Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Former Massachusetts First Lady Jennie Volpe

MA First Lady Jennie Volpe and Governor John Volpe

Jennie Volpe, wife of former Masachusetts governor John Volpe, died in January 2011 at age 98.  Mrs. Volpe was born in Italy in 1912 and emmigrated to the US with her mother in 1915.  She grew up in Wakefield, MA and became a registered nurse.  She married John Volpe, who owned a construction company, in 1934.

John Volpe followed a meteoric rise in politics.  He was appointed Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Works in 1953 and then was appointed the first Federal Highway Supervisor by President Eisenhower in 1956.  When he told his wife that he planned to run for election as the Governor of Massachusetts, Jennie reacted with dismay and was not happy with his decision.  She was a private person and knew the political life would not be an easy one. 

When her husband was elected in 1960, Jennie hired Alfred Fiandaca to design and make her gown for the inauguration, a move that brought instant fame and prestige to the designer.  She was an amateur milliner and loved to create hats covered with flowers, each year debuting a new creation at the Easter Parade.

Volpe served three terms as Governor of Massachusetts from 1961-63 and from 1965-69. During those years, Jennie worked to improve conditions in the state's mental health facilities.  She could often be found at her husband's side, and even delivered speeches on his behalf on the campaign trail.

Volpe resigned the governorship in 1969 to serve as Richard Nixon's Secretary of Transportation.  During their years in Washington, Jennie attended White House functions regularly. 

Ambassador and Mrs. Volpe in Italy

In 1973, John Volpe was appointed as the American Ambassador to Italy.  Jennie was overjoyed to return to the country where she was born.  The Volpes lived in Italy until 1977.  Upon their return to the US, they settled in a small home in Nahant, MA  to enjoy their retirement.
I am honored to be able to offer you this 1960s Bianchi beaded evening gown and coat that was owned and worn by Jennie Volpe during her years as the First Lady of Massachusetts.  The sheer silk organza gown is completely covered in beads and comes with a matching separate slip.  The dress comes with a matching silk coat and a silk shawl for different looks.