First Lady of the United States

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First Lady of the United States is the title of the hostess of the White House. Because this position is traditionally filled by the wife of the President of the United States, the title is most often applied to the wife of a sitting president. However, several women who were not presidents' wives have served as first lady, as when the president was a bachelor or widower, or when the wife of the president was unable to fulfill the duties of the first lady herself. In these cases, the position has been filled by a female relative or friend of the president, such as Martha Jefferson Randolph during Jefferson's presidency, Emily Donelson and Sarah Yorke Jackson during Jackson's, Mary Elizabeth (Taylor) Bliss during Taylor's, Harriet Lane during Buchanan's, and Chelsea Clinton during some of her father's.

Burns (2008) identifies four successive main themes of the first ladyship: as public woman (1900–1929); as political celebrity (1932–1961); as political activist (1964–1977); and as political interloper (1980–2001).



The current first lady is Michelle Obama, wife of Barack Obama. At present, there are six living former first ladies: Betty Ford, widow of Gerald Ford; Rosalynn Carter, wife of Jimmy Carter; Nancy Reagan, widow of Ronald Reagan; Barbara Bush, wife of George H. W. Bush; current Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, wife of Bill Clinton, and Laura Bush, wife of George W. Bush.

Origins of the title

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