Object: Shoes

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I-0601a
Shoes
Salvatore Ferragamo Shoes
Italian
1960s
Materials: Leather, Thread

This object is a pair of black and white leather spectator pumps, designed by the Italian designer Salvatore Ferragamo and owned by Lady Bird Johnson.  They were loaned to the Institute of Texan Cultures for a temporary exhibit called “Footprints and Imprints” showcasing famous and influential people through their shoes, and later donated to the museum.

Photo portrait of First Lady Lady Bird Johnson in the back yard of the White House. Photo by Robert Knudsen, White House Press Office (WHPO), via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo portrait of First Lady Lady Bird Johnson in the back yard of the White House. Photo by Robert Knudsen, White House Press Office (WHPO), via Wikimedia Commons.

Lady Bird Johnson became the 36th First Lady of the United States when her husband, Lyndon B. Johnson, was sworn in as president following the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  Born Claudia Alta Taylor, Lady Bird received her nickname at an early age, when a nursemaid stated that she was “as purty as a lady bird.”  The nickname stuck, and for the rest of her life she was known as Lady Bird.  Though her father and brothers called her “Lady,” her husband called her “Bird,” and that’s what she signed on her marriage certificate.

In the 1930s, Mrs. Johnson attended the University of Texas in Austin, earning degrees in History and Journalism.  During that time, she met Lyndon B. Johnson, and in 1934 they were married in San Antonio at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.

When Johnson became President in 1963, Lady Bird focused her energies on her first love- the environment.  The country was facing uncertain times, and Washington, D.C. was in need of a facelift.  Having grown up in the outdoors of far East Texas, Lady Bird had an appreciation and respect for the natural beauty of landscapes and wildflowers.

As First Lady, she embarked on a beautification project, which was named the Society for a More Beautiful National Capital.  The project consisted of planting millions of flowers throughout Washington, D.C., including tulips, daffodils, roses, and the dogwood and cherry blossom trees that the Capital is so well known for. She stated at the time that “where flowers bloom, so does hope.”

Cherry blossoms and the Washington Monument. Image by Wendy Harman, via Wikimedia Commons.

Cherry blossoms and the Washington Monument. Image by Wendy Harman, via Wikimedia Commons.

This proved to be just the start of what became a national campaign, and in 1965, the Highway Beautification Act was passed.  Through this Act, Lady Bird was instrumental in restricting junk yards and limiting billboards along highways throughout the country, in addition to promoting wildflower plantings along interstates all over the country.

Mrs. Johnson wasn’t just interested in beautification, but also in conservation.  One method she used to bring attention to her campaign was to visit historic sites, national parks, and scenic areas.  By taking along the head of the National Parks Service, dignitaries, and media, Lady Bird was able to shine a spotlight on the natural beauty that was in danger of being destroyed all over the country.

After leaving Washington, Lady Bird Johnson focused her attention on Texas.  She was the force behind developing ten miles of beautiful hike and bike trails around Town Lake in Austin.  In 1982, she teamed up with her friend, actress Helen Hayes, to found the National Wildflower Research Center.  In 1995, it was moved to 279 acres in southwest Austin and renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.   The center is dedicated to conservation, education, and beautification through the use of locally available plants and flowers.  It is now one of the country’s most credible research institutions, and is run by The University of Texas.

Lady Bird Johnson saw a need to preserve and protect our nation’s natural beauty before it was destroyed by industry.  Her imprint can be seen every spring, driving the roads of Texas, or visiting the nation’s Capital.  She was instrumental in making environment issues a priority for our country.  She lived a legacy foretold by her nanny when she was given the nickname “Lady Bird.”  Lady Bird Johnson truly left a lasting impact through her work, and because of her, we can still call our country “America the Beautiful.” [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Gould, Lewis L.  Lady Bird Johnson: Our Environmental First Lady.  Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1999.

Johnson, Lady Bird and Carlton B Lees.  Wildflowers Across America.  Austin, TX: National Wildflower Research Center; New York: Abbeville Press, 1988.

Johnson, Lady Bird and Michael L. Gillette.  Lady Bird Johnson: An Oral History.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Loughmiller, Campbell, Lynn Loughmiller, and Lynn Sherrod.  Texas Wildflowers: A Field Guide.  Austin: University of Texas Press, 1984.

Advertisements

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The TARL Blog

Experimenting with collections access since 2013

Museum Anthropology

Experimenting with collections access since 2013

Center for the Future of Museums

Experimenting with collections access since 2013

TAMEC

Experimenting with collections access since 2013

Smithsonian Collections Blog

Experimenting with collections access since 2013

Digital Scholarship in the Humanities

Exploring the digital humanities

ethnology @ snomnh

experimenting with social microexhibitions since 2007

%d bloggers like this: