Lady Bird Johnson

Lady Bird Johnson consistently played a crucial role in her husband Lyndon Baines Johnson’s political career, from financing his first congressional campaign in 1936 to conducting a solo electioneering tour in 1964. She redefined the office of First Lady, employing her own press secretary and directly interacting with Congress. Johnson’s influence extended beyond supporting her husband, however. In 1943, she purchased Austin radio station KTBC. After expanding into television in 1952, the holding became the main source of the Johnson fortune.

Johnson appeared at the National Women’s Conference alongside fellow First Ladies Betty Ford and Rosalynn Carter during the First Plenary Session. Joined onstage by her daughter, Lynda Johnson Robb, Johnson welcomed the delegates to her home state “to help move history forward.” As arguably the most prominent Texan woman in attendance, the former first lady also introduced the conference’s keynote speaker, Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. In praising the “impressive share of bright, articulate women” in Texas, Johnson called Jordan “one of the brightest stars in this galaxy.” (To the delight of the crowd, Jordan responded by saying, “Thank you, Lady Bird Johnson, for an introduction of which I am worthy.”)

Johnson did not play an active role in the women’s movement following the National Women’s Conference, but remained committed to conservation efforts. In 1982, she and actress Helen Hayes founded the National Wildflower Research Center outside Austin. It was renamed in her honor in 1995. Robb, on the other hand, stayed involved in civic affairs as chair of the President’s Advisory Committee for Women from 1979 to 1981.

Nikki Van Hightower
Barbara Jordan