This week on HSHSP Ep 174: Teaching About Presidents’ Wives, Interview with Jill Hummer. This post is running concurrently on the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network.
Homeschool high schoolers can really get some inspiration when they learn about American First Ladies. Our friend, Dr. Jill Hummer, of Wilson College, is a national expert on Presidents’ Wives.
Jill and her husband, Josh, homeschool their family. Josh was homeschooled himself, which makes them a second-generation homeschool family! Jill is also a Political Science professor at Wilson College in Pennsylvania. She is known for her expertise on First Ladies, having been interviewed on History Channel, given lectures on C-Span, and authored an interesting and authoritative book on the topic.
Why should homeschool high schooler learn about First Ladies?
Learning about Presidents’ Wives may inspire a future First Lady (or maybe even a future President)! Learning about Presidents’ Wives can also build a sparkle credit for the homeschool transcript.
Teaching about Presidents’ Wives? Start with some trivia:
- They had to invent their own job description, there’s no rule book for them
- Many started out as ordinary wives and mothers
- Many President’s wives endured hardships in their lifetimes:
- Elinor Roosevelt was orphaned when young
- Bess Truman’s father committed suicide
- Betty Ford’s father died of carbon monoxide poisoning
- Mary Lincoln lost a child while a First Lady. Other first also lost children at some point.
When teens learn about the hardships that these ladies endured they learn that God hasn’t checked out of the universe, even when things get tough!
One thing that homeschool high schoolers can enjoy is this quote by Pat Nixon: Being first lady was the hardest unpaid job in the world.
(Said by Pat Nixon when she flew to represent the United States at the inauguration of the new president of Liberia. She had a 12 hour flight, days of state activity, right on the inaugural podium as a representative of her husband during the ceremony. After the event she sighed and said her famous quote.)
- First Ladies don’t get compensated (just like us ordinary moms). It is a salary-free job! But they are still expected to represent our nation in many national and international situations.
First Ladies are big influencers. Homeschool high schoolers can learn about Presidents’ Wives to begin thinking about becoming little influencers right where they are. (We can all be an influence for good in some way at each stage of life.)
First Ladies often take leadership in a cause or project while in the office.
Jacqueline Kennedy had the first First Lady project.
- When Harry Truman did not live in the White House because it was in disrepair. (When they moved into the White House, Margaret’s piano’s leg went through the floor. They quickly found out that the building had to be gutted and rebuilt.) The project ran out of money to finish, so when Mamie Eisenhower gave Jacqueline her tour of the White House on Inauguration Day, Jacqueline was appalled. The repairs were complete but the decor was horrendous. House was decorated only by donations from a New York apartment store. Jacqueline, who was well-studied in American History and Art, made it her project to decorate in a respectful way that represents our history. She even found historic White House furniture that had been stolen or sold. She appointed the first White House curator. What we see when we tour the White House is largely affected by her project.
Lou Hoover may not have thought about this cause before she came to office, but she was faithful to the role that God gave her as a thought-leader.
- Lou Hoover had a college degree from Stanford University in Geology (one of the first women in the country with a degree in that field), fluent in many languages, helped translate a historic Latin geology text into English. Lou did a great deal to make the White House more welcoming. One of the main duties of First Ladies is to host social events, so Lou’s first social event was to host a tea for Congressional wives. This was 1929, and for the first time in 30 years, an African-American was serving as a United States Representative. Oscar Depriest (Republican, Illinois) had just been elected when Hoover took office. Lou Hoover invited her to one of the 5 teas that she gave for these Congressional wives. Southerners were outraged because Lou had given Jessie equal social standing with the white ladies, and it became a national incident. (The Texas, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi legislatures voted to censure Mrs. Hoover.) This has become known as the DePriest Tea Incident. Lou Hoover paid a price for her courageous leadership but did not regret it.
Jill Hummer became an expert in while a student at University of Virginia. She was a part of the college’s oral history project. She got to hear presidents tell their life stories. She realized then that Presidents’ Wives had little respect for what they do. She realized that they actually had much more influence than textbooks and academians thought. She made that her own project for her PhD studies. That has become her niche.
Jill’s book is First Ladies and American Women: In Politics and the Home
Join Vicki and Jill for this fascinating interview about Presidents’ Wives. Get more information about the First Ladies with these interviews with Dr. Jill Hummer.
And check out this C-Span talk by Jill Hummer about Presidential Wives.
If your homeschool high schooler would like to earn an entire elective credit learning about Presidents’ Wives for a powerful transcript, you can get how-to create a history elective credit in this post.
AND add some extra sparkle to your American History studies with games! Our friend, Meryl at Homeschooling with Technology podcast has an entire episode on history games!