April 1, 2010
A First Lady of firsts: Caroline Scott Harrison

By Molly Head, producer and development director of Hoosier History Live!

I was shocked…shocked to learn that the first U.S. Presidential First Lady to actually make a speech in public was Indiana’s own Caroline Scott Harrison, the first wife of Benjamin Harrison, our 23rd President. You know, of the President Benjamin Harrison Home at 1230 N. Delaware Street in downtown Indianapolis. Can you imagine someone silencing Hillary Rodham Clinton?

Caroline Scott Harrison is credited with many “firsts.” As First Lady (her husband served as President from 1889 until 1893), she was asked to chair the fundraising for the distinguished Johns Hopkins Medical School. She said she would only take the position if they started admitting female medical students. They complied. And, at the time, the Sons of the American Revolution was an active fraternal organization for direct descendants of those who had fought in the American Revolution. Male descendants only, of course! Mrs. Harrison in turn founded the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.) for female descendants of “Patriots,” and an active Indianapolis chapter today bears her name.

Indiana’s only First Lady also started the china collection in the White House (I really grooved on the 1959 photo of Mamie Eisenhower in the White House China Room on the show’s weekly email!), and also is credited with making physical improvements to the White House, including the addition of electricity in 1890. All this I learned by listening to Hoosier History Live! with Nelson Price on Saturday mornings at 11:30 a.m. on WICR 88.7 fm. Thanks Nelson, for continuing to get us riled up about history, and for our opportunity to call in to the show with questions and comments.

So, what’s the topic for this Saturday’s show? Check it out at the show’s website at www.HoosierHistoryLive.info. You can also sign up to get the weekly show email on the website, so you can keep up even if you don’t actually get to listen to the show. It’s odd that this little show can be so offbeat and yet so entertaining and informative.

Posted In: Miscellaneous

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