Monday, February 18, 2013

C-SPAN to Feature First Ladies

Starting Monday, February 25, 2013, at 9 PM EST, C-SPAN will host a two-season series called First Ladies: Influence & Image.  Each episode will feature anywhere from one First Lady to three First Ladies, depending on their amount of influence, the documentation, and the length of their White House tenure as First Lady.  The first episode will obviously be Martha Washington, and each episode will chronologically progress with the second season ending February 10, 2014 with current First Lady Michelle Obama.  Find the schedule here.

In honor of this exciting event, I'd like to provide a list of my six most influential First Ladies (because I couldn't just choose five).

6. Abigail Adams
As First Lady to John Adams, Abigail Adams played a crucial role in the development of the nation, but it was all behind the scenes.  In lovely letters sent between the two of them, Abigail often spoke of politics and the effect certain matters would have on women and the nation, convincing John to enter politics.  She was very active in both John's pre-presidency and presidency.  She organized efforts to aid the Americans in the Revolutionary War, fought for women's rights, and fought slavery, knowing it would come back to bite America in the ass.  If he had listened to her more than he did, we may not have had a Civil War.  It would have been even more beneficial to have had her as President.

5. Abigail Fillmore
Abigail Fillmore, whose husband Millard served as President 1850-1853, held the belief that education wielded power, and so did Congress, when they previously would not permit a library in the White House because it would give the president too much power.  She was raised an highly educated woman and was actually her husband's teacher.  If she and her husband weren't such lovers of learning, I fear we as a nation might have been left to even more ignorance.

4. Betty Ford
First Lady Ford fought valiantly for women's rights, gun control, and brought awareness to an ever-important matter of psychiatric assistance, being so candid about her own treatment for alcoholism.  She was also a breast cancer survivor and founded the Betty Ford Center for substance abuse and addiction.  Ford often spoke of more controversial subjects of the time period: sex, marijuana, and feminism and equal rights pay.  She was a pivotal figure on the public eye's perception of women.

Clinton with the Somaly Mam girls
3. Hillary Clinton
Former First Lady Hillary Clinton used her status as First Lady to bring rights to women all over the world, as an advocate to end trafficking, prove rape as a war crime, show benefit to an economy and a society when women are educated, and help women build entrepreneurship.  She continues this fight to today, most recently serving as Obama's Secretary of State, the man who had defeated her in the battle for the Democrat 2008 Presidential nominee.  She did not hold a grudge during this time and held fast to her beliefs and worked tirelessly to make amends with countries with whom relations had deteriorated through the years.  She showed mercy, kindness, understanding, firmness, and most pointedly working more than any president has in the past.  I hope she runs for office next term.  With all that Hillary has done so far, I've excited to see what else she'll accomplish in her ever-impressive political resume.

2. Edith Wilson
Edith Wilson may have actually been our president, and it will likely never be known for sure if she had.  But it's suspected she unofficially served as president during her husband Woodrow's recovery from a stroke in 1919.  She and the staff decided it best to not disturb the President unless it was dire.  He may not have even seen anything.  It's all very hush-hush, but one thing is for certain, this may have been the most influential woman in the White House because she may very have been running the country.  Remarkably, during WWI, Edith wanted to set an example by having Gasless Sundays, Meatless Mondays, and Wheatless Wednesdays for rationing and buying sheep to graze the White House lawn rather than waste manpower mowing it, and auctioned off the wool for the benefit of American Red Cross.  She likely is the reason Vice President Marshall never acted as President.

1. Eleanor Roosevelt
President Roosevelt's presidency would surely not be as remarkable as it is known without First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.  She was an advocate for racial and gender equality, as well as worker's rights.  She even spearheaded the development of an experimental community called Arthurdale, which would promote self-reliance and economic independence.  She was a proponent in the development of media coverage for presidential campaigns, leading to FDR's fireside chats.  She also held 348 press conferences, and only female journalists were permitted.  She earned wages while touring, giving speeches, and writing for various publications.  She was an activist of human rights, so much that she served an a UN delegate and became first chair and first US Representative of the UN Commission on Human Rights.

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