Skip to main content
Expand AU Menu
Title Bar: The Legacies of America's First Ladies

Title Bar: The Legacies of America's First Ladies


Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies
(202) 885-3491

Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies
4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20016

Anita McBride

Dear friends,

Throughout our nation’s history America's first ladies have influenced politics, domestic policy, and global diplomacy. The attitudes and expectations of the role of First Lady of the United States continues to evolve – an evolution that mirrors the changing status of women in America. The position of first lady, and the influence of the remarkable women who held the position, are a fascinating topic in American culture and they are increasingly receiving more attention for their accomplishments and impact.

American University’s Legacies of America's First Ladies initiative and conference series features distinguished guests — first ladies, former presidents, and first families, White House staff, scholars, authors, members of the media — who highlight the significant contributions these women make by using their platform to advocate for issues, promote change, and improve our society.

Participant Quotes

"Legacies of America's First Ladies conferences are filling a cavernous hole in American politics and history. No place else has the crucial role of presidential wives been so thoroughly and entertainingly presented."
-Cokie Roberts, political commentator and author

View More Quotes »

The initiative’s conference series was launched in March 2011 at American University and led to a partnership with the National Archives Presidential Libraries, and academic and historical institutions to tell the important story of America's first ladies. The series started in Texas – the only state with three Presidential Libraries and two living First Ladies – at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in November 2011. We then headed to Southern Methodist University, hosted by the George W. Bush Presidential Center, in March 2012. The final conference of the Texas series was held on November 2012 at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum. On April 8, 2013, in honor of Betty Ford’s 95th birthday, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum hosted a conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Conversations are underway with several other Presidential Libraries to host additional Legacies of America’s First Ladies conferences.

In September 2016, the Legacies of America’s First Ladies conference series hosted a conference highlighting the unique role of first ladies, as spouse of the Commander-in-Chief, in supporting America’s service members, veterans, and military families. The conference was held at the National Archives and included a discussion with First Lady Michelle Obama and former First Lady Laura Bush.

It has been my honor to lead this important initiative, take the conference series on the road, and participate in a variety of nationwide programs and events that highlight the leadership of women in domestic and global affairs. 

I hope that you will enjoy this journey through our history and will use the information from our first ladies initiative to further your studies and understanding of this powerful platform and the unique club of women who have held this position.

Anita McBride
Executive-in-Residence at Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies and Conference Chair

First Ladies on Social Media

Conference Series Brochure

Read our brochure with highlights from previous conferences, including quotes from participants and details about issues discussed.

Previous Conferences


Conference Series Partners

School of Public Affairs Logo
White House Historical Association Logo
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum Logo
George W Bush Presidential Center Logo
Gerald R. Ford Foundation Logo
LBJ Presidential Library and Museum Logo
National Archives Foundation Logo
National Archives Logo
Joining Forces Logo
American University Library Logo