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First Lady

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Just in time for Oscar week, First Lady Laura Bush says the Iraq war is "wearing".

"WHO are you wearing?"

The blood of 3140 U. S. soldiers.

I remember when First Ladies used to be role models; accomplished and involved human beings, women we were proud to have be our best faces forward. First to come to mind is of course Eleanor Roosevelt, but so many more as well contributed to the betterment of people and country. They did so with their bravery, brains and moral courage. It's time to not only expect more from our presidents again, but also hope that a true First Spouse breaks through the wasted and vacuous First Stepford tradition that has overtaken the White House the better part of the last few decades. Speaking of war, of conscience, of Firsts, here are some real women to admire:

Martha Washington (First Lady 1789-1797)
She remained beloved by Revolutionary War veterans, and was publicly known to provide financial support or to intercede on behalf of those among them in need.

Dolly Madison (First Lady 1809-1813)
A patriot in action, not rhetoric. In the hours preceding the burning of Washington by British troops during the War of 1812, she famously refused to leave the White House before being assured that the large portrait of George Washington was removed from the walls and taken safely away from potential destruction by the encroaching enemy.

Sarah Polk (First Lady 1845-1849)
She outlived her husband by about forty years. She had been such a beloved First Lady that during the Civil War, both sides respected her neutrality, and she entertained officers from both armies.

Lucy Hayes said in 1876, "Woman's mind is as strong as man's...equal in all things and is superior in some." After the Civil War started, Lucy deplored being a woman, wishing she could take up arms for her country. She spent a substantial amount of time with her husband in camp with the 23rd Ohio, earning the nickname "Mother of the Regiment".

Lou Hoover (First Lady 1929-1933) said, "It is very possible to have both a home and a career in this modern age". She created controversy by eliminating outdated social customs such as the refusal to receive pregnant women at the White House, and by inviting all Congressional wives, including the wife of African-American Congressman Oscar DePriest from Chicago, to the White House. For that she was highly criticized, but never regretted her decision.

Mamie Eisenhower in 1953 strongly campaigned to invite African-American opera singer Marian Anderson to perform at the inauguration. She also made sure her African American staff had accomodations in still segregated Washington, and were welcomed at all the Inaugural events.

Lady Bird Johnson's accomplishments read more like a successful presidents tenure in office. She toiled for integration, campaigning without her husband through the south, where she was spit on by segregationist protesters and hit with a picket sign, and she never flagged in her dedication to equality. She raised the profile of women in education, politics and public life. She raised the President's consciousness on the equal competence of women in public service and influenced his efforts to advance women. She said, "If you achieve the precious balance between a woman's domestic and civic life, you can do more for zest and sanity in our society than by any other achievement..." She got project Head Start off the ground. She introduced "Beautification," an umbrella title for a wide variety of efforts, legislation and public campaigns that were a combination of rural and urban environmentalism, national parks conservation, anti-pollution measures, water and air reclamation, landscaping and urban renewal.

Jackie Kennedy showed the world America had a brilliant, educated and thoughtful First Lady, back when education was valued instead of derided by people who think wallowing in ignorance makes them patriotic, and calling people who like to think and learn "elites". She traveled abroad and spoke to leaders in their own languages. She campaigned for American textiles and industry. She brought the fine arts to Washington, and made culture accessible and available. She restored the White House. Knowing she couldn't ask for the restoration money it would take, she looked at how many people toured the White House every day, designed a little booklet of White House information and history, put a dollar price tag on it, and raised millions to restore Washington.

The only quotable quote of Laura Bush's that I found that wasn't a repulsican talking point was "The role of First Lady is whatever the First Lady wants it to be."

I guess she didn't want much.

Source: National First Ladies Library

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