On May 6, co-authors and historians Diana B. Carlin, Anita B. McBride and Nancy Kegan Smith joined Frank Gannon, former Special Assistant to President Nixon, to discuss their groundbreaking new book, Remember the First Ladies: The Legacies of America’s History-Making Women. The event was held in the Nixon Library’s White House East Room as part of the Nixon Foundation’s Distinguished Speaker Series. 

Providing a masterclass in American history, Remember the First Ladies explores the entirety of the position of First Lady and how that role has evolved. The three authors, who are founding members of FLARE (First Ladies Association for Research and Education) combined their different backgrounds as a communications academic, Chief of Staff for a First Lady and archivist of presidential materials to write a cohesive work that explores the context in which these women lived.

The chapter of the book covering First Lady Pat Nixon is called “The Overlooked First Lady,” and as described by Anita McBride, “We [the authors] really took time and care in the short amount of pages that we had for Mrs. Nixon to really pique everyone’s interest to appreciate and recognize what an extraordinary first lady she was.” The authors went on to describe how Mrs. Nixon took diplomacy worldwide by addressing foreign parliaments, delivering humanitarian aid and letting Americans see the world through her eyes. Understanding the stagecraft that goes with statecraft, her decision to arrive on the historic trip to China in 1972 in a red coat was described as “a masterstroke of fashion diplomacy.” 

The panel went on to discuss the lasting impact First Lady Pat Nixon had on the White House. She made more acquisitions to the White House collection than any other First Lady, had the White House lit at night and increased accessibility by initiating tours for the blind, tours at night, installing ramps, and having pamphlets created in other languages.

First Lady Pat Nixon’s example is one of the fifty-four covered in Remember the First Ladies. While the role of the president’s spouse is unpaid and undefined, the women who have served America as First Lady have left countless contributions and legacies that continue to give. 

Watch here:

Remember the First Ladies is available for purchase in the Nixon Library’s Museum store.