One of the best parts of my job is working with our costume collection. OHS has an extensive collection of men’s, women’s, and children’s costumes that includes everything from baseball uniforms to ball gowns to swimsuits. One of the highlights of this collection is the Ohio First Ladies Collection.
There have been 63 Ohio Governors and almost all were married. The Governor’s wife, known as the First Lady of Ohio, has to juggle many responsibilities and is considered to be a role model for Ohio women. Since 1957, the Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden in Bexley has served as the official home of the Governor. The First Lady has traditionally been responsible for renovations and preservation of the residence. Two of Ohio’s First Ladies, Lucy Webb Hayes, wife of President Rutherford B. Hayes, and Ida Saxton McKinley, wife of President William McKinley, also went on to serve as the First Lady of the United States.
The Ohio Historical Society has dresses or suits from almost every Ohio First Lady in the 1900s and 2000s. From the flapper style dress worn by First Lady Mary Donahey, wife of Governor A. Victor Donahey, in the 1920s to a ball gown from the 1990s that belonged to First Lady Hope Taft, wife of Governor Bob Taft, our goal is to collect something from every First Lady.
We recently received this two piece suit owned and worn by First Lady Frances Strickland at her husband Ted Strickland’s inauguration as Ohio Governor on January 8, 2007. The suit is by Cleveland designer, Anne V. H. Click here to watch a video of the inauguration and First Lady Strickland. An accomplished school psychologist, Dr. Frances Strickland continued her passion for children in her role as First Lady, serving as the chair of the Ohio Family and Children First councils. This suit is one of the first examples of 21st century clothing that OHS has collected and will help us tell the story of contemporary Ohio women.
Have you ever met one of Ohio’s First Ladies? Have you ever visited the Governor’s Mansion?
Emily Lang, History Curator