First Ladies: Influence & Image

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First Ladies: Influence & Image
Presented bySusan Swain
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes35
Executive producerMark Farkas
Running timeApproximately 90 minutes
Original release
ReleaseFebruary 25, 2013 (2013-02-25) –
February 10, 2014 (2014-02-10)

First Ladies: Influence & Image is a 35-episode American television series produced by C-SPAN that originally aired from February 25, 2013 to February 10, 2014. Each episode originally aired live and looked at the life and times of one or more of the first ladies of the United States.[1] Episodes featured interviews with historians, journalists, and other experts; included footage of locations significant to the featured first lady and interviews with several contemporary first ladies; and incorporated calls and tweets from viewers. C-SPAN has archived all video from the series to its website. It was produced in cooperation with the White House Historical Association,[2][3] and was hosted by C-SPAN co-CEO Susan Swain.

In April 2015, PublicAffairs Books published the companion book First Ladies: Presidential Historians on the Lives of 45 Iconic American Women by Swain and C-SPAN.[4] The network began re-airing the TV series on C-SPAN3 in April 2015.[5]

Background and production[edit]

The series was executive produced by Mark Farkas, who also produced C-SPAN's series on presidents, unsuccessful candidates and the Abraham Lincoln-Stephen Douglas debates of 1858, and feature documentaries on the Capitol, White House and Supreme Court.[3][6][7][8] The idea for the series came from Richard Norton Smith,[9] a presidential historian and former head of five presidential libraries. Norton Smith and historians William Seale, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn and Edith Mayo served as the show's academic advisors.[10] Producer Andy Och, a video journalist, visited historic sites significant to the first ladies. Farkas and Och spoke with historians, archivists and curators.[11][12] The show was hosted by C-SPAN co-CEO Susan Swain. Peter Slen hosted the program on Eleanor Roosevelt[13] and co-hosted programs on Mamie Eisenhower,[14] and Edith Wilson.[15]

With First Ladies: Influence & Image, C-SPAN featured the history of the first ladies in chronological order during two seasons broadcast over the course of one year.[6] Season 1, featuring Martha Washington through Ida McKinley, ran from February 25, 2013 to June 10, 2013.[7][9] Three months later, the following season ran, featuring Edith Roosevelt through Michelle Obama, from September 9, 2013 to February 10, 2014.[1][3][16] C-SPAN devoted most of the 90-minute episodes to a single first lady, but some early programs covered several within one broadcast.[3] The Eleanor Roosevelt episode was 2 hours long.[17]

The live broadcasts included commentary from in-studio historians, journalists and experts, as well as calls and interaction from viewers and social media users, and pre-recorded on-location footage at historical sites of significance to the featured first lady.[11][12] The first season relied mainly on letters and written materials to provide insight into the first ladies’ lives. As the second season moved into modern times, the broadcasts included audio and video of the women.[9][16]

First Ladies: Influence & Image delved into how FLOTUS' role has evolved since the 18th century. The series aimed to underscore how the presidents' wives—who were respectively fashion icons, advocates for their husbands, advisors and champions of their own causes—impacted political, social and White House history.[2][7][9]


Date of first broadcast
(with link to video)
First Lady profiled
(with link to First Ladies page)
President Guests
February 25, 2013 Martha Washington (First Ladies) George Washington Patricia Brady, Richard Norton Smith
March 4, 2013 Abigail Adams (First Ladies) John Adams Edith Gelles, C. James Taylor
March 11, 2013 Martha Jefferson Randolph (First Ladies) Thomas Jefferson Catherine Allgor, Edith Mayo
Dolley Madison (First Ladies) James Madison
March 18, 2013 Elizabeth Monroe (First Ladies) James Monroe Daniel F. Preston, Richard Norton Smith
Louisa Adams (First Ladies) John Quincy Adams Amanda Mathews, Richard Norton Smith
March 25, 2013 Rachel Jackson (First Ladies) Andrew Jackson Patricia Brady, Michael Douglas Henderson
Hannah Van Buren (First Ladies) Martin Van Buren
April 1, 2013 Anna Harrison (First Ladies) William Henry Harrison Edna Greene Medford, Taylor Stoermer
Letitia Tyler (First Ladies) John Tyler
Julia Tyler (First Ladies)
April 8, 2013 Sarah Polk (First Ladies) James K. Polk Paul Finkelman, Conover Hunt
Margaret Taylor (First Ladies) Zachary Taylor
Abigail Fillmore (First Ladies) Millard Fillmore
April 15, 2013 Jane Pierce (First Ladies) Franklin Pierce Ann Covell, Feather Schwartz Foster
Harriet Lane (First Ladies) James Buchanan
April 22, 2013 Mary Lincoln (First Ladies) Abraham Lincoln Richard Norton Smith, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn
April 29, 2013 Eliza Johnson (First Ladies) Andrew Johnson Jacqueline Berger, Kendra Hinkle
May 6, 2013 Julia Grant (First Ladies) Ulysses S. Grant William Seale, Pamela Sanfilippo
May 13, 2013 Lucy Hayes (First Ladies) Rutherford B. Hayes Allida Black, Thomas Culbertson
May 20, 2013 Lucretia Garfield (First Ladies) James A. Garfield Carl Sferrazza Anthony
Ellen Arthur (First Ladies) Chester A. Arthur
May 27, 2013 Frances Cleveland (First Ladies) Grover Cleveland Annette Dunlap, Taylor Stoermer
June 3, 2013 Caroline Harrison (First Ladies) Benjamin Harrison Edith Mayo, William Seale
June 10, 2013 Ida McKinley (First Ladies) William McKinley Carl Sferrazza Anthony, Richard Norton Smith
September 9, 2013 Edith Roosevelt (First Ladies) Theodore Roosevelt Stacy Cordery, Kathleen Dalton
September 16, 2013 Helen Taft (First Ladies) William Howard Taft Jane Hampton Cook, Lewis Gould
September 23, 2013 Ellen Wilson (First Ladies) Woodrow Wilson John Milton Cooper Jr., Kristie Miller
Edith Wilson (First Ladies)
September 30, 2013 Florence Harding (First Ladies) Warren G. Harding David Pietrusza, Katherine Sibley
October 7, 2013 Grace Coolidge (First Ladies) Calvin Coolidge Cynthia Bittinger, Amity Shlaes
October 14, 2013 Lou Hoover (First Ladies) Herbert Hoover Emily Charnock, Annette B. Dunlap
October 21, 2013 Eleanor Roosevelt (First Ladies) Franklin D. Roosevelt Allida M. Black, Douglas Brinkley
October 28, 2013 Bess Truman (First Ladies) Harry S. Truman Nicole Anslover, William Seale
November 4, 2013 Mamie Eisenhower (First Ladies) Dwight D. Eisenhower Marilyn Irvin Holt, Edith Mayo
November 11, 2013 Jacqueline Kennedy (First Ladies) John F. Kennedy Michael Beschloss, Barbara A. Perry
November 18, 2013 Lady Bird Johnson (First Ladies) Lyndon B. Johnson Betty Boyd Caroli, Cokie Roberts
November 25, 2013 Pat Nixon (First Ladies) Richard Nixon Mary Brennan, Timothy Naftali
December 2, 2013 Betty Ford (First Ladies) Gerald Ford Steven M. Ford, Richard Norton Smith
December 9, 2013 Rosalynn Carter (First Ladies) Jimmy Carter Jay E. Hakes, Grace Elizabeth Hale
January 13, 2014 Nancy Reagan (First Ladies) Ronald Reagan Carl Cannon, Judy Woodruff
January 20, 2014 Barbara Bush (First Ladies) George H. W. Bush Jeffrey A. Engel, Myra Gutin
January 27, 2014 Hillary Clinton (First Ladies) Bill Clinton David Maraniss, Gail Sheehy
February 3, 2014 Laura Bush (First Ladies) George W. Bush Ann Gerhart, Mark Updegrove
February 10, 2014 Michelle Obama (First Ladies) Barack Obama Liza Mundy, Krissah Thompson

Other media[edit]

PublicAffairs Books published First Ladies: Presidential Historians on the Lives of 45 Iconic American Women, written by Susan Swain and C-SPAN, on April 14, 2015. The work pairs historians together to discuss the lives and legacies of the first ladies.[4] A companion piece to the TV series, the book features historians' takes on the first ladies' personalities, marriages, passions and legacies.[18] Kirkus Reviews said the 496-page book portrays where each first lady came from "and what was truly important to her".[18]

C-SPAN and the White House Historical Association each launched websites to tie in with the series. The sites include essays, educational materials, videos, photographs and historical documents.[3][16]


  1. ^ a b Thompson, Krissah (17 February 2013). "C-SPAN's series on first ladies begins, but Michelle Obama's legacy is still forming". The Washington Post. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  2. ^ a b Bauder, David (15 February 2013). "C-SPAN begins 35-episode series on first ladies". The Associated Press. Retrieved 26 March 2015.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ a b c d e Bauder, David (15 February 2013). "C-SPAN begins 35-episode series on first ladies". Huffington Post. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  4. ^ a b "First Ladies: Presidential Historians on the Lives of 45 Iconic American Women Review from Publishers Weekly". Publishers Weekly. 23 February 2015. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  5. ^ McCue, Liz (11 April 2015). "'First Ladies Man' tells of trek across US". North Platte Telegraph. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
  6. ^ a b Gavin, Patrick (14 February 2013). "C-SPAN views first ladies as political powerhouses". Politico. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  7. ^ a b c Vitali, Ali (15 February 2013). "Changing expectations: First ladies are windows into history". MSNBC. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  8. ^ Stuever, Hank (3 October 2009). "TV Preview: Hank Stuever on C-SPAN's Supreme Court Documentary". The Washington Post. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  9. ^ a b c d Steinberg, Stephanie (15 February 2013). "C-SPAN series gives first ladies their time in the spotlight". WTOP-FM. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  10. ^ "Mary Todd Lincoln Featured on First Ladies Series April 22". Breeze-Courier. 18 April 2013. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  11. ^ a b Touhey, Emmanuel (20 February 2013). "C-SPAN launches new 35-part series to tell the stories of the presidents' wives". The Hill. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  12. ^ a b Contrada, Fred (11 July 2013). "C-SPAN in Northampton to film show on First Lady Grace Coolidge for 'First Ladies: Influence & Image' series". The Republican. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  13. ^ Pritchard, Catherine (27 October 2013). "Live Wire: Susan Swain still the host of C-SPAN's 'First Ladies'". Fayetteville Observer. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  14. ^ "First Lady Mamie Eisenhower". First Ladies: Influence & Image. 4 November 2013. C-SPAN. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  15. ^ "First Ladies Ellen Wilson and Edith Wilson". First Ladies: Influence & Image. 23 September 2013. C-SPAN. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  16. ^ a b c Friedman, Jordan (1 September 2013). "C-SPAN series tells stories of nation's first ladies". USA Today. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  17. ^ "First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt". First Ladies: Influence & Image. 21 October 2013. C-SPAN. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  18. ^ a b "First Ladies". Kirkus Reviews. 15 January 2015. Retrieved 26 March 2015.

External links[edit]