As the American culture has evolved, many First Ladies of the United States have proven that their role is much more than being an accessory to their presidential husband. That’s right, long gone are the days when First Ladies kept mum about important issues. So to celebrate some of the First Ladies’ contribution to change, we’ve compiled a list of eight women who took an active role as both a supportive figure to their husband, as well as a leader in their own way.
Caroline Lavinia Harrison – Wife of 23rd President Benjamin Harrison
Caroline Lavinia Harrison was a huge advocate for women’s rights! In addition, the First Lady played a large role in securing funding for an extensive renovation of the White House, while also taking part in overseeing the work at hand. But perhaps her most notable accomplishment while in office was a result of her interest in history and preservation. Harrison helped found the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and served as its first President General. Talk about being a BOSS!
Lou Henry Hoover – Wife of 31st President Herbet Hoover
Lou Henry Hoover was a multipurposeful First Lady of the House. In addition to being involved in the Girl Scouts and taking part in restoring rooms in the White House, Hoover was an avid Chinese linguist and geology scholar, according to whitehouse.gov. She was also the First Lady to make regular nationwide radio broadcasts. Super-cool!
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt – Wife of 32nd President Franklin D. Roosevelt
The longest-standing First Lady in office (four terms!), Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the most revered women of her generation. She was an American politician, diplomat, and activist, serving as United States Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly from 1945 to 1952. President Harry S. Truman later called Roosevelt the “First Lady of the World” in light of her many human rights achievements. This includes helping to advance important causes, such as civil rights and women’s rights.
Jacqueline Kennedy – Wife of 35th President John F. Kennedy (35th President)
One of the most stylish First Ladies – if not the most stylish First Lady of the United States – Jacqueline Kennedy spent a brief, productive time in office. “Jackie” Kennedy established the job of White House Curator, a Fine Arts Committee, and the White House Historical Association. Due to her efforts in ongoing fundraising and other responsibilities, she’s known as the trailblazer when it comes to establishing the modern concept of the First Lady’s “project,” according to firstladies.org.
Elizabeth Ann “Betty” Ford – Wife of 38th President Gerald Ford
Despite opposition from conservative Republicans, Betty Ford’s moderate and liberal positions on social issues made history in a major way! She spoke openly about issues that affected her on a personal level, including psychiatry, breast cancer awareness, and addiction. A passionate activist for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), Ford was a leader in the Women’s Movement and known to be very vocal on numerous feminist issues.
Nancy Reagan – Wife of 40th President Ronald Reagan
From former Hollywood actress to the First Lady of the United States, Nancy Reagan founded the famous “Just Say No” drug awareness campaign. And her work in helping to create a major change in America didn’t end there. When President Reagan contracted Alzheimer’s disease, she became a strong advocate in finding a cure.
Hillary Rodham Clinton – Wife of 42nd President Bill Clinton
Hillary Rodham Clinton was not only the First Lady in the White House during her husband President Bill Clinton’s time in office; she is currently a nominee of the Democratic Party for the President of the United States in our upcoming 2016 election. With a lengthy history in politics (67th U.S. Secretary of State from 2009 – 2013, the junior United States Senator representing New York from 2001 – 2009, etc.), Clinton advocated nationalized health insurance, as well as rights for women and children around the world. And should she win the 2016 election, Clinton will be the first woman to go from First Lady in the White House to President in the White House! How cool is that?
Michelle Obama – Wife of 44th President Barack Obama
As the first African-American First Lady in the United States, serving two terms alongside her husband, Michelle Obama became a role model for women everywhere. Through her four main initiatives, she was an advocate for healthy families, service members and their families, higher education, and international adolescent girls education. Obama’s trendsetting fashion sense is also well-respected and admired, similar to the praise that former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy gained while in office. Super chic!
Which First Lady do you think made the most impact on American culture? Please share your thoughts with us in a comment below!
Cover photo courtesy of: www.marieclaire.com