If you’ve ever visited our Hall of Presidents and First Ladies you’ve seen the Gettysburg area’s only complete wax collection of American Presidents and First Ladies. You’re likely more familiar with the great Presidents in these halls, but the strong women in the Hall of First Ladies were just as vital to the heritage and prosperity of this nation. We thought we would pay homage to these women in a new series here at Gettysburg Tour Center that highlights the First Ladies featured in our amazing display.
The first woman in our series is the great Mamie Eisenhower, wife of President Dwight Eisenhower, and one of the area’s favorites since she spent her retirement at the home now known as the Eisenhower National Historic Site.
Mamie Geneva Doud was born in Boone, Iowa into a privileged situation as her father made a fortune in the meat packing industry. Her father was able to retire early due to this fortune, and moved his family several times, eventually settling in Denver, Colorado. Due to the cold winters Mamie’s mother insisted on a home in San Antonio, Texas to escape the severe winters. It was here she met Dwight, and at the age of 19 married a military man whom she would follow around to his numerous career assignments.
Mamie certainly made a name for herself as a first lady as well building a legacy of her own during her tenure at Pennsylvania Avenue. Some of the magnificent achievements she accomplished during her run up to and time as First Lady include:
- Being the first First Lady to appear in a televised presidential campaign ad
- Rallied women to vote in the presidential election, and even had “I Like Mamie Too” buttons created, similar to Dwight’s “I Like Ike” buttons
- Due to her outgoing personality, the Eisenhowers entertained an unprecedented amount of state heads and foreign government leaders
- Mamie’s Million Dollar Fudge was a family favorite recipe that she eventually submitted to be printed in newspapers and magazines, in turn reaching many a 1950’s dinner table
- She was actively involved in the early stages of the Civil Rights Movement, accepting an honorary membership into the National Council of Negro Women, and included the 4-H Club Camp for Negro Boys and Girls in the special White House tours offering
- Following Dwight’s heart attack in 1955 she took charge of the administrative work flow while he recovered, reviewing visitors and meeting requests, and managed President Eisenhower’s recovery and strict diet. She played a similar role several times throughout his presidency
Mamie carved out her own unique role in history and the list of her accomplishments is quite extensive in her own regard. Along with Dwight the Eisenhowers retired to Gettysburg at what is now known as the Eisenhower National Historic Site. Be sure to check out the Hall of Presidents and First Ladies, as well as the Eisenhower National Historic Site on your next visit to Gettysburg. We highly recommend a Christmas visit as well, as the home and farm is decorated just as Mamie had when they lived there. It is quite the sight to see!