The new exhibition spans nearly 250 years and explores the everyday lives of everyone from Martha Washington to Melania Trump.

By Meghan Overdeep
November 17, 2020
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A suit worn by Jackie Kennedy and Mary Lincoln’s capes are among the priceless pieces included in “Every Eye Is Upon Me: First Ladies of the United States,” a new exhibit at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

The show, which opened in Washington D.C. and online this week, is the museum’s first-ever foray into the stories of the presidents’ wives. The exciting new exhibition spans nearly 250 years and explores the lives of everyone from Martha Washington to Melania Trump. On view through May 23, 2021, it features more than 60 portraits of the First Ladies, alongside related memorabilia and articles of clothing.

“Through portraiture, the exhibition will shed light on the stories and personalities of each sitter, focusing on the myriad of challenges they faced and their greatest accomplishments,” a press release explains, adding that this is the largest presentation of First Lady portraiture to take place outside of the White House.

“These remarkable women by and large set aside self-interest to devote themselves to the responsibilities of being ‘First Lady,’ a complicated, non-electable role that continues to adapt with each beholder,” exhibition curator Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, the National Portrait Gallery’s senior historian and director of history, research, and scholarly programs, said in a release. “The portraits included in this exhibition visualize the difference between these women, revealing fascinating details about the worlds in which they moved and the historical moments in which they lived.”

The National Portrait Gallery is open Wednesday to Sunday, 11:30 a.m.–7 p.m. Admission is free.