Behind every great man, there is a great woman, or so the saying goes. The First Lady traditionally functioned as an example of grace, style, and spousal support for the
leader of the free world. Today, her duties have moved far beyond planning state dinners and entertaining
political figures. The issues she chooses to champion gain wide public and media attention, and this is
just one example of the position's power.
The modern First Lady has her own office at the White House with press personnel to help her maintain a
positive image and contact with the public during her tenure inside the White House. Various Internet
resources can help you weed through the gossamer and the gossip and learn more about the impact of
First Ladies on the nation.
The White House site offers an index of
First Lady biographies, providing
visitors with a wealth of trivia about the presidential wives. Did you know Frances Cleveland
was the first First Lady to be married in the White House? Or that dying President Ulysses S. Grant
wrote his memoirs to provide financial support for his wife after his death?
Eleanor Roosevelt transformed the role of the First Lady, holding press conferences, traveling the nation and
writing a newspaper column. Knowledgeable about many social ills, Roosevelt later became a delegate to the
United Nations, where she helped compose the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The document "may go on
to become a Magna Carta for mankind," Roosevelt said.
Some First Ladies took on domestic issues as their causes.
The Barbara Bush Foundation for Literacy
outlines her efforts to encourage families to read together. Her
daughter-in-law, former teacher and present First Lady Laura Bush, has indicated her interests also lie in
literary and educational pursuits.
Betty Ford established a center to treat alcohol and drug addiction. You can take a virtual tour of the facilities
at the Betty Ford Clinic site.
Since leaving her post in the White House, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter has made a commitment to working
for peace and fighting poverty. One organization she has worked with for more than two decades is
Habitat for Humanity, which builds homes for the poor.
Lady Bird Johnson worked to beautify America's landscape as member of the National Park Service's
Advisory Board. She later founded the Texas Highway Beautification Awards and the National Wildflower
Research Center. Read more about her at the
Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum.
Other First Ladies brought a sense of art and style to the presidential residence. Dolley Madison risked her
life to salvage White House art and treasures as the British invaded Washington. Former
First Lady Hillary Clinton gave a
in 1999 honoring Madison when she became the only First Lady to have her image appear on a U.S. coin.
Some contemporary First Ladies became involved in the politics. Bess Truman helped her husband with office work
as his Senate duties increased, prior to his becoming president, according to her
biography at the Truman Presidential Museum and Library.
Her daughter, Margaret, wrote
an insightful look at the lives of the women who were partners to our nations' leaders.
Early in her husband's first term, Hillary Clinton stressed the importance of improving health care and she
authored a book on child rearing. In November 2000, Clinton became the first First Lady to win a Senate
campaign. Check out her online office at the U.S. Senate.
To learn more about these famous women, see PeopleSpot.com's collection of
First Lady biographies.