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Visit Saint Paul LB Editors Picks 8/16

First lady-themed stops for inspirational tours

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From the galleries in Congress, former first lady Mary Todd Lincoln was known to take notes about who was supporting what.

Entrance to First Lady Library at First Ladies National Historic Site

Photo: Creative Commons/Dustin M. Ramsey First Ladies National Historic Site, Canton, Ohio

Lady Bird Johnson rode the Lady Bird Special throughout the South to whistle-stop for her husband, a sitting president. It was the first time a first lady had campaigned without her husband.

These five stops provide insights into the lives and interests of the first ladies of the United States.

National First Ladies’ Library, First Ladies National Historic Site
Canton, Ohio

Incorporated in September 1997, The National First Ladies’ Library at the First Ladies National Historic Site in Canton, Ohio, celebrates 20 years in 2017. The library officially opened in 1998 with ribbon cutting by former first lady Rosalynn Carter. Guided tours are offered at the Education & Research Center and the Saxon McKinley House, the family home of President William McKinley’s wife, Ida. The two lived there between 1878 and 1891 during the time McKinley served in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Austin, Texas

Adults and kids crowded around Wetland Pond at Wildflower Center First Lady Lady Bird Johnson

Photo: Jim Turner, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, The University of Texas at Austin Wetland pond, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin, Texas

Creating the Wildflower Center Mission in 1982 was a labor of love for former first lady Lady Bird Johnson and her dear friend, Helen Hayes. The two founded the Wildflower Center Mission to protect and preserve North America’s native plants and natural landscape. Today groups can tour what is now the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center; tours provide a glimpse of Mrs. Johnson’s vision to preserve and restore the biological richness of the North American continent.

The First Ladies at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Washington, D.C.

Red ball gown worn by a former first lady

Photo: Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C. The First Ladies of the Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.

With more than 1,000 objects, the first ladies collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History has grown along with the public’s interest in learning more about the women of the White House. According to the Smithsonian, the collection includes material related to their social and political activities as well as their formal wardrobes. This broader focus has made it possible for the museum’s exhibitions to explore more complex and interpretive stories about the role that the first ladies played in American politics and culture.

Eleanor Roosevelt monuments
Washington, D.C. and New York City 

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt is the only first lady to have a monument dedicated to her in Washington, D.C. Located in the fourth room of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, she is represented with the United Nations Seal. 

For school groups headed to New York City, a stop in Riverside Park presents a more accessible first lady. The memorial celebrates her view on human rights:

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity.”

Mary Todd Lincoln House
Lexington, Kentucky

First lady Mary Todd Lincoln home

Photo:Creative Commons/ FloNight and Russell Poore Georgian-style home of Mary Todd Lincoln, Lexington, Ky.

The 14-room, Mary Todd Lincoln House was the first historic site restored to honor a first lady. Named a Distinctive Destination of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the family home of President Abraham Lincoln’s is located in downtown Lexington, Kentucky. Mr. Lincoln visited the home in the fall of 1847.

It is widely believed that Mrs. Lincoln was the first wife of any U.S. president to be called first lady” in the press, as referenced by the London Times and Sacramento Union newspapers.

Find more inspiration with this story about presidential places for student group visits. 

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Mary Lu Laffey, Contributor

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