INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - A local attraction gained some national attention Thursday. C-Span visited the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site.
But, this was not for a study of the president. It was for an interview to appear in the network's "First Ladies: Influence and Image" series.
Caroline Harrison – not Benjamin – is the focus of the program.
"It's remarkable to see history through womens' eyes," said C-Span's Andy Och.
He said he discovered how influential the First Ladies were "from the very beginning." They just "weren't as public back then as they are now."
Och is the series producer. But, he sounds like a history professor as he describes the ladies his program profiles. (And, he said his name sounds "like a tree" – oak.) He started the research last October. He started visiting presidential sites in November.
One lesson: "Most of the early presidents married up," Och said. "I have no doubt there were love matches or they grew to love each other. The Monroes just couldn't leave each others' side, they were so in love."
The First Ladies, even in the early days, might have been advisers. They might have been sources of wealth. But, they also humanized their husbands. Och said, for some of our first leaders, "none of the men would be presidents had they married someone different."
Another lesson: not much remains to document the lives of some of the earliest First Ladies. So, telling their stories challenged Och.
The story that brought him to Indianapolis, though, is easier to tell.
"By the time we get to Harrison, we know so much about her."
The Harrison home on North Delaware Street – with the expertise of Phyllis Geeslin, President and CEO of the Harrison site – helps tell the personal story and offers an insight into the era the Harrisons represented.
Och came to Indianapolis after a visit to the Rutherford B. Hayes home in Ohio, Wednesday.
The segments he recorded with Geeslin will be interspersed with live commentary from historians. C-Span will air the Caroline Harrison program on June 3.
It's "fascinating" work, Och said. It better be – because, after Indianapolis, he still has a long road ahead.
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