Joan Mondale

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Joan Mondale
Second Lady of the United States
In office
January 20, 1977 – January 20, 1981
Preceded by Happy Rockefeller
Succeeded by Barbara Bush
Personal details
Born Joan Adams
(1930-08-08)August 8, 1930
Eugene, Oregon
Died February 3, 2014(2014-02-03) (aged 83)
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Resting place Cremated
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Walter Mondale
(1955–2014; her death)
Children Theodore A. Mondale
Eleanor Mondale (deceased)
William H. Mondale
Parents John Maxwell Adams
Eleanor Jane Hall
Religion Presbyterian

Joan Mondale (née Adams; August 8, 1930 – February 3, 2014) was Second Lady of the United States from 1977 until 1981 as the wife of Walter Mondale. She was an artist and author and served on the boards of several organizations.[1] For her promotion of the arts, she was affectionately dubbed Joan of Art.[2]

Family and education[edit]

Joan Adams was born in Eugene, Oregon, one of three daughters of the Rev. John Maxwell Adams, a Presbyterian minister, and his wife, the former Eleanor Jane Hall. She attended Media Friends School, an integrated Quaker school in Media, Pennsylvania; a public school in Columbus, Ohio; and later St. Paul Academy and Summit School in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1952, she graduated from Macalester College in St. Paul with a bachelor's degree in history, where her father was chaplain. After graduation, she worked at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

On December 27, 1955, Joan married Minneapolis lawyer Walter "Fritz" Mondale, whom she had met on a blind date.[3][4]

The couple had three children:

Political life[edit]

In 1964, Walter replaced Hubert Humphrey as a U.S. Senator, and held the post until 1976, when Democratic presidential candidate Jimmy Carter selected him as his running-mate in his successful bid for the Presidency.

Joan then became Second Lady, in succession to Happy Rockefeller, during her husband's term as Vice President from 1977 to 1981, to be succeeded by Barbara Bush.

Out of office during Reagan's first administration, Walter Mondale won the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984. As a prospective First Lady, Joan told Maureen Dowd of the New York Times that she would not talk about recipes or clothes during the campaign, but when her husband's political opponents made issue with this, costing him votes, she published The Mondale Family Cookbook, with recipes like Fettucine à la Pimento Mondale, and declared that she was a "traditional wife and mother and supporter".[5]

Walter was not elected, and the Mondales returned to Minnesota, where they lived until his term as U.S. Ambassador to Japan (1993–96), after which he resumed his Minneapolis-based law practice.

'Joan of Art'[edit]

Mondale playing the drums after a press conference at the National Museum of African Art with, (l-r), Rep. Lindy Boggs, Rep. Walter E. Fauntroy, Warren M. Robbins (founder of the Museum), and Sen. Wendell Anderson, 1978.

Joan was a lifelong practitioner, patron, and advocate of the arts, and her nickname 'Joan of Art' was a sincere tribute.

An accomplished potter, she studied art at college, and then worked in galleries, before moving to Washington as a Senator's wife in 1964, and led guided tours at the National Gallery of Art. In 1972, she wrote a book 'Politics in Art', examining how political commentary is reflected in artworks. Later she regularly gave tours as a guide for friend Ellen Proxmire (the then wife of Wisconsin Democratic Senator William Proxmire)'s company whirl-around.[6]

Later, as Second Lady, she turned the Vice Presidential Mansion into a showcase of American art, with works by artists including Robert Rauschenberg, Edward Hopper, Louise Nevelson, and Ansel Adams. At this time, she also served as chairperson of the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities.

As the U.S. Ambassador's wife in Japan, she enthusiastically promoted inter-cultural understanding through art, redecorating the Embassy with American paintings and organising tours with a bi-lingual guide. She studied Japanese art.[7] and impressed the Mayor of Kyoto by presenting him with a ceramic bowl she had made herself in the traditional Mashiko style.

She was the author of Letters From Japan, a collection of essays about life overseas published in 1998.[1]

Back in Minnesota, Mrs. Mondale continued to make her own pottery and promote the arts. She served on the boards of the Minnesota Orchestra, Walker Art Center, Macalester College and the National Portrait Gallery. In 2004, the Textile Center in Minneapolis endowed an exhibition space in her honor, the Joan Mondale Gallery, perhaps America's chief showcase for fiber art.


On February 2, 2014, the Mondale family announced that she had entered hospice care due to Alzheimer's Disease.[8] Joan Mondale died at the hospice in Minneapolis the following day, surrounded by members of her family.[9] She was later cremated.[10]



  1. ^ a b Gates, Anita (February 3, 2014). "Joan Mondale, Arts Advocate and Wife of Vice President, Dies at 83". The New York Times. Retrieved February 3, 2014. 
  2. ^ Bakst, Brian (February 3, 2014). "Joan Mondale, art-loving former 2nd lady, has died". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved February 3, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Arnold, Laurence. "Joan Mondale, Art-Loving Wife of U.S. Vice President, Dies at 83". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2014-02-04. 
  4. ^ "Walter Mondale Fast Facts". Retrieved 2014-02-04. 
  5. ^ The Future of the Cookbook. Kim Beeman, Sept. 24th 2009.
  6. ^ ,,9171,914372,00.html
  7. ^ Joan Mondale: An Inventory of Her Papers
  8. ^>Brian Peterson. "Joan Mondale, wife of former VP Walter Mondale, dies at 83". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2014-02-04. 
  9. ^ "Joan Mondale, wife of former VP Walter, dies at 83". 2011-12-15. Retrieved 2014-02-04. 
  10. ^
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Happy Rockefeller
Second Lady of the United States
Succeeded by
Barbara Bush