It’s a kind of calligraphy, these ringlets and waves, hair combed, twisted and pinned. A first lady’s coiffure is a pattern, chosen as deliberately as the White House china, but prey to wind and rain, especially on cold Inauguration Days. It’s also prey to public opinion, should she dare to make quixotic changes in her ’do — a sign of flippancy and flip-flopping. Notice there are no flips. In the beginning, we see a newborn empire in those Josephine curls. The mid-20th century is marcelled. And in recent decades, increasingly liberated first ladies sport more leonine locks. Interestingly, there are no bangs. Perhaps this has less to do with hair and more to do with campaign promises of marital harmony and world peace.
—LAURA JACOBS, the author, most recently, of “The Bird Catcher”
Hair-Portraits of First Ladies. From left to right: Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Martha Randolph,* Dolley Madison, Elizabeth Monroe, Louisa Adams, Rachel Jackson,** Hannah Van Buren,** Anna Harrison, Letitia Tyler, Julia Tyler, Sarah Polk, Margaret Taylor, Abigail Fillmore, Jane Pierce, Harriet Lane,*** Mary Lincoln, Eliza Johnson, Julia Grant, Lucy Hayes, Lucretia Garfield, Ellen Arthur,** Frances Cleveland, Caroline Harrison, Frances Cleveland, Ida McKinley, Edith Roosevelt, Helen Taft, Ellen Wilson, Edith Wilson, Florence Harding, Grace Coolidge, Lou Hoover, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Truman, Mamie Eisenhower, Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama.