|First Lady of the|
|Inaugural holder||Martha Washington|
|Formation||April 30, 1789|
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 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 nation.Since the early 20th century, the first lady has been assisted by official staff, now known as the Office of the First Lady and headquartered in the East Wing of the White House.
Melania Trump is the current first lady of the United States, as wife of 45th president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.
While the title was not in general use until much later, Martha Washington, the wife of 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 or friend to act as White House hostess.
There are four living former first ladies: Rosalynn Carter, wife of Jimmy Carter; Hillary Clinton, wife of Bill Clinton; Laura Bush, wife of George W. Bush; and Michelle Obama, wife of Barack Obama.
The use of the title First Lady 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 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 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 was reportedly referred to as "First Lady" in 1849 at her funeral in a eulogy delivered by President 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, in which he referred to gossip about "the First Lady in the Land", referring to Mary Todd Lincoln. The title first gained nationwide recognition in 1877, when newspaper journalist Mary C. Ames referred to Lucy Webb Hayes as "the First Lady of the Land" while reporting on the inauguration of Rutherford B. Hayes. 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 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."
The wife of the vice president of the United States is sometimes referred to as the second lady of the United States (SLOTUS), but this title is much less common.[ citation needed ]
Another acronym used is FLOTUS, or First Lady of the United States. According to the Nexis database, the term (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 .
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 or friend of the president, such as Jefferson's daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph, Jackson's daughter-in-law Sarah Yorke Jackson and his wife's niece Emily Donelson, Taylor's daughter Mary Elizabeth Bliss, Benjamin Harrison's daughter Mary Harrison McKee, Buchanan's niece Harriet Lane, and Cleveland's sister Rose Cleveland.[ citation needed ]
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 were treated as if they were "ladies" of the British royal court.
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. Madison set the standard for the ladyship and her actions were the model for nearly every first lady until Eleanor Roosevelt 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 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 pioneered environmental protection and beautification.Pat Nixon encouraged volunteerism and traveled extensively abroad; Betty Ford supported women's rights; Rosalynn Carter aided those with mental disabilities; Nancy Reagan founded the Just Say No drug awareness campaign; Barbara Bush promoted literacy; Hillary Clinton sought to reform the healthcare system in the U.S.; Laura Bush supported women's rights groups, and encouraged childhood literacy. Michelle Obama became identified with supporting military families and tackling childhood obesity; and Melania Trump has stated that she wants to use her position to help children, including prevention of cyberbullying and supporting children whose lives are affected by drugs.
Near the end of her husband's presidency, Clinton became the first first lady to run for political office. During the campaign, her daughter, Chelsea, took over much of the first lady's role. Victorious, Clinton served as U.S. Senator from New York from 2001 to 2009, when she resigned in order to become President Obama's Secretary of State until 2013. Clinton was the Democratic Party nominee for president in the 2016 election, but lost to Donald Trump.
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, 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.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 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 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, the first lady does not receive a salary. This has been criticized by both Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama.
Established in 1912, the First Ladies Collection has been one of the most popular attractions at the 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 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 to Michelle Obama, and includes White House china, personal possessions and other objects from the Smithsonian's unique collection of first ladies' materials.
Some first ladies have garnered attention for their dress and style. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, 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 Hall of Fame in 1965.Michelle Obama has also received significant attention for her fashion choices: style writer Robin Givhan praised her in The Daily Beast , arguing that the First Lady's style has helped to enhance the public image of the office.
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.
|Eleanor Roosevelt||March 4, 1933 – April 12, 1945||Women's rights, civil rights, and humanitarian efforts|
|Elizabeth Truman||April 12, 1945 – January 20, 1953||Nonagenarian (died at 97)|
|Mamie Eisenhower||January 20, 1953 – January 20, 1961||Farmer|
|Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy||January 20, 1961 – November 22, 1963||White House restoration and the arts|
|Lady Bird Johnson||November 22, 1963 – January 20, 1969||Environmental protection and beautification|
|Pat Nixon||January 20, 1969 – August 9, 1974||Volunteerism|
|Betty Ford||August 9, 1974 – January 20, 1977||Women's rights|
|Rosalynn Smith Carter||January 20, 1977 – January 20, 1981||Mental health|
|Nancy Reagan||January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989||"Just Say No"; drug awareness|
|Barbara Pierce Bush||January 20, 1989 – January 20, 1993||Childhood literacy|
|Hillary Rodham Clinton||January 20, 1993 – January 20, 2001||Healthcare|
|Laura Welch Bush||January 20, 2001 – January 20, 2009||"Ready to Read, Ready to Learn"; childhood literacy|
|Michelle Obama||January 20, 2009 – January 20, 2017||"Let's Move!"; reducing childhood obesity|
|Melania Trump||January 20, 2017 – present||"Be Best"; cyberbullying awareness|
As of December 2019 [update] , there are four living former first ladies, as identified below.
The most recent first lady to die was Barbara Bush (served 1989–1993), on April 17, 2018, at the age of 92. The greatest number of former first ladies to be alive at one time was ten, during the period from June 2, 1886 to August 23, 1887, when Sarah Yorke Jackson, Priscilla Cooper Tyler, Julia Gardiner Tyler, Sarah Childress Polk, Harriet Lane, Julia Grant, Lucy Webb Hayes, Lucretia Garfield, Mary Arthur McElroy, and Rose Cleveland were all alive; and the period from March 4 to June 25, 1889, when Priscilla Cooper Tyler, Julia Gardiner Tyler, Sarah Childress Polk, Harriet Lane, Julia Grant, Lucy Webb Hayes, Lucretia Garfield, Mary Arthur McElroy, Rose Cleveland, and Frances Folsom Cleveland Preston were alive.
Laura Welch Bush is an American educator who was First Lady of the United States during the presidency of her husband, George W. Bush, from 2001 to 2009. Bush previously served as First Lady of Texas from 1995 to 2000.
Dolley Todd Madison was the wife of James Madison, President of the United States from 1809 to 1817. She was noted for holding Washington social functions in which she invited members of both political parties, essentially spearheading the concept of bipartisan cooperation, albeit before that term was in use, in the United States. While, previously, founders such as Thomas Jefferson would only meet with members of one party at a time, and politics could often be a violent affair resulting in physical altercations and even duels, Madison helped to create the idea that members of each party could amicably socialize, network, and negotiate with each other without resulting in violence. By innovating political institutions as the wife of James Madison, Dolley Madison did much to define the role of the President's spouse, known only much later by the title First Lady—a function she had sometimes performed earlier for the widowed Thomas Jefferson.
Barbara Bush was the first lady of the United States from 1989 to 1993 as the wife of George H. W. Bush, who served as the 41st president of the United States, and founder of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. She previously was the second lady of the United States from 1981 to 1989. Among her six children are George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, and Jeb Bush, the 43rd governor of Florida. She and Abigail Adams are the only two women to be the wife of one U.S. president and the mother of another.
First Lady is an unofficial title used for the wife of a non-monarchical head of state or chief executive. The term is also used to describe a woman seen to be at the top of her profession or art.
Elizabeth Anne Ford 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 policy and set a precedent as a politically active presidential spouse. Ford also served as the Second Lady of the United States from 1973 to 1974.
Julia Boggs Grant was the First Lady of the United States and wife of Ulysses S. Grant. Her time as First Lady marked a turning point in her life, when she became a national figure.
Edith Wilson, second wife of U.S. president Woodrow Wilson, was First Lady of the United States from 1915 to 1921. She married the widower Wilson in December 1915, during his first term as president. Edith Wilson is notable for the influential role she played in President Wilson's administration following the severe stroke he suffered in October 1919. For the remainder of her husband's presidency, she managed the office of the president, a role she later described as a "stewardship," and determined which communications and matters of state were important enough to bring to the attention of the bedridden president.
Edith Kermit Roosevelt was the second wife of President Theodore Roosevelt and served as the First Lady of the United States during his presidency from 1901 to 1909. She also served as the Second Lady of the United States in 1901. Roosevelt was the first First Lady to employ a full-time, salaried social secretary. Her tenure resulted in the creation of an official staff, and her formal dinners and ceremonial processions served to elevate the position of First Lady.
Sarah Angelica Van Buren, was the daughter-in-law of the eighth President of the United States Martin Van Buren. She was married to the President's son, Abraham Van Buren. She assumed the post of First Lady because the president's wife, Hannah Van Buren, had died 17 years earlier and he remained unwed throughout the rest of his life. Although she was never married to a president, she is the youngest woman ever to act as the White House hostess.
Mary McElroy was the sister of the 21st President of the United States, Chester A. Arthur, and served as a hostess for his administration (1881–1885). She assumed the role because Arthur's wife, Ellen Lewis Herndon Arthur, had died nearly two years earlier.
Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama is an American lawyer and author who was the first lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. She is married to the 44th President of the United States Barack Obama. She is the first African American First Lady of the United States.
The title "Mr. President" (m.) or Madam President (f.) may apply to a person holding the title of president, or presiding over certain other governmental bodies.
Beginning with painter Gilbert Stuart's portrait of George Washington, it has been traditional for the president of the United States to have an official portrait taken during his time in office, most commonly an oil painting. This tradition has continued to modern times, although since the adoption of photography as a widely used and reliable technology, the official portrait may also be a photograph
United States presidential inaugural balls are large social gatherings, both white tie and black tie, held to celebrate the commencement of a new term of the President of the United States. Planned and sanctioned by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, the official inaugural balls occur throughout the evening of Inauguration Day in the Washington D.C. area and are invitation-only, attended by guests who are issued pre-paid tickets. The President, First Lady, Vice-President and Second Lady, all make personal appearances at each of the inaugural balls held in their honor. Catered food, beverages, and live entertainment performed by national and globally acclaimed musicians are provided at the inaugural balls.
Second Lady of the United States (SLOTUS) is the informal title held by the wife of the vice president of the United States, concurrent with the vice president's term of office. This title is less commonly used than the title first lady of the United States.
First Ladies: Influence & Image is a 35-episode American television series produced by C-SPAN that originally aired from February 25, 2013 to February 10, 2014. Each episode originally aired live and looked at the life and times of one or more of the First Ladies of the United States. Episodes featured interviews with historians, journalists, and other experts; included footage of locations significant to the featured first lady and interviews with several contemporary first ladies; and incorporated calls and tweets from viewers. C-SPAN has archived all video from the series to its website. It was produced in cooperation with the White House Historical Association, and was hosted by C-SPAN co-CEO Susan Swain.
Martha Johnson Patterson' was the eldest child of Andrew Johnson, the 17th President of the United States and his wife, Eliza McCardle. She served as the White House hostess during her father's administration and directed the restoration of the White House following the American Civil War.
Helen Woodrow Bones was Woodrow Wilson's first cousin and also, from her childhood, a friend of Wilson's first wife, Ellen. Bones moved to the White House as Ellen Wilson's private secretary after Wilson's 1912 election as US President. After Ellen Wilson's death in 1914, Bones served as a "surrogate First Lady" in the Wilson White House until his second marriage sixteen months later.