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C-SPAN Series Contemplates Legacy of First Ladies

First Ladies C-SPANA new C-SPAN series will highlight the impact of American first ladies on the nation.  “First Ladies: Influence & Image,” produced by C-SPAN and the White House Historical Association, will air over the course of two years in a succession of 90 minute episodes.

The series will  profile each first lady in chronological order, starting with Martha Washington on February 25 and ending with Michelle Obama on February 10, 2014.

C-SPAN Executive Producer Mark Farkas describes the original series as a “chance to walk in the shoes of the first ladies” and contemplate their legacy on American politics, culture and history.

“Some of these (men) wouldn’t have been president if they hadn’t had this partner who was urging them on, and sometimes may have been more of a drive for them to be governor, or a politician or even a president then they may have had,” said Farkas at a press conference this week.

Farkas aims to depict both light aspects of their legacies like as first lady fashion (Nancy Reagan’s penchant for red, Jackie Kennedy’s hats, and Michelle Obama’s love of J. Crew to name a few), as well as the more tragic moments. Scandals, family deaths, and national tragedies will also be discussed in context to form an accurate depiction of the women’s lived experiences.

Richard Norton Smith, a historian and presidential biographer, is serving as the project’s advisor. “Many of them are more interesting than their husbands . . . because their lives are not defined by political ambition,” said Smith. Other notable historians, including Edith Mayo, William Seale and Rosalyn Terbog-Penn, will be featured as commentators.

An obvious high point will be Hillary Clinton’s episode, which will air early in 2014. The episode, recounting her contributions to healthcare and women, will provide excellent groundwork and viability if she indeed seeks the Oval Office in 2016.

In addition to discussing iconic women like Clinton and Eleanor Roosevelt, the series also seeks to unearth the untold stories and draw new attention to lesser-known first ladies.

A special preview of “First Ladies: Influence & Image” will air tonight at 9 PM on C-SPAN. The first episode, profiling Martha Washington, will air February 25.

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