For historian Carl Anthony, the success of many American presidents is inextricably tied to their relationships with their wives. He may be a little biased given that he oversees the National First Ladies Library in Canton, Ohio, but he points out that first ladies have provided campaign financing, social connections, and keen strategizing, often in eras when women ostensibly couldn’t possess much political power.
As the author of 12 books, most of which focus on first ladies who have influenced their husbands’ presidencies, Anthony adeptly describes these women and explains the social and historical context of their lives. His books include biographies of Ida Saxton (wife of William McKinley), Jacqueline Kennedy (wife of John F. Kennedy), and Nellie Taft (wife of William Howard Taft). Today at 11:30 a.m., Anthony will give a lecture at the Ebell Theatre about America’s first ladies. Anthony, who lives in Los Angeles, is currently writing a book about Jacqueline Kennedy’s career as a photojournalist.
“First ladies brought financial, social, and emotional foundations to the presidents. Ida Saxton McKinley, our 25th first lady, was a great support of her husband,” he says. “Her former house in Ohio is now the physical location of the National First Ladies Library.”
A few of these women even had connections to Los Angeles.
Lucretia Garfield, wife of James Garfield
Lucretia Garfield was born in Hiram, Ohio. After the assassination of her husband in 1881, she raised their children and bought property in South Pasadena in 1890. She built a home designed by the famous architectural firm of Greene and Greene.
Pat Nixon, wife of Richard Nixon
Pat Nixon was born in Nevada and grew up in Southern California—in Artesia, which is now called Cerritos. As an Angeleno, she loved the city’s beaches, worked in Bullock’s department store, and graduated from USC. She is buried next to her husband in the Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda.
Lou Hoover, wife of Herbert Hoover
Lou Hoover was born in Iowa and moved with her family to Whittier when she was little. She was the first woman to graduate with a geology major from Stanford University. An amateur architect she designed the Lou Henry Hoover House at Stanford, which was once the residence of Herbert Hoover and is now the home of the university’s president.