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Happy President’s Day! Er, First Ladies Day!

Let’s take this opportunity to celebrate some Presidents with strong wives who would have made fine presidents in their own right:


The marriage of John and Abigail truly was one of equals and he had deep and abiding respect for her fine intellect. She held down the farm while he was creating a country, lived through a devastating small pox epidemic, tended to the casualties of the Revolutionary War, accompanied her husband to France and was friends with Thomas Jefferson. Her letters to John are a thing of beauty and are a rich addition to our history of that period. This year, I hope we will have a chance to “Remember the ladies”, as Abigail told John in a “kidding on the square” way. Go, Abby!

  • James Madison and Dolly Madison: He was a visionary and she was a feisty, party girl who loved to dress up in feathers and do snuff. But Dolly was no airhead. She was prescient enough of the dangers around her that she sometimes slept with a sabre by her bed and had the presence of mind to save many valuable papers and works of art as the British descended on the first White House to burn it down. Our national archivists owe a debt of gratitude to Dolly. Take a bow, Dolly!
  • Woodrow Wilson and Edith Galt Wilson: Edith was Woodrow’s second wife, his first wife, Ellen, having died in 1914. Unlike the reclusive Ellen, Edith was a woman who was not afraid to intercede on her husband’s behalf, a role she took on after Woodrow suffered a stroke in 1919. Edith was called the “First Woman President” although she would have preferred to term it stewardship. She was credited and blamed for various diplomatic events. So, what else is new? For a country coming out of a massive war unlike any the world had ever seen, Edith stepped in to leadership when things might have spiralled out of control. Thank you, Edith.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt: One of the only times I ever saw my grandmother furious at me was when I said that Eleanor Roosevelt was kinda plain. “Don’t you EVER say that about Eleanor!”, she screamed at me, “She was a beautiful woman and you would be lucky to ever grow up to be like her.” She didn’t talk to me for the rest of the day. (Sorry, Gram) For people who grew up in The Great Depression, Eleanor Roosevelt was the very essence of compassion, dignity and inner strength. She was a champion of civil rights for African-Americans and after her years as First Lady was appointed to the United Nations as a delegate by President Truman. I don’t think there is enough praise we can heap on this fine lady.
  • Lyndon Baines Johnson and Ladybird Johnson: While Lyndon took on poverty and the war, Ladybird fought her own battles for the environment. Her motto, “Where flowers bloom, so does hope” was put into action with the Highway Beautifcation Act limiting the number of billboards and planting wildflowers along our nation’s highways. She was also an advocate of the Head Start program. Ladybird was a successful businesswoman as well and owned substantial media outlets in Texas. She knew the value of good press and put it to use in getting Democrats elected. This astute woman would have made a great blogger.
  • Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter: Rosalynn always struck me a soft spoken person who carried a big stick behind the scene. She is a focussed individual who has turned her attention to insurance for the mentally ill and was working with Daniel Wellstone last year on the “Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act”. She is on the board of Habitat for Humanity where she and her husband still volunteer their time. Rosalynn shows that just because you’ve left the White House doesn’t mean your responsibilities as a First Lady have ended.

Those are a few of my favorites. Tell me about your favorite First Lady in the comments. Of course, my current favorite will create quite a splash in the history books. Why not throw a couple bucks in her tip jar to help make it happen?

Help Hillary Make History!

6 Responses

  1. Those are lovely summaries. Thank you for pulling all that information together & making it current.

  2. Reading about these amazaing first ladies was a great way to start my morning. Thanks riverdaghter!

  3. The first President I can remember was Johnson, post the Kennedy tragedy. Then the Carters. What I like about them has to do with dignity, and seriousness. Carter was my first vote, once. It’s been Democrat ever since except that one year I went Green in the hopes that…but this year I’ve never seen the likes of politics as complete savage charade. President as blingfest. It’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever had to witness. Ever. I mean the whole thing on both sides. it just shows how fractured the country is right now. One thing I do know — life was great under the Clintons, and it could be again. Hillary represents the best hope the country has for repair in my opinion.

  4. this post is wonderful. well done!

    I dont know much about Ladybird – I have always founf the name a tad offputting. I intend to read Dallek’s book about LBJ someday – I heard there is lot about her in there….otherwise, what would you suggest as a good source about her?

  5. judith: not sure. What I know about her I’ve picked up by dancing around the web. I actually like her name. I think it was her nanny who named her that because she was a cute as a jadybug (ladybird). You might start with Dallek. One of the fascinating things I learned about her was her keen eye for knowing a good business investment. In the late fifties, she turned a modest inheritance of about $41,000 into over $100 M by snapping up first one radio/TV station after another in Texas. Extraordinary.

  6. didnt know that. Good on her!

    The one good thing coming out of this race is that women are finding each other and sharing stories. Guys are joining in, too. Dont mean to exclude them. But there is something so fantastic about a qualified woman making a rational pitch for the top job and getting quite a fair share – if not the lead – in popular voting.

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