Things I like: suffragettes, war workers, factory girls, socialites who got stuff done, ladies who ruled countries, and women who changed the world, even if it was just a little bit. Click on photos for sources.
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Beautification Luncheon in the State Dining Room of the White House. Secretary Stewart Udall, Lady Bird Johnson, and Laurance Rockefeller looking at an architectural model of the Washington DC Mall area. 4/27/67.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, 10 weeks worth of passionate love letters between Lady Bird and Lyndon Johnson.
Lyndon and Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor met in early September 1934 in Austin. On their first date, Lyndon Johnson proposed and for the next 2 ½ months the two exchanged approximately 90 letters. They also exchanged photographs, including the ones shown here.
Lyndon was working as a Congressional Aide in Washington, D. C. and impatient to marry. Lady Bird, who was living in her hometown of Karnack, Texas, was cautious but called her suitor “electric” and was sure she didn’t want to lose him.
On November 17, 1934, Johnson and Lady Bird drove to San Antonio to “commit matrimony” as she would later describe it.
LBJ didn’t have a wedding band and asked Dan Quill, friend and Postmaster of San Antonio, to get one. Quill bought a wedding band at the nearby Sears, Roebuck & Co. for $2.50.
Lyndon Johnson and Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor married on November 17, 1934, at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio. They honeymooned in Mexico and were married for 39 years.
At 9am this morning, the LBJ library released all of the 1932 love letters between Lady Bird and Lyndon from the 10-week period between the time they met and they married. You can read the letters and see the photos they exchanged at www.lbjlibrary.org.
December 13, 1966. Lady Bird Johnson records in her diary:
“Sometime during the morning I became aware snow was falling. It is the most magical experience. I love it.I shall know I am really getting old when my heard doesn’t beat a little faster and a smile naturally break out when it starts snowing.”
Lady Bird Johnson, A White House Diary, New York: Dell Books, 1971, pg 506. Photo: Lynda Johnson and friend Warrie Lynn Smith throw snowballs, 2/11/1964.
“This is the first time since I’ve been in the White House that we have received a woman Chief of State. Add to this the particular alchemy of the Nehru name and the size of the Indian country as an Asian democracy and you have a day alive with drama.”
—Lady Bird Johnson, in A White House Diary, New York: Dell Books, 1971, pg 411. Photo: LBJ Library C1563-6, public domain. This photo was taken on the North Portico of the White House, at the State Dinner for Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on 3/28/1966.
1964 Presidential Campaign - Civil Rights and the South
It was October 1964, and the November Presidential election was looming as parts of the country still seethed over the Civil Rights Act President Lyndon B. Johnson had signed into law just a few months earlier.
Many white southerners and politicians considered the law an assault on their long-established way of life. Southern Democrats threatened to bolt as racial politics threatened to splinter the party and cost Johnson the election.
It was during this tumultuous time that Lady Bird Johnson embarked on perhaps her most difficult assignment as First Lady. In a four-day, 1,628-mile trip aboard a train dubbed the Lady Bird Special, the First Lady traveled through eight southern states.
This was the first time a First Lady campaigned on her own for her husband and she championed the new legislation that eliminated “Jim Crow” laws and guaranteed African Americans access to all public accommodations and the right to equal employment opportunities.
Along the way, Mrs. Johnson was met with invective that no first lady has experienced since. But the ultimate success of the trip, as she defended the need for the Civil Rights Act, was a testament to Lady Bird’s spirit and stoicism.
While she loved her role as First Lady, she wrote at the end of her tenure, “I wouldn’t trade anything for the experience. But not for anything would I pay for the price of admission again.”
June 30, 1965. Lady Bird attends the ceremony for National Head Start Day. Head Start began as an 8-week summer program as part of LBJ’s War on Poverty. Since then, the program has expanded to include children of all ages and offers services all year. For more info, check out this page on the program’s history at the Office of Head Start’s website.
Front Row L-R: Timothy Shriver, Robert Shriver, Danny Kaye, Lady Bird Johnson, Mrs. Lou Maginn (Director of a HeadStart project in East Fairfield, Vermont), Sargent Shriver.
“When I found myself in the White House it was natural—and inevitable—for me to turn to the movement we called beautification (we never could think of a better word!). Because my heart had for so long been in the environment, I began to think that in the White House I might now have the means to repay something of the debt I owed nature for the enrichment provided from my childhood onward. And since my hometown for the next few years was still to be Washington, D.C., where better to start than in the ‘nation’s front yard?’”
—Lady Bird Johnson, in Lady Bird Johnson and Carlton B. Lees, Wildflowers Across America, New York: Abbevile Press, 1993, p. 12.
October 6, 1964. Lady Bird sets out on her three-day Whistlestop campaign tour of the south, aboard the Lady Bird Special.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted in July, creating much anger against Johnson in the South. So much anger that it was considered unsafe for Johnson to do a whistle stop tour of the South in the run up to the 1964 presidential election.
Lady Bird was the first First Lady to have her own press secretary and chief of staff. This tour, planned in coordination with her staff and political wives, was the first time a First Lady campaigned without her husband. The trip was considered dangerous by many, but Lady Bird told reporters ”I don’t think assassination is part of my destiny.”
The hostesses shown above escorted local politicians and supporters to brief meetings with Lady Bird on her eight state, four day tour. Lady Bird and Johnson were both native Southerners and as Katherine Graham explained, “she talked with such authority because she belonged there.”
Johnson retained the presidency in the 1964 election, although he lost South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
This Lady Bird Johnson Home Movie features footage of the spring through the fall of 1940. It was filmed mostly in Washington, D.C., where LBJ was serving as Congressman. Lady Bird narrates.
Lady Bird’s love of flowers shines through in this film. It also features cherry blossoms, FDR’s motorcade, Mount Vernon, and the Jefferson Monument under construction.
She shot footage on her return trip to Texas, too. We also see a marker describing the birthplace of Sam Houston in Virginia, and Andrew Jackson’s The Hermitage. The film concludes with shots of flowers blooming.
Credit: LBJ Library Video by Mrs. Johnson’s Home Movies. No usage fees.