The Suburbanite
  • Exhibit looks at influence of first ladies in times of crisis

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  • From Martha Washington to Michelle Obama, the nation has taken inspiration, comfort and courage from the words and examples of its first ladies  through times of war, assassination and tragedy.
    During its nearly 236-year history, the U.S. has experienced four presidential assassinations, attacks on citizens at home and abroad and wars that have threatened to rupture the nation's fabric.
    In “Rising to the Occasion,” the National First Ladies' Library exhibits the clothing, belongings, photographs and artifacts of Dolly Madison, Mary Lincoln, Lucretia Garfield, Edith Wilson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jacqueline Kennedy, Barbara Bush and Laura Bush. Guided tours of the exhibition run Thursdays through Saturdays through May 4, at the Education and Research Center inside the library at 205 Market Ave., S.
    “The first ladies were mothers and sisters, and had trials and tribulations just like everyone else, and in 'Rising to the Occasion,' we were looking at that,” said Michelle Guillion, curator and director of archives for the National First Ladies' Historic Site.
    With assistance from C-SPAN, the Library of Congress, the Western Reserve Historical Society and nearly a half-dozen presidential libraries and museums, the first ladies' museum –  a national parks site – has items on display belonging to or associated with these eight wives of previous U.S. presidents.
    “What we generally do is take a theme of what we want to talk about, whether it's women's issues or something specifically about the first ladies, and tie it to something that's come up in history,” Guillion said.
    “So, we had 9/11 on our mind, the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 and the 150th anniversary of the (U.S.) Civil War,” she said.
    Since its founding in 1995, the mission of the National First Ladies' Library has been to “fill an informational void” about the wives of the presidents.
    “We decided to focus on three areas where the country looks to leadership from the president and first lady. First ladies, during times of trial and tribulation, are looked to for guidance,” Guillion said.
    “Eleanor Roosevelt, the night of Pearl Harbor, went on the radio and told young people they would have an opportunity to aid their country during a difficult time. And, the same with Laura Bush during 9/11. (She said)  'Reassure your children. Love them. Hug them.' It was just a natural part of being a woman and mother,” Guillion said.
    All tours of the “Rising to the Occasion” exhibit are guided and also include the changing exhibits at the Saxton McKinley House, located at 331 Market Ave., S. The hours for the approximately 90-minute tours are: 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Tours begin at the Education and Resource Center located at 205 Market Ave., S. The total admission fee, which includes both sites is $7 for adults; $6 for senior citizens; and, $5 for children younger than 18. Admission solely to the Education and Resource Center is $3. Free parking is available.
    Page 2 of 2 - For more information, call 330-452-076 or visit the website at www.firstladies.org.