National First Ladies Day on the last Saturday in April honors all First Ladies of the United States and commemorates the founding of the First Lady upon President George Washington’s inauguration on April 30, 1789. Martha Washington became First Lady of the United States that day. She and all those who followed in her footsteps have played in molding our nation.
Since 1789, a first lady has accompanied every president. Starting with Martha Washington, who was born on June 2, 1731, first ladies have helped set a tone in the highest office of the land. Even the country’s only bachelor president, James Buchannan, required someone to act as hostess. Harriet Lane, the president’s niece, stepped into the role of the first lady. She presented a well-ordered White House with tact and grace. Lane isn’t the only relative to serve in the role of the first lady. Several other presidents held office as widowers requiring someone to step into the role as a de facto first lady, too.
While they aren’t elected, many of them campaign alongside their spouse. Others have served as elected or appointed officials in many different capacities. First ladies have been teachers, Girl Scouts, educated, and adventurous.
More First Lady Facts
Another first lady with a unique history is Abigail Adams. The first to live in the White House when John Adams was elected the 2nd President of the United States, Adams was also the mother of another president – John Quincy Adams. First Lady Barbara Bush repeated that circumstance 176 years later when her son George W. Bush was elected.
Only two first ladies were born outside the United States – Melania Trump was the most recent. Do you know who the first was?
Tradition and Firsts
While nearly every first lady since Martha Washington has been dedicated to a charitable cause, Lady Bird Johnson made it a formal platform. Since then, the country has come to expect the next first lady to continue the tradition.
Abigail Fillmore was the first teacher to ascend to the role of the first lady. The most recent was Laura Bush.
While there are many firsts in the world of first ladies, two recent ones include the first African American and the first to earn a doctorate degree – Michele Obama and Dr. Jill Biden.
First Lady Tragedy
Eight first ladies have become widows while living in the White House. The first was Anna Harrison. Notably, she was also the grandmother of Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd President. Of these eight, four were the wives of presidents who were assassinated. Mary Lincoln, Lucretia Garfield, Ida McKinley, and Jacqueline Kennedy fall into this tragic list.
HOW TO OBSERVE NATIONAL FIRST LADIES DAY
- On National First Ladies Day, learn more about the women who’ve set tradition, supported the president, and become role models for many.
- Read memoirs, tour museums, and watch documentaries about the first ladies.
- Have you met a first lady or two? Share your experiences or how you think the first lady role will change over time.
- Use #FirstLadiesDay to share on social media.
- Are you looking for more facts? Read 7 Fascinating First Lady Facts to learn more.