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PeopleSpot > First Ladies

First Ladies

Behind every great man, there is a great woman, or so the saying goes. The First Lady traditionally functioned as an example of grace, style, and spousal support for the leader of the free world. Today, her duties have moved far beyond planning state dinners and entertaining political figures. The issues she chooses to champion gain wide public and media attention, and this is just one example of the position's power.

The modern First Lady has her own office at the White House with press personnel to help her maintain a positive image and contact with the public during her tenure inside the White House. Various Internet resources can help you weed through the gossamer and the gossip and learn more about the impact of First Ladies on the nation.

The White House site offers an index of First Lady biographies, providing visitors with a wealth of trivia about the presidential wives. Did you know Frances Cleveland was the first First Lady to be married in the White House? Or that dying President Ulysses S. Grant wrote his memoirs to provide financial support for his wife after his death?

Eleanor Roosevelt transformed the role of the First Lady, holding press conferences, traveling the nation and writing a newspaper column. Knowledgeable about many social ills, Roosevelt later became a delegate to the United Nations, where she helped compose the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The document "may go on to become a Magna Carta for mankind," Roosevelt said.




Some First Ladies took on domestic issues as their causes. The Barbara Bush Foundation for Literacy outlines her efforts to encourage families to read together. Her daughter-in-law, former teacher and present First Lady Laura Bush, has indicated her interests also lie in literary and educational pursuits.

Betty Ford established a center to treat alcohol and drug addiction. You can take a virtual tour of the facilities at the Betty Ford Clinic site.

Since leaving her post in the White House, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter has made a commitment to working for peace and fighting poverty. One organization she has worked with for more than two decades is Habitat for Humanity, which builds homes for the poor.

Lady Bird Johnson worked to beautify America's landscape as member of the National Park Service's Advisory Board. She later founded the Texas Highway Beautification Awards and the National Wildflower Research Center. Read more about her at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum.

Other First Ladies brought a sense of art and style to the presidential residence. Dolley Madison risked her life to salvage White House art and treasures as the British invaded Washington. Former First Lady Hillary Clinton gave a speech in 1999 honoring Madison when she became the only First Lady to have her image appear on a U.S. coin.

Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy was known for her trend-setting fashions, which were commemorated in Jackie: The Clothes of Camelot by Jay Mulvaney.

Some contemporary First Ladies became involved in the politics. Bess Truman helped her husband with office work as his Senate duties increased, prior to his becoming president, according to her biography at the Truman Presidential Museum and Library. Her daughter, Margaret, wrote "First Ladies," an insightful look at the lives of the women who were partners to our nations' leaders.

Early in her husband's first term, Hillary Clinton stressed the importance of improving health care and she authored a book on child rearing. In November 2000, Clinton became the first First Lady to win a Senate campaign. Check out her online office at the U.S. Senate.

To learn more about these famous women, see PeopleSpot.com's collection of First Lady biographies.




   --- T. Beecham



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