First Ladies, Gender &
American Politics

with Robert David “KC” Johnson / In Person

We live in an era with a female Vice President and Speaker of the House; where women chair four Senate committees. But for much of the last century, the Office of the First Lady housed the highest-profile women in American politics. Though the position doesn’t exist in the Constitution, the term has been widely used since the late 19th century. This seminar will explore the growth of the office by examining the lives of the most significant First Ladies, while also examining how the office has changed over time.

While focusing on the Office of the First Lady, each session also will include commentary on the growing political power of women in the period under discussion. The final 10-15 minutes of each session will feature a discussion of contemporary events.


6 In-Person Sessions


Sept 22 – Dec 8, 2021

10:30am – 11:45am EST


2:00pm – 3:15pm EST


Session 1: SEPT 22

Establishing Political Independence: Edith Wilson & Eleanor Roosevelt

Session 2: OCT 6

The Legacy of the 1960s:
Jackie Kennedy & Lady Bird Johnson

Session 3: OCT 20

The Office in Transition

Session 4: NOV 3

Hillary Clinton &
Redefining the Office

Session 5: NOV 17

Political Partners:
Laura Bush & Michelle Obama

Session 6: DEC 8

A More Traditional Role?
Melania Trump, Dr. Jill Biden

Meet the moderator

moderator headshot

Robert David “KC” Johnson

Robert “KC” Johnson is a Professor of History at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate Center. In 2007-2008, he taught at Tel Aviv University as Fulbright Distinguished Chair in the Humanities.

Professor Johnson received his B.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard and his M.A. from the University of Chicago. His books include Congress and the Cold War, which was published by Cambridge University Press and won the D.B. Hardeman Prize. He has written widely on 20th and 21st century U.S. political, diplomatic, and legal affairs. Learn more.