Anita McBride, a longtime White House adviser, has taken the series to presidential libraries across the country. Photo by David Valdez


The First Ladies Symposium (May 2021)

The First Ladies Symposium was a day-long virtual event hosted by the White House Historical Association in partnership with American University's First Ladies Initiative. It featured an opening statement by First Lady Jill Biden and conversations with prominent scholars, historians, and professionals who discussed first ladies and gender; first ladies reconsidered; first ladies and communications; and first ladies and their role in historic preservation efforts. Read More

America's First Ladies: Service to Our Nation (September 2016)

Former First Ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush were joined by historians, former staff members, and White House insiders for a unique conference held at the National Archives. The event organized by the School of Public Affairs in partnership with the American University Library, the White House Historical Association, Joining Forces, the George W. Bush Institute, and the National Archives and Records Administration.
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America's First Ladies: An Enduring Legacy (April 2013)

Former First Ladies Barbara Bush and Laura Bush participated in a luncheon discussion with Archivist of the United States David Ferriero, Tenth Archivist of the United States. The conference commemorated former First Lady Betty Ford's 95th birthday and kicked off centennial celebrations honoring former President Gerald R. Ford. Participants included presidential historians and former first children Susan Ford Bales and Steve Ford, who shared intimate accounts of public life and private moments in the White House.
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November 2012

This conference featured historians, advisers to former first ladies and presidents, a veteran White House photographer, representatives from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and the American University Library, and former First Ladies Barbara Bush and Laura Bush, who offered personal reflections about Lady Bird Johnson to mark her centennial birthday. The panelists offered their perspectives on the legacies of these women and family life in the White House.
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March 2012

Presidents of American University and Southern Methodist University opened the conference, which included presidential historians, social secretaries and presidential advisers, White House photographers, national media correspondents, former President George W. Bush, and former First Ladies Barbara Bush and Laura Bush. Through lively discussions and historic images, they examined the vital role First Ladies have played throughout our history.
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November 2011

Presidential historians, senior advisers to first ladies, and former First Ladies Barbara Bush and Laura Bush discussed the challenges and opportunities of this unique position. They offered a behind-the-scenes look at work in the East Wing and life in the White House residence. This event also was the first public forum in which these women shared their experiences as mother-in-law and daughter-in-law serving in this role.
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March 2011

This conference launched a national dialogue on America's first ladies in partnership with the National Archives Presidential Libraries, the White House Historical Association, and academic institutions. Participants included renowned historians, former presidential advisers, First Ladies' chiefs of staff, veteran members of the White House press corps, and American University faculty. They offered insiders' perspectives on first ladies throughout our history, their private lives and public roles, and the impact they have had on politics, policy, and global diplomacy.
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Sampling of Panelists and Participants

  • Catherine Allgor
  • Susan Ford Bales
  • First Lady Dr. Jill Biden
  • Allida Black
  • Former First Lady Barbara Bush
  • Former President George W. Bush
  • Former First Lady Laura Bush
  • Steve Ford
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • Jenna Bush Hager
  • David Hume Kennerly
  • Dee Dee Myers
  • First Lady Michelle Obama
  • Lynda Johnson Robb

The School of Public Affairs First Ladies Initiative
is proud to partner with the following institutions:

  • School of Public Affairs
  • George W Bush Presidential Center
  • National Archives Foundation
  • White House Historical Association
  • Gerald R. Ford Foundation
  • National Archives
  • George Bush Presidential Library and Museum
  • LBJ Presidential Library and Museum
  • Joining Forces
  • American University LibraryNational Endowment for the Humanities
First Ladies event