The Women Behind the Curtain: America's First Ladies and their Impacts on our Country

America has been a country for 244 years, and we have yet to have a woman president. However, that does not mean that there haven’t been powerful women in the Oval Office. The First Ladies of America have helped to shape policy and politics for generations. They say that behind every powerful man is a strong woman—well I think it’s time we put those women front and center. Here are the First Ladies that were working behind the scenes:

Michelle Obama: 

Michelle Obama made history by being the first black First Lady, and she began to work on issues the minute she entered the white house. In 2010, she launched the “Let's Move” campaign, which brought together teachers, partners, and community leaders to tackle child obesity. She instituted new guidelines for school lunches, making them healthier and more nutritious. She also planted a vegetable garden at the white house and invited young students to help her plant the garden. She worked with service members—she and the Second Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, started the “Joining Forces” program, which reached out to veterans and families of military members to assist with education, wellness, and employment. Michelle has had an impact both inside and out of the White House. Before she met her husband, she graduated from Princeton and Harvard earning a law degree. She published a book two years after leaving the White House telling about her life before and during her husband's presidency. She is the First Lady that everyone knows and always made the White House feel like it belonged to the people.

Hillary Clinton: 

Hillary Clinton, the wife of President Clinton has definitely made her mark on history. She ran for president twice, served as Secretary of State under Obama, and was a Senator for New york. She is the closest female candidate to become president, and if it weren’t for the Electoral College she would have been elected in 2016. During her years as First Lady, she had to survive the press invading on a scandal with her husband's affair. She has had her private life on display for the whole world to see for nearly 16 years, bearing all the drama with grace and confidence. She was on the receiving end of Donald Trump's most brutal and sexist attacks, but she did not respond with equal hate. Instead, she focused on what truly mattered: helping the American people. Hillary Clinton is a forgotten feminist hero and deserves more credit for her work than she got. 

Jackie Kennedy:

Jackie Kennedy is most fondly remembered for her fashion and the death of her husband. But Jackie was so much more than a fashionista, she studied history, literature, art, and French at Vassar College in New York. She studied abroad in Paris, and transferred to George Washington University for her senior year. She married JFK in 1953 she helped him with his work as a Senator, and also with the crippling back pain he suffered from, which was caused by injuries in WWII. Jackie was an advocate for the arts, inviting musicians and actors to mingle with politicians, making them feel seen and heard. She suffered unimaginable losses during her time as First Lady: the stillbirth of her third child in August of 1963, and then the death of her husband just four months later. She didn’t give up after her husband died, however, and she began to work on the JFK Library in Boston. She also became the editor of a newspaper, the “Viking Press” in New York City, where she worked until she died in 1994. She was the icon of her time, and she dealt with all grief that life had thrown at her with so much strength and determination. 

Eleanor Roosevelt:

Eleanor Roosevelt was the wife of one of America's most famous presidents. She was the longest-serving First Lady from 1933 to 1945. She was a devoted politician and activist for women and minorities. She was active in Washington, breaking precedent, she held press conferences and traveled solo around the country, and she also gave opinions for a newspaper column. When her husband was diagnosed with polio, she helped him survive and live with the disease. She also fought against racism in 1939, when the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused to let African American singer Mariana Anderson perform at constitution hall, she withdrew her membership to the group and moved the event to the Lincoln Memorial, where it was attended by nearly 75,000 people. After the death of her husband, she became an ambassador to the United Nations, where she helped to create and adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1961, President Kennedy appointed her Chair of his Commission on the Status of Women, where she worked shortly before her death. Elenora Roosevelt fought for what she believed in, right up until the very end.

Edith Wilson:

Edith Wilson was the wife of President Wilson, and she is the closest thing we have ever had to a female president. Edith Wilson was deeply involved with the running of the country; the president gave her access to classified information, let her read his mail from heads of state, and told her secret war codes. In October of 1919, President Wilson suffered a massive stroke and could no longer fully function, and Edith stepped in. Edith became an acting president, meeting with staff and congressmen and only taking certain documents to her husband if she deemed them important enough. She wouldn’t even let his advisor in his rooms— if they wanted to speak to the president, the closest they got was the First lady. Out of all the things that Edith did as a First lady, her most remarkable accomplishment was that she was the very first, First Lady who could vote.

Even Though we haven't had a female President, there have still been powerful women in the White House. These women bron the weight, pain, and joy of an entire nation, and they did it gracefully. Because of these women, America is a safer and more equal place for everyone. 

Sources:

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Eleanor-Roosevelt

https://www.jfklibrary.org/learn/about-jfk/life-of-jacqueline-b-kennedy

https://www.biography.com/news/edith-wilson-first-president-biography-facts

https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/administration/first-lady-michelle-obama

https://www.hillaryclinton.com/