These Are the First Ladies Who Held Public Office and Why Melania Trump Probably Won’t Be Next
Some first ladies are more memorable than others. Some even appeared in the spotlight so often they rivaled their former presidential husbands’ media coverage. And some have been so involved in White House goings-on that they’ve held public offices. Click through to find which amazing first ladies have delved into public service — and, on page 5, why Melania Trump likely won’t be one of them.
1. Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton is perhaps the most famous first lady for holding public office. In 2000, according to the National First Ladies’ Library, she won the office of United States Senator from the state of New York. And in 2006, Clinton was re-elected. She served in that position until 2009, when she was appointed Secretary of State.
Next: One fierce first lady
2. Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt, according to the National First Ladies’ Library, served in three consecutive appointed positions. During World War II, Roosevelt asked the government to support the idea of a United Nations. In 1946, after Harry Truman assumed office when Roosevelt died during his fourth term as president, Eleanor Roosevelt became a U.S. delegate to the newly formed United Nations General Assembly. Roosevelt’s term ended in 1952.
When her term as U.S. delegate was over, she was appointed Chairman of the United Nations Committee on Human Rights, a position in which she wrote the well-known Declaration of Human Rights. When John F. Kennedy was elected in 1960, he appointed Roosevelt chairwoman of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Human Rights, a position she kept until her death in November of 1962
Next: A hat trick of positions
3. Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson
Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson, Lyndon B. Johnson’s widow, served on three federal commissions. In 1975, according to the National First Ladies’ Library, Gerald R. Ford named her co-chair of the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration’s Advisory Council.
In 1977, Jimmy Carter appointed her co-chair of the Commission on White House Fellowships. In 1969 she accepted membership on the National Park Service’s Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings, and Monuments.
Next: This first lady came close.
4. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
In 1976, newspaper publisher Dorothy Schiff wrote that Jacqueline Onassis would serve the state well by seeking the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate seat from the state of New York, according to the National First Ladies’ Library.
Onassis was flattered and even showed interest in assuming the post once held by her late brother-in-law Robert F. Kennedy. “I’d win of course!” said Onassis. In the end, Onassis decided to continue her budding career as a book publishing editor.
Next: Scratching our heads on this one
5. Melania Trump
It is doubtful that Melania Trump will end up holding a public office. Trump isn’t known for loving the White House life, and according to Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury Inside the Trump White House, she didn’t even want Donald Trump to win the election because she wasn’t interested in having a highly public, political life. In addition, Wolff asserted in his book that Melania Trump is “a non-presence” in the White House.
According to The Mercury News, Trump is the only first lady to not move with her husband to the White House. The Mercury News also wrote “There may never have been a first lady less prepared for or suited to the role.” Because Trump doesn’t seem to be adjusting to her role as first lady as quickly as everyone might like, it seems highly unlikely that she’s be able to handle any kind of public office.
Next: The perfect politician’s wife
6. Florence Harding
Florence Harding, Warren Harding’s wife, was a perfect politician’s wife, according to the National First Ladies’ Library. She managed her husband’s political and social contacts, his public remarks, and their finances. In 1905, she was diagnosed with a kidney ailment that afflicted her for the rest of her life.
Harding almost ran for the office of governor of Ohio in 1924, but her health prevented her. She did, however, remain politically active.
Next: A colonial appointment
7. Abigail Adams
It’s rather astonishing that a woman in 1775 was appointed to, well, anything. But Abigail Adams, wife of president John Adams, was appointed by the colony’s General Court to question a group of “Tory” women loyal to the British crown and decide if their activities were undermining the fight for independence.
When she received her appointment, her husband was in Philadelphia, serving on the Second Continental Congress Committee — which wrote the Declaration of Independence one year later — but he quickly drafted a letter for her. John Adams wrote, “… you are now a politician and now elected to any important office, that of judgess of the Tory ladies, which will give you, naturally, an influence with your sex …”
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