model – and to celebrate First Ladies as you sweat it out!

My FFL (favorite First Lady) is definitely Eleanor, but Dolley Madison is a close second. Dolley saved a portrait of George Washington from a burning building, for goodness sake. Who’s your FFL and why? Let me know on the On the Ground History Facebook page. Through next Thursday, October 30, I’m giving away a 4×6 Adams Family print to one lucky commenter!

Your First Lady fangirl,

Leave a Reply Cancel reply