The original First Ladies to grace the White House halls with their individual style were called “wives of the President” and or the “White House Hostess”. These women shared their lives with the most powerful men on earth. No one has a more intense position for lobbying than the President’s girl, suiting her ability to apply political pressure when she deems appropriate. To the extent this reaches, only the walls of the Presidential bedroom know for sure.
History writes that from 1789-1797, our very first President’s wife Martha Washington had a bad attitude. She did not enjoy her place alongside her husband for their eight years in office. I have a feeling this led to President Washington’s wise decision to limit Presidential terms to two, honoring the weathered expression, “Happy wife happy life.”
Our second First Lady, Abigail Adams, showed more goodwill and charm towards her public position with her four years in the residence. She is infamous for the letters she would write to her husband to get his attention towards the plight of women.
Interestingly, our third President Thomas Jefferson was widowed 19 years before he took office when his wife Martha passed. Their daughter Patsy Jefferson served as the White House Hostess through the two deep cold winters her father was Commander-in-Chief. Also to assist if necessary was the wife of the Vice-President, Mrs. Dolley Madison, who later became White House Hostess number four.
Elizabeth Monroe was a stunningly gorgeous woman and not known for being popular.
Our ninth President William Henry Harrison and his wife Anna also became a Grandparents to another President when their grandson became the 24th President.
President Polk’s wife Sarah was extremely popular with everyone, including White House staff and family all around. Mrs. Polk was a lovely and well-admired woman.
President Taylor’s wife Margaret was a recluse, where President Fillmore’s wife was a teacher and very involved in passing her knowledge on to her students and her husband throughout his life and political career.
President Abraham Lincoln’s lovely wife Mary Todd Lincoln was an educated woman with a keen eye for fashion (much like President John F Kennedy’s future widowed First Lady, Jacquelyn Kennedy).
President Cleveland’s wife Frances Clara was very young and beautiful and wildly popular. They had six children very close together while he was in office.
Mrs. Helen Louis Taft was one of the most out spoken and involved First Ladies. She was involved at the grass roots level getting her husband elected and continued to work hard throughout his one term in office from 1909-1913.
Rosalynn Carter, our thirty-ninth President’s wife, was unusually politically active in her role as First Lady. Rosalynn was present at sensitive high priority meetings with cabinet members and policy making advisement boards. President and Mrs. Carter had been sweethearts since grade school and she was considered President Jimmy Carter’s closest friend and political advisor.
Mrs. Nancy Reagan set a name for herself using her infamous favorite color red. She instituted her “Just Say No” to drugs campaign to benefit children nationwide form the ravages of drug abuse. The tradition she started back in the early nineteen eighties continues to this day as every fall American children nationwide, adorn their schools in red ribbons in honor of Mrs. Reagans message.
Mrs. Barbara Bush is the wife of our 41st President George H.W. Bush, and the Mother of 43rd President George Bush. She is a staunch advocate for literacy and an accomplished author.
Hillary Clinton is a highly educated woman who has always been closely involved in her husband President Bill Clinton’s political career. She stood by him through his impeachment trial and his scandalous affair with a White House intern. After two terms as First lady she went on to win a New York Senate seat in 2001 but lost a run for the White House in 2007.
Our current First Lady Michelle Obama is also an educated woman who is proficient at public speaking. She too has helped her husband build a powerful name for himself and speaks out against childhood obesity.
I will leave you with some lovely words of true sentiment from my favorite First Lady of the White House, Laura Bush. In May of 2012, the East Room of the White House was packed with hundreds of people who were close to President and Mrs. Bush, for the unveiling of their White House portraits. After her funny and charming husband President George W Bush introduced her, she addressed the crowd of familiar and friendly faces.
MRS. LAURA BUSH: “Thank you all. (Applause.) Thank you everybody. Thank you very much. Thank you, darling.
Thank you, President and Mrs. Obama. Thank you for your kindness and your consideration today. It was really gracious of you to invite us back to the White House to hang a few family pictures. (Laughter.) And I’m sure you know nothing makes a house a home like having portraits of its former occupants staring down at you from the walls. (Laughter.)
And, of course, it’s meaningful to me as a private person to know that these portraits will be on view at the White House, that my portrait will hang just down the hall from my mother-in-law, and that George’s portrait will hang very close to his dad’s. But what’s more meaningful is it’s meaningful to me as a citizen. This was our family’s home for eight years. It was our home, but it wasn’t our house. This house belongs to the people whose portraits will never hang here, the ordinary and not-so-ordinary people whose lives inspired us and whose expectations guided us during the years that we lived here.