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Top 5 Most Badass First Ladies

With the release of “Jackie” and the impending departure of Michelle Obama from the White House, there has been much talk about first ladies floating around. As an avid reader and a U.S. history buff, I was always interested in the presidents, but almost never their first ladies. I wanted to be in the position of power, not stand beside it in the shadows. After years of thinking of first ladies as only stand-ins, I realized what forces of goodness they could be. The first ladies of the United States have been sources of community service and light in some otherwise dark times. Most people don’t discuss the merits of the first ladies over dinner – they probably argue over what the president is doing right and wrong. But first ladies were and continue to be role models for young girls everywhere, so I present my conclusive list of America’s top five first ladies:

1. Edith Wilson

Not many people regard Woodrow Wilson as one of America’s greatest presidents, but I hold his wife in the highest regard. Edith was never one for education, but she was vastly as independent as any woman could be. She was one of the first women in Washington D.C. to drive her own car around the city. Woodrow often sought her opinion on matters of state –after they were married, she would sit in on his meetings and had access to classified documents in his office. When he became ill and suffered a massive stroke, she decided to manage a stewardship of the presidency. She maintained until her death that she made no actual decisions regarding policy, but anything brought to the president’s attention went through her. She basically finessed her way into being President without holding the title and America let her get away with it, which is literally my dream.

2. Eleanor Roosevelt


The daughter of former President Theodore Roosevelt’s brother, Eleanor was the wife of our nation’s 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She is one of the most beloved first ladies and for good reason. She held many women-only press conferences in the White House, pressuring the newspapers to hire more female writers. Although she was educated in London, she earned 35 honorary degrees from universities around the United States. Eleanor was a philanthropic woman at heart, even after her husband died. In 1945, then-President Harry Truman appointed her to the UN General Assembly, where she helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. One of her closest friends happened to be Amelia Earhart – not surprising, considering her independent and warm personality. Eleanor was a champion of human rights, a woman after my own heart.

3. Michelle Obama


Our outgoing first lady brought grace to the White House. Born in Chicago, she grew up to become a dually Ivy League educated lawyer. I feel a kinship with her –  I’m pursuing the same undergraduate degree as she did, sociology, and I plan to go to law school. She also has the most KILLER arms I have ever seen. She gave up her job as vice president at the University of Chicago’s hospital to help her husband with his campaign in 2008 – mad respect. In addition to being one of the most inspirational first ladies ever, she writes her own speeches and empowers young girls everywhere. She said it best – “When they go low, we go high…”

4. Dolley Madison


Dolley was wife to America’s fourth President – James Madison. She is most notable for saving a still-famous portrait of George Washington from the White House as it burned down during the War of 1812. She was a wonderful hostess for her husband for his tenure as President, but also for President Thomas Jefferson, as he was a widower. There was even a smear campaign against her suggesting she was having an affair with Jefferson (Do y’all think Hamilton wrote that?). In addition, she was awarded an honorary seat in Congress, making her the first woman to hold a seat, regardless of the fact that she had no voting power. How many women can say they got to watch Congressional debates from the floor?

5. Martha Washington


Martha made it on this list almost solely for the sick burn regarding Thomas Jefferson. I aspire to be this petty – when Jefferson visited her at Mount Vernon before he became president, Martha said it was the second worst day of her life. The first being the day her husband died. She also spent half of the Revolutionary War in the middle of battle to stay by her husband, George’s, side. She outlived all four of her children and learned to read and write at a young age in a time where education was seen as a man’s activity. She was all-in-all a pretty badass lady.

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