A new exhibit at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University gives a view of how first ladies have influenced policy, politics, and social change throughout history.
The exhibit “First Ladies: Style of Influence,” runs through Oct. 1.
The exhibit does feature some examples of the clothing worn by first ladies, including the grey pant suit worn by Laura Bush during a visit to Afghanistan, the uniform worn by Lou Henry Hoover as the national president of the Girl Scouts, and a black velvet evening gown worn by Eleanor Roosevelt.
But, the goal of the exhibit is to go deeper into the work of the ladies who wore those clothes.
“We are trying to go beyond the surface points of fashion and delve into how these women have really shaped history,” Natalie Gonnella-Platts, a show organizer and a deputy director at the George W. Bush Institute, told the New York Times.
“The artifacts that were chosen are really entry points into larger stories of how various first ladies used the platform to create change.”
The exhibit showcases the impact of first ladies including Laura Bush, Barbara Bush, Jackie Kennedy, Dolley Madison, Michelle Obama, and Eleanor Roosevelt.
It is presented through themes from the Bush Institute’s research report, A Role Without a Rulebook: The Influence and Leadership of Global First Ladies.
“The artifacts that were chosen are really entry points into larger stories of how various first ladies used the platform to create change,” Gonnella-Platts told the Times.
The exhibit is an opportunity for Laura Bush to give insights on the lives of first ladies and the roles they played as one of the highest-profile people in the nation and the world.
“The idea is that it’s more than just fashion, the beautiful gowns that first ladies wear to state dinners or whatever,” she told The Dallas Morning News. “First ladies have a very active role in policy and they have since the beginning.”
Laura Bush offers an example of how a first lady takes on an important social role for the nation, particularly in troubled times.
She told the Morning News that after 9/11 happened, “everything changed,” and that, she “became comforter in chief.”
“After Sept. 11, when the spotlight turned on Afghanistan, I found a role that I didn’t expect.”
The post-9/11 period changed her life and role.
“After Sept. 11, when the spotlight turned on Afghanistan, I found a role that I didn’t expect,” Laura Bush said.
She served as honorary chair of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council and began advocating for women in Afghanistan, The News noted.
For more information on the exhibit, go here.
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