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5 Influential First Ladies

March 17, 2016

Throughout history, women have redefined countless boundaries of social and economic class through political action. In honor of Women’s History Month, here is a look at five many influential and important First Ladies.

Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams was a feminist who advocated to her politically involved husband for women’s rights. She urged John Adams not to disregard or forget women and their rights in his assistance in the establishment of policies in American politics, despite her voice being ignored.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt wrote a newspaper column entitled “My Day,” in which she addressed pressing issues including women’s rights. She joined the Red Cross, helping wounded soldiers, and eventually joined the United Nations (UN). She assisted in writing the Declaration of Human Rights with the UN to help those in other countries gain basic rights such as voting, employment and public speech. Roosevelt also advocated for women’s suffrage as a member of the League of Women Voters.

Betty Ford

Betty Ford promoted the legalization of abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment. Ford had breast cancer and endured a mastectomy as a result of treatment. She was public about her health and advocating for women to have regular check-ups. Ford is believed to have caused the spike in women receiving breast exams for this reason, potentially saving the lives of thousands.

Rosalynn Carter

Rosalynn Carter advocated for women, children and their immunization, and for protecting and destigmatizing mental health. Rosalynn was also one of the first ladies of her time to sit through cabinet meetings and advise the president. She served as an honorary chairperson for the Georgia Special Olympics prior to becoming the first lady. After becoming First Lady, she later became the honorary chair of the President’s Commission on Mental Health and testified for the Mental Health System Bill in front of the Senate, becoming the second First Lady to do so in Congress, to provide grants to mental health centers.

Lady Bird Johnson

Lady Bird Johnson was known in part for her love of nature, evident by the beatification of the White House event she created to plant flowers, interest in national parks and clean highway sides. Johnson became a member of the National Park Service’s Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings and Monuments in 1969. Johnson founded the National Wildflower Research Center to preserve and re-plant native flowers in 1982. She was the first First Lady to become a millionaire without her husband.

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