New Thing #69: First Ladies - Influence & Image

My oldest daughter has been really interested in the presidents lately. Either she surprises us with a fact that she knows...or she asks us a question that I find myself surprised that I know the answer to.

I've kind of unexpectedly become a mini-expert on the presidents.

I'm far from a scholar...but I'm finding that I know quite a bit.

I credit 9 years of teaching fifth grade, where my students each year have written research papers on a variety of our country's presidents.

I also know a bit about their wives - and I hope to learn more, thanks to a new series on C-SPAN.


I know, C-SPAN. It sounds boring. But it's kind of interesting.

A couple of weeks ago they premiered a show called "First Ladies: Influence & Image."

When they kicked off the series, they did two separate panel discussions over a couple of hours about the roles a First Lady plays. It was surprising because we were expecting a produced, narrated story about a First Lady. But another surprising aspect of it was that I couldn't stop watching - it was very interesting.

I figured with the actual individual profiles, which began the next week with Martha Washington, there would be video and voice-over. We had seen an article in 'Parade Magazine' a few weeks ago that previewed the series, and we just assumed it would be a regular TV show. Instead, again, it was a roundtable discussion with some pre-recorded portions.

(Truth be told, I have yet to see the Martha Washington episode: The first episode was pre-empted by the budget news in Washington, getting bumped to midnight, so my DVR missed it. So now I'm stuck in the position of waiting for C-SPAN to air a First Ladies marathon so I can catch the repeat of Martha Washington. A lower point in my life I can not recall.)

My data is based on the Abigail Adams episode. She's in the upper echelon of First Ladies, so I assume all the shows will follow the format of her show.

C-SPAN tries to make the show interactive. It's live, apparently, which I didn't realize, and they invite you to tweet them or message them on Facebook, or call in with questions. I might take advantage of that and see if I can get on the air somehow. (Guess what kind of people call into C-SPAN on a Monday night? was about 50-50 in the Abigail Adams episode that the caller was going to be a nut. That added an interesting tension to the proceedings. Although I will say, the woman who hosted the show handled the, um, unprofessional calls smoothly.)

Two episodes are done - they're going to go in order over two seasons until all the First Ladies are covered.

I find the discussions about the First Ladies very interesting - I don't know if it would be everyone's cup of tea. But if you're going to start watching, I'd say now would be a good time. It looks like they're giving short shrift to Martha Jefferson, who I don't think lived to be a First Lady, and jumping to Dolley Madison (who I think played hostess during Jefferson's presidency as well as Madison's). I'd recommend starting with her - she was an interesting woman.