People might know basic facts about America’s first ladies, but “Ladies, First: Common Threads” is the first biography of its kind to hone their needlework.
The book features 18 first ladies, including Iowa native Lou Henry Hoover, who all shared a love for needlework, whether knitting, crocheting, embroidery, quilting, cross-stitching, or needlework.
The book’s author, Debra Scala Giokas, will appear via Zoom at 6 p.m. Thursday. Locally, it is coordinated by the Ericson Public Library in Boone.
“I offer this monthly program to our customers as part of an ongoing collaboration with the Hoover Presidential Foundation and other Iowa libraries to raise awareness of the Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa,” said Candy Noelck, Ericson Public Librarian.
The Hoover Foundation is currently raising funds for an upcoming renovation of the Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.
“I believe (Thursday 3rd at Hoover) continues to be a wonderful, easy opportunity for our patrons to learn more about our state’s only presidential library, as well as the legacy and life of President Herbert Hoover. and First Lady Lou Henry Hoover and the impact of their global efforts,” Noelck said.
The Ericson Public Library hosts an in-person knitting night for knitters of all skill levels and even provides attendees with yarn and needles. It meets on the first and third Tuesday in the Salle de la Cheminée from 6 p.m. to 7:55 p.m.
Giokas, who resides on Long Island, is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and is a professional member of the Crochet Guild of America.
“I am a crocheter. My grandmother crocheted and my other one knitted. Knitting was not close to my heart,” she said.
She noted that the fact that Ida McKinley has already crocheted 4,000 slippers for charity is what sparked her interest in the subject. She said the Hoover Presidential Foundation and the First Ladies National Historic Site in Canton, Ohio (Ida’s ancestral home) aided her in her research efforts as well as biographies and autobiographies.
“I challenged myself: how many first ladies could I find who have actually done something through couture?” she says. “If I could find a mention of needlework, I would put it on my list and dig deeper. I would call presidential libraries and historic houses to ask for any items they might have (made by these women). Then I did more research to figure out what story I was going to tell about them.
Each chapter spotlights a different First Lady, using biography facts and photos, including images of their sewing projects. It is aimed at readers ages 9 and up in hopes of encouraging people of all ages to want to learn more about American history.
“I think a lot of these women were trained in homemaking and when they became first ladies they used needlework for centering and for charitable purposes, like in times of war,” Giokas said. .
She said she loved this quote from Grace Coolidge: “Many times when I needed to hold on tight, I grabbed my needle, it could be a sewing needle, knitting needles or a crochet hook; whatever its shape or purpose, it often proved to be like the needle of the compass, keeping me on course.
As Giokas researched the book, she was surprised to find that one of America’s most iconic first ladies, Eleanor Roosevelt, was at her fingertips with a needle.
“Do you consider Eleanor Roosevelt a knitter? They say that every time she sat down she was knitting and had a knitting bag with her. She had to take care of her hands. She knitted for the troops and made Americans knit during World War II. I never knew that about him,” she said. “There’s a new organization called FLARE – the Association of First Ladies for Research and Education. There’s a big move toward in-depth research into some of the lesser-known first ladies.
His speech will culminate with information about Lou Henry Hoover.
“The book humanizes them. I wanted to write a story that was a narrative so you could get into their hearts and minds,” she said. “I want people to visualize what their life was like. It’s looking at history through textiles.
Giokas is also the author of a picture book about American fashion designer Claire McCardell titled “Claire: The Little Girl Who Soared to the Top and Changed the Way Women Dress.” To learn more, visit debrascalagiokas.com.
Pre-registration is required to receive the ZOOM link for the book conference: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/4016584129179/WN_c0dsTaJRTDSggc5DFsBx8Q.