It all began with Martha Washington, our first First Lady. Martha just didn’t know that this was what she was. She was generally referred to in those days as “Lady Washington,” or even “Mrs. President,” according to some accounts. Mary Clemmer Ames is credited with the first use of the term “First Lady” when she used the term in an article about the inauguration of President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1877.
All our presidents except James Buchanan have been married, although several lost their wives before gaining the highest office in the land. Some First Ladies have been quiet, keeping their opinions to themselves. More recently, First Ladies such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Clinton have played more active roles in their husbands’ presidencies, even going as far as advocating for certain causes or laws.
For political collectors, material for First Ladies isn’t as tough to find as one might imagine. And as the role of women has become more well-defined in political circles with the Suffrage movement in the early part of the past century, First Ladies have sometimes become controversial. Others were just admired for their roles in the White House, whatever they might be.
First Lady political items include posters for speaking events, china, novelty items and buttons that are pro and con. Eleanor Roosevelt’s active role in Franklin’s presidency led to a lot of buttons being issued by the Wendell Willkie campaign in 1940 criticizing her. Many of these buttons today can be found for only a few dollars at antique or political collectibles shows.
Whether you want to collect First Lady items as a complement to a presidential collection, or simply as a main collection, there are lots of items out there to choose from, and you can get many of them without breaking the bank.