Girl Crush: Inspirational First Ladies
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Martha Washington2 of 12
While she may not have had to deal with paparazzi, the first ever first lady was not always satisfied with the restrictions that came with her husband’s post: She and George were not allowed to dine in private homes, and even her shopping excursions were noted by the press. She was, however, loved by Revolutionary War vets and was best known for providing them financial support when they were in need.
Abigail Adams3 of 12
Known for her avid participation in politics, Abigail was often quoted in a town hall meeting and in the press. She was the first first lady to live in the While House and was rumored to have used the unfinished East Room to hang her laundry out to dry. As a couple, she and husband John were known to frequently write each other love letters.
Dolley Madison4 of 12
Famous for saving a large portrait of George Washington from ruin when British troops threatened the destruction of the White House during the War of 1812, this first lady made a lasting impression on history. She not only established her role as the “first hostess,” she was also the first first lady to take up a philanthropic endeavor, founding a home in Washington, D.C. for orphaned girls.
Sarah Polk5 of 12
She may have banned dancing in the White House, but this first lady was also known for wit and intelligence — Andrew Jackson was said to prefer her company to her husband’s when talking politics. Sarah gained favor for her proper, if not prudent, conduct: Instead of spending money lavishly, she famously saved up to refurbish the White House.
Edith Wilson6 of 12
As President Wilson’s second wife, Edith was likely the most hands-on first lady that America had seen. She had access to her husband’s private drawer, and he was known to share secret wartime code with her, as well as other classified information. When Woodrow suffered a stroke, Edith pretty much took over the presidency, convincing Congress (and the public) that he was suffering from “temporary exhaustion.”
Eleanor Roosevelt7 of 12
This first lady served her post the longest — just over 12 years — weathering both the Great Depression and World War II. Likely due to her active participation in media and politics before becoming first lady, she took the role even further than her predecessors by holding nearly 350 press conferences and writing books and magazine columns during her tenure, actively voicing her opinion on various issues.
Jackie Kennedy8 of 12
While her iconic style is often remarked upon, this first lady’s biggest contribution during JKF’s presidency was turning the White House into a cultural center by restoring it and allowing it to showcase art. She also established the White House Historical Association and created the federal position of White House Curator.
Betty Ford9 of 12
Best known for her candor regarding her psychiatric treatment, as well as her bout with breast cancer, Betty was endeared to the American people for her openness and realness in a way unlike any first lady before her.
Nancy Reagan10 of 12
Like other innovative first ladies before her, Nancy renovated the White House, raising private funds to restore the residence. She also founded the “Just Say No” drug awareness initiative after her famous reply to a little girl who asked her what to do if someone were to offer her drugs, and even appeared on an episode of Dynasty to rally support for the campaign.
Hilary Clinton11 of 12
This former first lady is no doubt the most successful in terms of her political career. Not only was she active in creating policy — for health care reform, specifically — when her husband was in office, but she was elected as a senator soon after his second term and almost received the presidential nomination. As our current secretary of state, Hilary continues to serve our country.
Michelle Obama12 of 12
From wearing $35 dresses to embarking on her project to end childhood obesity, our current first lady is already making history. We’re proud to have this former lawyer — not to mention Princeton and Harvard grad — by our President’s side.