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The first lady of the United States (FLOTUS) is the title held by the hostess of the
White House The White House is the official residence and workplace of the president of the United States. It is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, Washington, D.C., NW in Washington, D.C., and has been the residence of every U.S. preside ...

White House
, usually the wife of the
president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The president directs the Federal government of the United States#Executive branch, executive branch of the Federal gover ...

president of the United States
, concurrent with the president's term in office. Although the first lady's role has never been codified or officially defined, she figures prominently in the political and social life of the United States. Since the early 20th century, the first lady has been assisted by official staff, now known as the
Office of the First Lady The Office of the First Lady (OFL) is the staff accountable to the First Lady of the United States, first lady of the United States. The office and its responsibilities, while not constitutionally mandated, have grown as the role of the first lady ...
and headquartered in the
East Wing The East Wing of the White House is a two-story structure that serves as office space for the First Lady of the United States, First Lady and her staff, including the White House Social Secretary, White House social secretary, White House Graphics ...
of the
White House The White House is the official residence and workplace of the president of the United States. It is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, Washington, D.C., NW in Washington, D.C., and has been the residence of every U.S. preside ...

White House
.
Jill Biden Jill Tracy Jacobs Biden (born June 3, 1951) is an American educator and the current first lady of the United States The first lady of the United States (FLOTUS) is the title held by the hostess of the , usually the wife of the , concur ...

Jill Biden
is the current first lady of the United States, as wife of the 46th president of the United States,
Joe Biden Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. ( ; born November 20, 1942) is an American politician who is the 46th and current president of the United States. A member of the Democratic Party (United States), Democratic Party, he served as the 47th Vice Pres ...

Joe Biden
. While the title was not in general use until much later,
Martha Washington Martha Dandridge Custis Washington (June 2, 1731 — May 22, 1802) was the wife of George Washington, the first president of the United States. Although the title was not coined until after her death, Martha Washington served as the inaugural fi ...

Martha Washington
, the wife of
George Washington George Washington (February 22, 1732, 1799) was an American soldier, statesman, and Founding Fathers of the United States, Founding Father who served as the first President of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Appointed by the Continenta ...

George Washington
, the first U.S. president (1789–1797), is considered to be the inaugural first lady of the United States. During her lifetime, she was often referred to as "Lady Washington". Since the 1790s, the role of first lady has changed considerably. It has come to include involvement in political campaigns, management of the White House, championship of social causes, and representation of the president at official and ceremonial occasions. As first ladies now typically publish their memoirs, which are viewed as potential sources of additional information about their husbands' administrations, and because the public is interested in these increasingly independent women in their own right, first ladies frequently remain a focus of attention long after their husbands' terms of office have ended. Additionally, over the years individual first ladies have held influence in a range of sectors, from fashion to public opinion on policy. Historically, should a president be unmarried or a widower the president usually asks a relative to act as White House hostess. , there are five living former first ladies:
Rosalynn Carter Eleanor Rosalynn Carter (née__NOTOC__ A birth name is the name of the person given upon their birth. The term may be applied to the surname, the given name or to the entire name. Where births are required to be officially registered, the ent ...
(wife of
Jimmy Carter James Earl Carter Jr. (born October 1, 1924) is an American politician, businessman, and philanthropist who served as the 39th president of the United States from 1977 to 1981. A member of the Democratic Party (United States), Democratic Par ...

Jimmy Carter
),
Hillary Clinton Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton ( Rodham; born October 26, 1947) is an American politician, diplomat, lawyer, writer, and public speaker who served as the from 2009 to 2013, as a from from 2001 to 2009, and as from 1993 to 2001 as the wife ...

Hillary Clinton
(wife of
Bill Clinton William Jefferson Clinton ('' né'' Blythe III; born August 19, 1946) is an American politician and attorney who served as the 42nd president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and ...

Bill Clinton
),
Laura Bush Laura Lane Welch Bush (''née'' Welch; born November 4, 1946) is an American teacher, librarian, memoirist and author who was the first lady of the United States from 2001 to 2009. Bush previously served as the List of First Ladies and Gentlem ...

Laura Bush
(wife of
George W. Bush George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946) is an American politician and businessman who served as the 43rd president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the Unit ...

George W. Bush
),
Michelle Obama Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama (born January 17, 1964) is an American attorney and author who served as the First Lady of the United States, first lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. She was the List of African-American firsts, firs ...

Michelle Obama
(wife of
Barack Obama Barack Hussein Obama II ( ; born August 4, 1961) is an American politician and attorney who served as the 44th president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government ...

Barack Obama
), and
Melania Trump Melania Trump ( ; born Melanija Knavs , Germanized Germanisation, or Germanization, is the spread of the German language The German language (, ) is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoke ...
(wife of
Donald Trump Donald John Trump (born June 14, 1946) is an American politician A politician is a person active in party politics A political party is an organization that coordinates candidate A candidate, or nominee, is the prospective reci ...

Donald Trump
).


Origins of the title

The use of the title ''
First Lady#REDIRECT First lady {{Rcat shell, {{R from move {{R from other capitalisation {{R unprintworthy ...
'' to describe the spouse or hostess of an executive began in the United States. In the early days of the republic, there was not a generally accepted title for the wife of the president. Many early first ladies expressed their own preference for how they were addressed, including the use of such titles as "Lady", "Mrs. President" and "Mrs. Presidentress";
Martha Washington Martha Dandridge Custis Washington (June 2, 1731 — May 22, 1802) was the wife of George Washington, the first president of the United States. Although the title was not coined until after her death, Martha Washington served as the inaugural fi ...

Martha Washington
was often referred to as "Lady Washington". One of the earliest uses of the term "First Lady" was applied to her in an 1838 newspaper article that appeared in the ''St. Johnsbury Caledonian'', the author, "Mrs. Sigourney", discussing how Martha Washington had not changed, even after her husband
George George may refer to: People * George (given name) * George (surname) Places South Africa * George, Western Cape ** George Airport United States * George, Iowa * George, Missouri * George, Washington * George County, Mississippi * George Air For ...

George
became president. She wrote that "The first lady of the nation still preserved the habits of early life. Indulging in no indolence, she left the pillow at dawn, and after breakfast, retired to her chamber for an hour for the study of the scriptures and devotion."
Dolley Madison Dolley Todd Madison (née Payne; May 20, 1768 – July 12, 1849) was the wife of James Madison James Madison Jr. (March 16, 1751June 28, 1836) was an American statesman, diplomat, expansionist, philosopher, and Founding Father who served ...

Dolley Madison
was reportedly referred to as first lady in 1849 at her funeral in a eulogy delivered by President
Zachary Taylor Zachary Taylor (November 24, 1784 – July 9, 1850) was an American military leader who served as the 12th president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the Un ...

Zachary Taylor
; however, no written record of this eulogy exists, nor did any of the newspapers of her day refer to her by that title. Sometime after 1849, the title began being used in Washington, D.C., social circles. One of the earliest known written examples comes from November 3, 1863, diary entry of
William Howard Russell Sir William Howard Russell, (28 March 182011 February 1907) was an Irish reporter with ''The Times'', and is considered to have been one of the first modern war correspondents. He spent 22 months covering the Crimean War, including the Siege o ...
, in which he referred to gossip about "the First Lady in the Land", referring to
Mary Todd Lincoln Mary Ann Lincoln ( Todd; December 13, 1818 – July 16, 1882) was the wife of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, and as such the First Lady of the United States from 1861 to 1865. Today, she is commonly known as Mary ...

Mary Todd Lincoln
. The title first gained nationwide recognition in 1877, when newspaper journalist Mary C. Ames referred to
Lucy Webb Hayes Lucy Ware Hayes ( née Webb; August 28, 1831 – June 25, 1889) was the wife of President Rutherford B. Hayes and served as First Lady of the United States First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS) is the title held by the hostess of the ...

Lucy Webb Hayes
as "the First Lady of the Land" while reporting on the inauguration of . The frequent reporting on Lucy Hayes' activities helped spread use of the title outside Washington. A popular 1911 comedic play about Dolley Madison by playwright Charles Nirdlinger, titled ''The First Lady in the Land'', popularized the title further. By the 1930s, it was in wide use. Use of the title later spread from the United States to other nations. When
Edith Wilson Edith Wilson ( Bolling, formerly Edith Bolling Galt; October 15, 1872 – December 28, 1961) was the first lady of the United States The first lady of the United States (FLOTUS) is the title held by the hostess of the , usually the wife o ...

Edith Wilson
took control of her husband's schedule in 1919 after he had a debilitating stroke, one Republican senator labeled her "the Presidentress who had fulfilled the dream of the suffragettes by changing her title from First Lady to Acting First Man". According to the
Nexis LexisNexis is a corporation providing computer-assisted legal research (CALR) as well as business research and risk-management services. During the 1970s, LexisNexis pioneered the electronic accessibility of legal and journalistic documents. , th ...
database, FLOTUS (which is pronounced FLOW-tus, to rhyme with POTUS, and not FLOT-tus) was first used in 1983 by Donnie Radcliffe, writing in ''
The Washington Post ''The Washington Post'' (also known as the ''Post'' and, informally, ''WaPo'') is an American daily newspaper A newspaper is a Periodical literature, periodical publication containing written News, information about current events and is ...

The Washington Post
''.


Non-spouses in the role

Several women (at least thirteen) who were not presidents' wives have served as first lady, as when the president was a bachelor or widower, or when the wife of the president was unable to fulfill the duties of the first lady herself. In these cases, the position has been filled by a female relative of the president, such as Jefferson's daughter
Martha Jefferson Randolph Martha "Patsy" Randolph (Maiden and married names, ''née'' Jefferson; September 27, 1772 – October 10, 1836) was the eldest daughter of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, and his wife, Martha Jefferson, Martha Wayles Sk ...

Martha Jefferson Randolph
, Jackson's daughter-in-law Sarah Yorke Jackson and his wife's niece
Emily Donelson Emily Donelson (June 1, 1807 – December 19, 1836) was the niece of Rachel Jackson, Rachel Donelson Jackson, the daughter-in-law of President of the United States, U.S. President Andrew Jackson. She served as White House hostess and First Lady of ...

Emily Donelson
,
Taylor Taylor, Taylors or Taylor's may refer to: People * Taylor (surname) Taylor is a surname used in the British Isles of French name, French origin which came from the Normans, Norman occupational surname (meaning ''tailor'') in France. derived fr ...

Taylor
's daughter
Mary Elizabeth Bliss Mary Elizabeth "Betty" Taylor Bliss Dandridge, born Mary Elizabeth Taylor (April 20, 1824 – July 25, 1909), was the youngest of the three surviving daughters of President Zachary Taylor Zachary Taylor (November 24, 1784 – July 9, 185 ...
,
Benjamin Harrison Benjamin Harrison (August 20, 1833 March 13, 1901) was an American politician and lawyer who served as the 23rd president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of t ...

Benjamin Harrison
's daughter ,
Buchanan's Buchanan's is a brand of Scotch whisky Scotch whisky (; sco, Scots whisky/whiskie, whusk(e)y; often simply called whisky or Scotch) is malt whiskyMalt whisky is whisky made from a fermented mashing, mash consisting primarily of malted barley. ...
niece
Harriet Lane Harriet Rebecca Lane Johnston (May 9, 1830 – July 3, 1903) acted as First Lady of the United States First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS) is the title held by the hostess of the White House, usually the wife of the president of the ...

Harriet Lane
, and sister
Rose Cleveland Rose Elizabeth "Libby" Cleveland (June 13, 1846 – November 22, 1918), was acting First Lady of the United States from 1885 to 1886, during the first term of her brother, President of the United States, President Grover Cleveland's two administrat ...

Rose Cleveland
. Mary Jane Goodson Carlisle served as acting first lady during 's administration and for the first year of
Grover Cleveland Stephen Grover Cleveland (March 18, 1837June 24, 1908) was an American lawyer and politician who served as the 22nd and 24th president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state A h ...

Grover Cleveland
's first term. Both presidents were bachelors, and as speaker of the House from 1883, her husband was next in precedence.


Potential male title

Each of the 46 presidents of the United States have been male, all of whom have either had their wives, or a female hostess, assume the role of First Lady. Thus, a male equivalent for the title of first lady has never been needed. However, in 2016, as
Hillary Clinton Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton ( Rodham; born October 26, 1947) is an American politician, diplomat, lawyer, writer, and public speaker who served as the from 2009 to 2013, as a from from 2001 to 2009, and as from 1993 to 2001 as the wife ...

Hillary Clinton
became the first woman to win a major party's presidential nomination, questions were raised as to what her husband
Bill Bill(s) may refer to: Common meanings * Banknote A banknote (often known as a bill (in the US and Canada), paper money, or simply a note) is a type of negotiable instrument, negotiable promissory note, made by a bank or other licensed author ...

Bill
would be titled if she were to win the presidency. During the campaign, the title of First Gentleman of the United States was most frequently suggested for Bill Clinton, although as a former president himself, he may be called "Mr. President". In addition, state governors' male spouses are typically called the First Gentleman of their respective state (for example, Michael Haley was the First Gentleman of South Carolina while his wife, Nikki, served as governor). Ultimately, Hillary Clinton lost the election, rendering this a moot point. In 2021,
Kamala Harris Kamala Devi Harris ( ; born October 20, 1964) is an American politician and attorney who is the 49th and current vice president of the United States The vice president of the United States (VPOTUS) is the second-highest officer in the o ...

Kamala Harris
became the first woman to hold a nationally elected office when she took office as vice president, making her husband
Doug Emhoff Douglas Craig Emhoff (born October 13, 1964) is an American lawyer who is the second gentleman of the United States. He is married to the 49th vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris. As the first-ever husband of a vice president, Emh ...
the first male spouse of a nationally elected officeholder. Emhoff assumed the title of
Second Gentleman of the United States The second lady/gentleman of the United States (SLOTUS/SGOTUS) is the informal title held by the spouse of the vice president of the United States, concurrent with the vice president's term of office. Coined in contrast to "First Lady of the Unit ...
("gentleman" replacing "lady" in the title) making it likely that any future male spouse of a president will be given the title of First Gentleman.


Role

The position of the first lady is not an elected one and carries only ceremonial duties. Nonetheless, first ladies have held a highly visible position in American society. The role of the first lady has evolved over the centuries. She is, first and foremost, the hostess of the White House. She organizes and attends official ceremonies and functions of state either along with, or in place of, the president. Lisa Burns identifies four successive main themes of the first ladyship: as public woman (1900–1929); as political celebrity (1932–1961); as political activist (1964–1977); and as political interloper (1980–2001). Martha Washington created the role and hosted many affairs of state at the national capital (New York and Philadelphia). This socializing became known as the Republican Court and provided elite women with opportunities to play backstage political roles. Both Martha Washington and
Abigail Adams Abigail Adams ( ''née'' Smith; November 22, [ O.S. November 11] 1744 – October 28, 1818) was the wife and closest advisor of John Adams John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, attorne ...

Abigail Adams
were treated as if they were "ladies" of the British royal court.
Dolley Madison Dolley Todd Madison (née Payne; May 20, 1768 – July 12, 1849) was the wife of James Madison James Madison Jr. (March 16, 1751June 28, 1836) was an American statesman, diplomat, expansionist, philosopher, and Founding Father who served ...

Dolley Madison
popularized the first ladyship by engaging in efforts to assist orphans and women, by dressing in elegant fashions and attracting newspaper coverage, and by risking her life to save iconic treasures during the
War of 1812 The War of 1812 (18 June 1812 – 17 February 1815) was a conflict fought by the United States of America The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country in . It ...
. Madison set the standard for the ladyship and her actions were the model for nearly every first lady until
Eleanor Roosevelt Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (; October 11, 1884November 7, 1962) was an American political figure, diplomat, and activist. She served as the first lady of the United States The first lady of the United States (FLOTUS) is the title held by the ...
in the 1930s. Roosevelt traveled widely and spoke to many groups, often voicing personal opinions to the left of the president's. She authored a weekly newspaper column and hosted a radio show.
Jacqueline Kennedy Jacqueline Lee "Jackie" Kennedy Onassis ( ; July 28, 1929May 19, 1994) was an American socialite, writer, and photographer who became First Lady of the United States First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS) is the title held by the hostess ...
led an effort to redecorate and restore the White House. Many first ladies became significant fashion trendsetters. Some have exercised a degree of political influence by virtue of being an important adviser to the president. Over the course of the 20th century, it became increasingly common for first ladies to select specific causes to promote, usually ones that are not politically divisive. It is common for the first lady to hire a staff to support these activities.
Lady Bird Johnson Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Johnson (Maiden and married names, née Taylor; December 22, 1912 – July 11, 2007) was an American socialite who served as first lady of the United States as the wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson from 1963 to 1969. Sh ...
pioneered environmental protection and beautification.
Pat Nixon Thelma Catherine "Pat" Nixon (née__NOTOC__ A birth name is the name of the person given upon their birth. The term may be applied to the surname, the given name or to the entire name. Where births are required to be officially registered, th ...
encouraged volunteerism and traveled extensively abroad;
Betty Ford Elizabeth Anne Ford (Maiden and married names, née Bloomer; formerly Warren; April 8, 1918 – July 8, 2011) was the First Lady of the United States from 1974 to 1977, as the wife of President Gerald Ford. As First Lady, she was active in social ...

Betty Ford
supported women's rights;
Rosalynn Carter Eleanor Rosalynn Carter (née__NOTOC__ A birth name is the name of the person given upon their birth. The term may be applied to the surname, the given name or to the entire name. Where births are required to be officially registered, the ent ...
aided those with mental disabilities;
Nancy Reagan Nancy Davis Reagan (born Anne Frances Robbins; July 6, 1921 – March 6, 2016) was an American film actress and first lady of the United States The first lady of the United States (FLOTUS) is the title held by the hostess of the White ...

Nancy Reagan
founded the
Just Say No "Just Say No" was an advertising Advertising is a marketing communication that employs an openly sponsored, non-personal message to promote or sell a product, service or idea.William J. Stanton. ''Fundamentals of Marketing''. McGraw-Hil ...

Just Say No
drug awareness campaign;
Barbara Bush Barbara Bush (; June 8, 1925 – April 17, 2018) was the First Lady of the United States, first lady of the United States from 1989 to 1993 as the wife of George H. W. Bush, who served as the List of Presidents of the United States, 41st pr ...

Barbara Bush
promoted literacy;
Hillary Clinton Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton ( Rodham; born October 26, 1947) is an American politician, diplomat, lawyer, writer, and public speaker who served as the from 2009 to 2013, as a from from 2001 to 2009, and as from 1993 to 2001 as the wife ...

Hillary Clinton
sought to reform the healthcare system in the U.S.;
Laura Bush Laura Lane Welch Bush (''née'' Welch; born November 4, 1946) is an American teacher, librarian, memoirist and author who was the first lady of the United States from 2001 to 2009. Bush previously served as the List of First Ladies and Gentlem ...

Laura Bush
supported women's rights groups, and encouraged childhood literacy.
Michelle Obama Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama (born January 17, 1964) is an American attorney and author who served as the First Lady of the United States, first lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. She was the List of African-American firsts, firs ...

Michelle Obama
became identified with supporting military families and tackling childhood obesity; and
Melania Trump Melania Trump ( ; born Melanija Knavs , Germanized Germanisation, or Germanization, is the spread of the German language The German language (, ) is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoke ...
used her position to help children, including prevention of
cyberbullying Cyberbullying or cyberharassment is a form of bullying or harassment using Electronic communication network, electronic means. Cyberbullying and cyberharassment are also known as online bullying. It has become increasingly common, especially ...

cyberbullying
and support for those whose lives are affected by drugs. Since 1964, the incumbent and all living former first ladies are honorary members of the board of trustees of the National Cultural Center, the
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (formally known as the John F. Kennedy Memorial Center for the Performing Arts, and commonly referred to as the Kennedy Center) is the United States National Cultural Center, located on the Pot ...
. Near the end of her husband's
presidency A presidency is an Administration (government), administration or the Executive (government), executive, the collective administrative and governmental entity that exists around an office of President (government title), president of a state or nati ...
, Clinton became the first first lady to seek political office, when she ran for
United States Senate The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress The United States Congress is the legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, politi ...
. During the campaign, her daughter
Chelsea Chelsea or Chelsey may refer to: Places Australia * Chelsea, Victoria Canada * Chelsea, Nova Scotia * Chelsea, Quebec United Kingdom * Chelsea, London, an affluent area of South West London, bounded to the south by the River Thames ** Chelsea ...

Chelsea
took over much of the first lady's role. Victorious, Clinton served as junior senator from New York from 2001 to 2009, when she resigned to become President Obama's secretary of state. Later, she was the
Democratic PartyDemocratic Party most often refers to: *Democratic Party (United States) Democratic Party and similar terms may also refer to: Active parties Africa *Botswana Democratic Party *Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea *Gabonese Democratic Party *Democ ...
nominee for president in the 2016 election, but lost to
Donald Trump Donald John Trump (born June 14, 1946) is an American politician A politician is a person active in party politics A political party is an organization that coordinates candidate A candidate, or nominee, is the prospective reci ...

Donald Trump
.


Office of the First Lady

The Office of the First Lady of the United States is accountable to the first lady for her to carry out her duties as hostess of the White House, and is also in charge of all social and ceremonial events of the White House. The first lady has her own staff that includes a chief of staff, press secretary,
White House Social Secretary The White House social secretary is responsible for the planning, coordination and execution of official social events at the White House The White House is the official residence and workplace of the president of the United States. It ...
, and Chief Floral Designer. The Office of the First Lady is an entity of the White House Office, a branch of the
Executive Office of the President The Executive Office of the President (EOP) comprises the offices and agencies Agency may refer to: * a governmental or other institution * the abstract principle that autonomous beings, agents, are capable of acting by themselves; see autonom ...
. When First Lady Hillary Clinton decided to pursue a run for Senator of New York, she set aside her duties as first lady and moved to
Chappaqua, New York Chappaqua ( ) is a hamlet ''The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark'', often shortened to ''Hamlet'' (), is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare William Shakespeare (baptism, bapt. 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an Eng ...
, to establish state residency. She resumed her duties as first lady after winning her senatorial campaign, and retained her duties as both first lady and a U.S. senator for the seventeen-day overlap before Bill Clinton's term came to an end. Despite the significant responsibilities usually handled by the first lady, she does not receive a salary.


Exhibitions and collections

Established in 1912, the First Ladies Collection has been one of the most popular attractions at the
Smithsonian Institution The Smithsonian Institution ( ), or simply, the Smithsonian, is a group of museums and education and research centers, the largest such complex in the world, created by the U.S. government "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge". Founded ...

Smithsonian Institution
. The original exhibition opened in 1914 and was one of the first at the Smithsonian to prominently feature women. Originally focused largely on fashion, the exhibition now delves deeper into the contributions of first ladies to the presidency and American society. In 2008, "First Ladies at the Smithsonian" opened at the
National Museum of American History The National Museum of American History: Kenneth E. Behring Center collects, preserves, and displays the heritage of the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or Ame ...

National Museum of American History
as part of its reopening year celebration. That exhibition served as a bridge to the museum's expanded exhibition on first ladies' history that opened on November 19, 2011. "The First Ladies" explores the unofficial but important position of first lady and the ways that different women have shaped the role to make their own contributions to the presidential administrations and the nation. The exhibition features 26 dresses and more than 160 other objects, ranging from those of
Martha Washington Martha Dandridge Custis Washington (June 2, 1731 — May 22, 1802) was the wife of George Washington, the first president of the United States. Although the title was not coined until after her death, Martha Washington served as the inaugural fi ...

Martha Washington
to
Michelle Obama Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama (born January 17, 1964) is an American attorney and author who served as the First Lady of the United States, first lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. She was the List of African-American firsts, firs ...

Michelle Obama
, and includes
White House china The White House china refers to the various patterns of china () used for serving and eating food in the , home of the . Different china services have been ordered and used by different presidential administrations. The White House collection of c ...
, personal possessions and other objects from the Smithsonian's unique collection of first ladies' materials.


Fashion influence

Some first ladies have garnered attention for their dress and style.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Jacqueline Lee "Jackie" Kennedy Onassis ( ; July 28, 1929 – May 19, 1994) was an American socialite, writer, photographer, and book editor who served as first lady of the United States The first lady of the United States (FLOTUS) is t ...
, for instance, became a global fashion icon: her style was copied by commercial manufacturers and imitated by many young women, and she was named to the
International Best Dressed List The International Best-Dressed Hall of Fame List was founded by wikt:fashionista, fashionista Eleanor Lambert in 1940 as an attempt to boost the reputation of American fashion at the time. The American magazine ''Vanity Fair (magazine), Vanity Fai ...
Hall of Fame in 1965. Mamie Eisenhower was named one of the twelve best-dressed women in the country by the New York Dress Institute every year that she was First Lady. The "Mamie Look" involved a full-skirted dress, charm bracelets, pearls, little hats, and bobbed, banged hair. Michelle Obama also received significant attention for her fashion choices: style writer
Robin Givhan Robin Givhan (September 11, 1964) is a fashion Fashion is a form of self-expression, at a particular period and place and in a specific context, of clothing File:KangaSiyu1.jpg, A kanga (African garment), kanga, worn throughout the African Gr ...
praised her in ''
The Daily Beast ''The Daily Beast'' is an American news publication focused on politics, media and pop culture, founded in 2008. It has been characterized as a "high-end tabloid" by Noah Shachtman, the site's editor-in-chief since 2018. In a 2015 interv ...
'', arguing that the First Lady's style had helped to enhance the public image of the office.


Causes and initiatives

Since the mid-20th century, it became common for the First ladies to adopt specific causes to frequently speak about. It also became common for the First Lady to hire a staff to support her agenda. Recent causes of the First Lady are: * Eleanor Roosevelt;
Women's rights Women's rights are the and s claimed for and s worldwide. They formed the basis for the women's rights movement in the 19th century and the s during the 20th and 21st centuries. In some countries, these rights are institutionalized or supp ...
,
civil rights Civil and political rights are a class of rights Rights are legal Law is a system of rules created and law enforcement, enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crimes against humanity'', ...
, and humanitarian efforts * Jacqueline Kennedy; White House restoration and the Arts * Lady Bird Johnson; Environmental protection and Beautification * Pat Nixon;
Volunteerism Volunteering is a voluntary act of an individual or group freely giving time and labour for community service Volunteers complete a cleanup of litter and trash Community service is unpaid work performed by a person or group of people for ...

Volunteerism
* Betty Ford; Women's rights,
Substance abuse Substance abuse, also known as drug abuse, is the use of a drug in amounts or by methods which are harmful to the individual or others. It is a form of substance-related disorder Substance-related disorders, also known as substance use disord ...
* Rosalynn Carter;
Mental health Mental health is "a state of well-being Well-being, also known as ''wellness'', ''prudential value'' or ''quality of life'', refers to what is intrinsically valuable relative ''to'' someone. So the well-being of a person is what is ultimatel ...

Mental health
* Nancy Reagan; "
Just Say No "Just Say No" was an advertising Advertising is a marketing communication that employs an openly sponsored, non-personal message to promote or sell a product, service or idea.William J. Stanton. ''Fundamentals of Marketing''. McGraw-Hil ...

Just Say No
", drug awareness * Barbara Bush; Childhood literacy * Hillary Clinton;
Healthcare Healthcare is the maintenance or improvement of health Health, according to the , is "a state of complete physical, and social and not merely the absence of and ".. (2006)''Constitution of the World Health Organization''– ''Basic Docume ...
in the United States * Laura Bush; Childhood literacy * Michelle Obama; "
Let's Move! Let's Move! was a public health Public health has been defined as "the science and art of Preventive healthcare, preventing disease”, prolonging life and improving quality of life through organized efforts and informed choices of society, ...
"; reducing childhood obesity * Melania Trump; ""; cyberbullying awareness * Jill Biden; "Joining Forces"; military families


Living former first ladies

, there are five living former first ladies, as identified below. File:Rose Carter, official color photo, 1977-cropped.jpg,
Rosalynn Carter Eleanor Rosalynn Carter (née__NOTOC__ A birth name is the name of the person given upon their birth. The term may be applied to the surname, the given name or to the entire name. Where births are required to be officially registered, the ent ...

served 1977–1981
born 1927 (age )
wife of
Jimmy Carter James Earl Carter Jr. (born October 1, 1924) is an American politician, businessman, and philanthropist who served as the 39th president of the United States from 1977 to 1981. A member of the Democratic Party (United States), Democratic Par ...

Jimmy Carter
File:Hillary Rodham Clinton.jpg,
Hillary Clinton Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton ( Rodham; born October 26, 1947) is an American politician, diplomat, lawyer, writer, and public speaker who served as the from 2009 to 2013, as a from from 2001 to 2009, and as from 1993 to 2001 as the wife ...

Hillary Clinton

served 1993–2001
born 1947 (age )
wife of
Bill Clinton William Jefferson Clinton ('' né'' Blythe III; born August 19, 1946) is an American politician and attorney who served as the 42nd president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and ...

Bill Clinton
File:Laura Bush portrait.jpg,
Laura Bush Laura Lane Welch Bush (''née'' Welch; born November 4, 1946) is an American teacher, librarian, memoirist and author who was the first lady of the United States from 2001 to 2009. Bush previously served as the List of First Ladies and Gentlem ...

Laura Bush

served 2001–2009
born 1946 (age )
wife of
George W. Bush George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946) is an American politician and businessman who served as the 43rd president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the Unit ...

George W. Bush
File:Michelle Obama 2013 official portrait.jpg,
Michelle Obama Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama (born January 17, 1964) is an American attorney and author who served as the First Lady of the United States, first lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. She was the List of African-American firsts, firs ...

Michelle Obama

served 2009–2017
born 1964 (age )
wife of
Barack Obama Barack Hussein Obama II ( ; born August 4, 1961) is an American politician and attorney who served as the 44th president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government ...

Barack Obama
File:Melania Trump official portrait.jpg,
Melania Trump Melania Trump ( ; born Melanija Knavs , Germanized Germanisation, or Germanization, is the spread of the German language The German language (, ) is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoke ...

served 2017–2021
born 1970 (age )
wife of
Donald Trump Donald John Trump (born June 14, 1946) is an American politician A politician is a person active in party politics A political party is an organization that coordinates candidate A candidate, or nominee, is the prospective reci ...

Donald Trump
The most recent former first lady to pass away was
Barbara Bush Barbara Bush (; June 8, 1925 – April 17, 2018) was the First Lady of the United States, first lady of the United States from 1989 to 1993 as the wife of George H. W. Bush, who served as the List of Presidents of the United States, 41st pr ...

Barbara Bush
(served 1989–1993), on April 17, 2018, at the age of 92.


See also

* '' First Ladies: Influence & Image'' *
First Ladies National Historic Site The Saxton House, former home of Ida Saxton McKinley First Ladies National Historic Site is a United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United ...
(
Canton, Ohio Canton () is a city in and the county seat of Stark County, Ohio, Stark County, Ohio, United States. It is located approximately south of Cleveland and south of Akron, Ohio, Akron in Northeast Ohio. The city lies on the edge of Ohio's extensive ...
) * First Spouse $1 Coin Program *
List of current United States first spouses In the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, stat ...
*
Second Ladies and Gentlemen of the United States The second lady/gentleman of the United States (SLOTUS/SGOTUS) is the informal title held by the spouse of the vice president of the United States The vice president of the United States (VPOTUS) is the second-highest officer in the of the ...


References


Further reading

* Jeanne E. Abrams. ''First Ladies of the Republic: Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, and the Creation of an Iconic American Role''. New York New York University Press, 2018. . *
excerpt and text search
* Curriculum unit based on primary sources. * Popular essays by scholars. * * * Caroli, Betty Boyd. "The Role of First Lady" in Graff, Henry F., ed. ''The presidents: A Reference History'' (3rd ed. 2002) * * Hummer, Jill Abraham. ''First Ladies and American Women: In Politics and at Home'' (UP of Kansas, 2017); 269 pages; * On media images of Michelle Obama. * Heavily illustrated. *
excerpt and text search
* Schwartz, Marie Jenkins. ''Ties That Bound: Founding First Ladies and Slaves'' (U of Chicago Press, 2017), 420 pp. * By a leading political historian. *
excerpt and text search
*


External links




Office of the First Lady

First Lady's Gallery

The National First Ladies' Library

The First Ladies at the Smithsonian
{{Authority control *