While we have not had a female president (yet!), we have had powerful and influential women behind the scenes in the White House since 1789. There is no doubt that the First Ladies of the country have made lasting impacts in America and around the globe.
We want to highlight some of these incredible women. They spoke out about issues that mattered, fought against stereotypes, and enacted change when and where they could.
Eleanor Roosevelt (1933-1945)
As a pioneer for the idea that first ladies could (and should) use their role to enact change for issues in which they believed, Eleanor Roosevelt accomplished much during her time as First Lady. She pushed for New Deal policies, rights for women, and civil rights. Eleanor continued to do so after FDR died: pushing for educational opportunities for all, joining the NAACP, and helping with the formation of the United Nations.
Betty Ford (1974-1977)
Public figures sharing their private lives was unheard of before Betty Ford’s time as First Lady. With her openness about her own alcoholism and need for psychiatric treatment, and her mastectomy, she brought an awareness to mental health and breast cancer. As well, she pushed forward the importance of legalizing abortion broke down barriers regarding public figures sharing their private matters.
Hillary Clinton (1993-2001)
By establishing herself as a pillar in her career, with her family, and in her husband’s political journey, Hillary Clinton became the model for present-day political spouses. Instead of staying behind the scenes and never speaking out about issues, Hillary was thoroughly involved in politics, focusing her work as First Lady on children’s issues and health care.
Abigail Adams (1797-1801)
Besides being the first, First Lady to live in the White House, Abigail Adams was heavily involved politically. She pushed for women’s rights and the end of slavery while she was First Lady, earning the nickname “Mrs. President.” She was also the mother of the sixth president, John Quincy Adams.
Jacqueline Kennedy (1961-1963)
During her short time as First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy became the picture of elegance and a beloved fashion icon. While largely known for enduring tragedies such as her husband’s assassination, Jacqueline’s style captured the public eye during her time as First Lady. In 1962, she welcomed the public into the White House on a nationally broadcast tour of the residence, which she had refurbished and redecorated with her signature style.
Michelle Obama (2009-2017)
A successful attorney, style icon, and the first African American First Lady, Michelle Obama dedicated her time at the White House to combating childhood obesity and advocating for military families. Before she became the First Lady, Michelle Obama graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School, building a successful career for herself as an attorney.
The information about these incredible women was obtained from History.com, ThoughtCo.com, and AARP.org. Click on these links to learn more about these women and so many other women who played key roles during their time as First Lady.