First Ladies

The First Lady

The President’s Wife

Martha Washington, America’s original first lady, set many of the standards and customs for a United States president’s wife, but each of the next first ladies has left her own mark on the role of the president’s partner.

The First Lady is the informal accepted title held by the wife of the President of the United States. Although the first lady’s role has never been officially defined, she figures prominently in the political and social life of the nation.

Melania Trump

The current First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS)

The First Lady's Responsibilities

Martha Washington

The first First Lady of the United States

Since the 1790s, the role of the first lady has changed a lot. It has come to include involvement in political campaigns, management of the White House, supporting social causes, and representation of the president at official and ceremonial occasions.

Because first ladies now typically write their autobiographies, which are viewed as potential sources of additional information about their husbands’ administrations, and because the public is interested in these increasingly independent women, first ladies frequently remain a focus of attention long after they have moved out of the White House. Also throughout the years individual first ladies have held influence in a range of leadership roles, from working in the fashion industry to public opinion on social issues.

As of 2018 there are 5 living former first ladies: Rosalynn Carter (wife of Jimmy Carter), Barbara Bush (wife of George H.W. Bush), Hillary Clinton (wife of Bill Clinton), Laura Bush (wife of George W. Bush), and Michelle Obama (wife of Barack Obama)

If a president is unmarried, or a widower, the president usually asks a relative or friend to act as White House hostess.

First Ladies Firsts...

Julia Tyler

...was the first presidential wife to be photographed and have her image publicly distributed in an engraving.

Lucy Hayes

...was the first presidential wife to be used to sell merchandise.

Edith Wilson

...was the first presidential wife to first assume presidential management after the president suffered a stroke.

Jacqueline ``Jackie`` Kennedy

...was the first presidential wife to foster the preservation of U.S. historical sites.

Mary Lincoln

...was the first presidential wife to be immersed in a controversy and the subject of newspaper editorials.

Helen ``Nellie`` Taft

...was the first presidential wife to ride in an inaugural parade and to declare her support of women's suffrage.

Florence Harding

...was the first presidential wife to first to vote, deliver speeches, and to work with veterans and humane societies.

Hillary Clinton

...was the first presidential wife to be a First Lady and elected to a public office, the U.S. Senate.