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Pioneer scholar on the first ladies recognized for his work


MONMOUTH – Lewis Gould says he was a “typical male historian writing about men” before developing a new course to teach in the early 1980s at the University of Texas.

This course, titled First Ladies of the 20th Century – not counting Nancy Reagan, who was in the White House at the time – set Gould on a pioneering path by studying the history and legacy of the wives of American presidents.

“I had to treat these women as independent, self-sufficient people doing their own things,” said Gould, who has lived in Monmouth since 2012. “It was a dramatic change for me.”

Almost decades after developing the course, Gould was named the first recipient this year of an award that recognizes distinguished contributions to research and education on America’s First Ladies.

Gould is not only the inaugural recipient of the First Ladies Association for Research and Education award, the award is named after him.

FLARE Founding President and University First Lady Myra Gutin said Gould had an “inspiring” influence on the field.

“Dr. Gould’s pioneering work opened the door to the development of a new discipline, the study of the first lady,” said Gutin. “He encouraged and inspired a generation of academics and others interested in the Presidential Wife to research and then share what they had learned with the American public. He was our guide.”

The subject of Gould’s historical research – he never analyzed first ladies or presidents while in office – resonated with the public and the media before he even began publishing his work. .

“Suddenly, unexpectedly, I was getting a lot of maintenance requests,” Gould said.

Lady Bird Johnson, the subject of two of Gould’s books, visited this first first ladies course at the University of Texas, causing a media storm in the classroom.

Two years later, Gould was the keynote speaker at the first National First Ladies Conference, convened by Betty Ford, where he received a standing ovation and participated in a discussion with Ford, Rosalynn Carter and Diane Sawyer.

At the 1992 Democratic National Convention, Gould said he had achieved “talking head” status, being interviewed for eight straight hours about what Hillary Clinton’s influence might be.

In all, Gould has written over a dozen books, including “The Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt,” “The Modern American Presidency,” “The First American Ladies: Their Lives and Legacy” and “Lady Bird Johnson and the Environment. “.

This latter book was the first attempt to demonstrate the substantial impact of a first lady on American society, rather than simply serving as a biography. In 1998, Gould became the editor of the Modern First Ladies series, published by the University Press of Kansas, which has now ended.

Her research also extends to women governors.

Now, said Gould, there are a lot of scholars in the first ladies’ business doing a good job.

Among those in that first class who studied First Ladies at the University of Texas in 1982 was Stacy Cordery, a former professor at Monmouth College who now teaches at Iowa State University and is the National First Ladies’ bibliographer. Library in Canton, Ohio.

“Lewis L. Gould created the field of first ladies studies,” Cordery said. “Who knew that the first ladies had lived such an exciting life and accomplished so much? As a political historian.

Upon retirement, Gould moved to Monmouth, where he remarried and was a distinguished retired visiting professor of history at Monmouth College.

The Hewes Library at Monmouth College contains 19 articles written by Gould. Part of its collection was donated to the College several years ago and is kept in the archives located at the library.

The award was presented to Gould at a special virtual ceremony last month. FLARE was launched on June 21, in partnership with the American University School of Public Affairs.

Gould said he was duly honored to receive the award.