Ladies, First

By George W. Bush Presidential Center

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Explore the stirring narrative of America’s first ladies

Episode Date
Ep. 0 Introduction

On March 5th the George W. Bush Institute is launching its first podcast, Ladies, First, hosted by Natalie Gonnella-Platts, Deputy Director of the Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative. There is so much more to the elite sorority of first ladies than fashion and state dinners, and this podcast and its lineup of guest experts will explore this reality. Ladies, First will take an informative, and entertaining look at our first ladies’ legacies and how their leadership has shaped our nation and the international community.

Feb 26, 2018
Ep. 1 A Role Without a Rulebook

From Martha Washington to Melania Trump, each first lady has changed, and is changing, the role for the first ladies that follow them. We chatted with Anita McBride, executive-in-residence at the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies in the School of Public Affairs at American University and Mrs. Bush’s former chief of staff, about navigating the role without a rulebook. Join us as we celebrate their leadership, their journeys, and the evolution of the role of first ladies.

Mar 05, 2018
Ep. 2 Hollywood and Florence Harding’s Legacy

When most people think of first ladies who were activists, they look to women like Eleanor Roosevelt, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama. But, women like Florence Harding, Nellie Taft, and Ellen Wilson warrant greater attention for how they challenged the status quo. We spoke with Dr. Katherine Sibley, author of First Lady Florence Harding: Behind the Tragedy and Controversy about how the early 20th century first ladies paved the way for those to follow.

Mar 05, 2018
Ep. 3 Jackie Kennedy and the Art of Soft Power

While Jacqueline Kennedy is credited with changing the fashion industry, she also modernized the Office of First Lady. If we look beyond the fashion headlines and extravagant events, we find that Jackie used soft power to influence and advance policy. We chatted with Dr. Elizabeth Natalle, author of Jacqueline Kennedy and the Architecture of First Lady Diplomacy to learn more about Jackie’s use of soft power.

Mar 19, 2018
Ep. 4 Laura Bush and the Policy of Compassion

On Sept. 11, 2001 the United States was forever changed. It marked the beginning of a new chapter for the presidency and American history. The public eye turned to Afghanistan and Laura Bush used her voice to be an advocate for those who were silenced. We sat down with Mrs. Laura Bush to learn more about her commitment to improving the lives of others. 


Mar 19, 2018
Ep. 5 From Galas to Garden Parties: The White House Social Scene

Easter Egg Rolls, picnics, and dinners at the White House may not sound like urgent matters, but they are opportunities to reach across the aisle and build relationships thanks to the influence of first ladies. We chatted with co-author of Treating People Well and former White House Social Secretary Lea Berman about our nation’s most well-known hostesses. 

Apr 02, 2018
Ep. 6 The Power of Collaboration

The community of first ladies may be small, but it is powerful. The women who make up this group understand its uniqueness and collaborate to amplify critical issues. We revisited conversations with Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, and Cherie Blair to explore how first ladies work together to draw attention to vulnerable populations.

Apr 16, 2018
Ep. 7 Dolley Madison, The Political Genius

Bridging political divides, Dolley Madison and her fellow political spouses taught our politicians a thing or two about civility, manners, and the art of conversation. We chatted with Massachusetts Historical Society President Dr. Catherine Allgor about our early first ladies, in particular, Dolley Madison. 

May 07, 2018
Ep. 8 The Celebrity Status of a First Lady

When Frances Clara Folsom married President Stephen Grover Cleveland on June 2nd, 1886, the media descended upon Washington. Frances garnered attention and scrutiny that no first family had seen before. A few years later, Edith Roosevelt, with six-children in tow, drew the line between her private and public life. We chatted with White House Historical Association Senior Historian Dr. Matthew Costello to understand the evolution of public intrigue around first spouses.

May 21, 2018
Ep. 9 Service Above Self– The Leadership of Barbara Bush

Barbara Bush’s dedication to faith, family, and friends captured the hearts of Americans. We sat down for a conversation with her daughter, Doro Bush Koch, to celebrate a first lady and family matriarch who had an unwavering devotion to the United States and a commitment to service over self.

Jun 07, 2018
Ep. 10 Clementine Churchill: The Woman Behind the “British Bulldog”

Sir Winston Churchill remains one of the most well-known world leaders, but few realize the impact his wife had on his political career. Clementine Churchill both tamed and empowered the “British Bulldog”. We spoke with Sonia Purnell, author of Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill, to understand Clementine’s leadership and legacy.

Jun 21, 2018
Ep. 11 The Controversies of Julia Gardiner Tyler

The media loved airing Julia Gardiner Tyler’s dirty laundry and after leaving the White House she fought to reclaim her title of first lady. Dr. Christopher Leahy and his wife and fellow historian, Sharon Williams Leahy, spoke with us about one of America’s most vivacious and strong-minded first ladies.

Jul 12, 2018