Talk:First Lady of the United States

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Acting First Lady[edit]

Just out of curiousity what happens when there is an Acting President, would his wife be the Acting First Lady?--The Shadow Treasurer 04:03, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

Archive of previous discussion at Talk:First Lady of the United States/Archive.

Picking up where I think we left off, I'm going to add some more details before making a proposal. I'm hoping that we are close to accord on this article. The following is my POV opinion, adapted to accomodate what others have expressed.

Problems with the phrase "First Lady"[edit]

Is there a definitive answer to what a "First Lady" is? The simplest approach is to reserve this phrase to refer only to living wives of sitting presidents, but this approach is not in keeping with established convention. The term was basically invented in 1877, so any attempt to enumerate First Ladies before then is going to be absent of contemporanous support.

The central problems[edit]

There are two central problems. The first is the lack of agreement for when non-wives can be called "First Lady". The second is that there is no central entity that officially bestows the title. The major problem here is that the article is that it is inaccurate. Those presidents without a spouse will be honored with the lady liberty design that circulated during there term. I tried to correct this but the design of the page is not beginer's territory. Maybe an old pro could correct this.

Which authority?[edit]

If there were a single entity that bestowed the title of "First Lady", we could simply defer to that body in making our list. Unfortunately, there is no such entity. There are several "experts" that have complied lists of "First Ladies", but these lists are in disagreement. If we are to use a list from one of these "experts" as our authority, we need to agree on which of them to use.

The two "most official" lists I know are at (and was copied from The First Ladies by Margaret Brown Klapthor and Allida Black and published by the White House Historical Association) and at the National First Ladies' Library. The former errs towards "wives only", while the latter errs towards those who filled the role.

Specific examples and loose ends[edit]

To assist us, I have made a list of every candidate for consideration for "First Lady" that I know of, and classified them by their circumstances.

Class A - Wives of Presidents

subclass A-a - Living Wives of Sitting Presidents

This subclass covers the vast majority of women under consideration and presents us with the least disagreement. These women are "First Ladies" under every meaningful definition.
Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, Elizabeth Monroe, Louisa Adams, Letitia Tyler, Julia Tyler, Sarah Polk, Abigail Fillmore, Jane Pierce, Mary Lincoln, Eliza Johnson, Julia Grant, Lucy Hayes, Lucretia Garfield, Frances Cleveland, Caroline Harrison, Frances Cleveland, Ida McKinley, Edith Roosevelt, Helen Taft, Ellen Wilson, Edith Wilson, Florence Harding, Grace Coolidge, Lou Hoover, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Truman, Mamie Eisenhower, Jackie Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Laura Bush
(*) Anna Harrison and Margaret Taylor are special cases covered below in D below.

subclass A-b - Late Wives of Sitting Presidents

Some lists will include late wives who died before their husbands took office as "First Ladies", while other lists exclude these women as never holding the position.
Martha Jefferson, Rachel Jackson, Hannah Van Buren, Ellen Arthur, and Alice Roosevelt

subclass A-c - Divorced Wives of Sitting Presidents

Ronald Reagan is the only president to have divorced. His first wife is generally not considered a "First Lady", although some lists will include her.
Jane Wyman

subclass A-d - New Wives of Former Presidents

Two presidents have remarried after their presidential terms were complete. These new wives are generally not considered "First Ladies", although some lists will include them.
Caroline Fillmore and Mary Lord Harrison

Class B - Hostesses of Presidents without Wives

This class covers those women who acted as hostess for Presidents who were without wives, due to either being bachelors or widowers. Many, but not all, lists will call these "First Ladies".
Martha Jefferson Randolph, Dolley Madison (under Thomas Jefferson), Emily Donelson, Sarah Yorke Jackson, Angelica Van Buren, Priscilla Tyler, Harriet Lane, Mary McElroy, Rose Cleveland, Mary McKee

Class C - Substitutes for A and B

This class covers those women who "filled in" for one of the above women when the official hostess was sick, injured, or otherwise unable to do her duties. These women are generally not considered "First Ladies", although some lists will include them.
Maria Jefferson Eppes, Eliza Hay, Letitia Semple, Mary Fillmore, Martha Patterson, Helen Taft, Margaret Wilson, Helen Bones, and Chelsea Clinton.

Class D - Oddball cases

There were two special cases that did not fit directly into any of the above.
First: President William Harrison died in Washington before his wife Anna could join him. In the short time that he was there, his daughter Jane filled the role of hostess. Since Anna was never present in the White House, and never acted as hostess, lists differ as to how they recognize Anna versus Jane.
Second: Margaret Taylor, wife of President Zachary Taylor, had no interest whatsoever in fulfulling the social duties of hostess. Although she was resident in Washington, the role of First Lady was instead filled by her daughter, Mary Bliss. Lists differ as to how the recognize Margaret versus Mary.
A-b Late wives of sitting Presidents is a problem. Using "Martha Jefferson Randolph during Jefferson's presidency" as an example is especially a problem, as she hosted functions only very rarely. Jefferson did most of his own social planning and hosting, but Dolly Madison did more for him than his daughter. Her given first name being the same as her late mother's also adds to confusion (she should be referred by her nickname Patsy.) You repeat "some lists will include them" -- I would guess that, like my link, most lists include them not as First Ladies, but as Further Reference, just as you have. You should make this distinction. (talk) 19:47, 19 November 2010 (UTC)

Proposed Solution[edit]

I propose we accept as "First Lady" all women noted as such by the National First Ladies' Library. Generally, they recognize class A-a, class B, Margaret Taylor, Jane Harrison, and Anna Harrison as "First Lady in Abstentia". This would let us recognize some "authority" without making arbitrary decisions ourselves, as long as we agree to merge Mary Bliss from category D into category C.

I further propose that in a separate list we note the women in class C as being "acting" or "temporary" first ladies, and I'm open to how we phrase this.

I'm not sure how to handle the women from A-b, A-c, or A-d. I'm open to suggestions

A very interesting and thought provoking solution. Congratulations. I'll have to give it some thought before making suggestions. One thing does strike me. I don't think it necessary to list as First Lady any woman who was not associated with a president when in office, eg, wives who died before their husbands became president, ex-wives from before their husband became president, wives married after their husband left office. But other than that, well done on a very constructive and thought-provoking proposal. ÉÍREman 01:41 Apr 24, 2003 (UTC)

I agree about classes A-b, A-c, and A-d. The two definitions both exclude these women, since they were neither hostesses of the White House nor wives of sitting presidents. I think it would be highly counterintuitive to have Jane Wyman on a list of first ladies. - Montréalais

Oy. I'm sure this is just a first cut, but the ladies' names need to be matched with the actual Wiki articles. It's Martha Washington, for example. -- Zoe

Hi Zoe. I just did my best at accomplishing that by creating redirect articles where I knew they would help. -º¡º

Hypothetical female pres[edit]

Regarding the language or have her husband act as an analogous "First Gentleman", "First Master", or "First Lord".

The point is that nobody know what unofficial title, if any, would be applied to the husband of a female president. First Gentleman is a good guess, and is pleasing to the ear due to the assumed balance between "Lady" and "Gentlemen". But the title of "First Lady" reflects on the social duties of being "Lady of the house". The analogs to this position are "Master of the house" or "Lord of the house", and hence the improbable "First Master" and "First Lord".

Sorry, no. "First Master" or "First Lord" will never happen; it wouldn't even occur to the people concerned. - Hephaestos 20:08 1 Jul 2003 (UTC)
It isn't an issue of peerage, it is a question of social etiquette. "Lady of the House" and "Master of the House' are phrases used in etiquette handbooks to decribe the hostess and host of a social occasion. The word "Lady" in "First Lady" comes from her social role, and hence "First Master", although doubtful, is possible. "First Husband" has also been hypothesized, although the article does not propose it.
I can't imagine more than three US citizens liking "First Master", and newspapers would have a field day. The choice of term is politically touchy, and the female candidate's team will have chosen and popularized the "best" one, for instance by mentioning it casually on morning talk shows, well before the nominating convention so that it doesn't become a campaign issue. Stan 21:30 1 Jul 2003 (UTC)
The thing here in my view is that these need to be valid possibilities that have been conjectured by someone whose opinion is relevant (for one example, a former White House protocol officer). If my memory serves,"First Gentleman" and "First Husband" fit this bill, but "First Master" and "First Lord" don't (although I'll gladly retract that view if a citation can be made where someone mentioned these in a non-jocular manner). - Hephaestos 21:36 1 Jul 2003 (UTC)
Would it help that in the Philippines we use the term "First Gentleman" for the husband of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo? --seav 12:25, Aug 6, 2003 (UTC)
Thank you for this, and not just for its relevance to the long-term discussion re US! IMO also a good starting point for Hostesses and quasi-hostesses of nations or the better title that someone will come up with. Don't forget Margaret Thatcher's and Golda Meir's arrangements, and, hmm, is it Madame Pompidou or Marie Antoinette i'm thinking of? And is the attendance of both wife and mistress at a state funeral (for François Mitterrand?) at all on-topic? --Jerzy 20:17, 2004 Jan 5 (UTC)

The discussion of First Ladies of the female US presidents is hypothetical and unencyclopedic, and well, arrogant: at least 280 million will participate in this decision when there is serious motion twd there being a right answer to the question. (Notice that you haven't heard anyone ask who would be Carol Moseley Braun's first lady.)

Who are these 280 million people participating in this decision? I assume the unsigned post means the U.S. presidential election, but that is decided by the fifty states, not the 280 million people. -Acjelen 21:14, 8 August 2005 (UTC)

The following text that i've removed from the article First Lady of the United States

If the United States were to have a female President, it is not clear who would take the position of First Lady. A female president could act as her own First Lady, select a female relative or friend to occupy the role, or have her husband act as an analogous "First Gentleman".

should be preserved here, even if the rest is archived, as a starting point for more meaningful discussion when a woman wins a major party pres'l primary, or when her third-party candidacy takes off. --Jerzy 20:17, 2004 Jan 5 (UTC)

There are currently nine US states that have female governors: Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, and Utah. Janet Napolitano of Arizona, Ruth Ann Minner of Delaware, and Linda Lingle of Hawaii are unmarried so it is unclear what the husband of the governor would be titled there. Terry Hull, husband of Arizona governor Jane Dee Hull, Raymond Blanco, husband of Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco, and Daniel Mulhern, husband of Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, use the term first gentleman. Myron Walker, husband of Utah governor Olene Walker uses the term "first lad," dropping the "y" from "lady." Lou Rell has no plans to be a public figure when his wife, Jodi Rell, becomes governor of Connecticut, so it is unclear what his title will be. It is also unclear what title Harry Martz, husband of Montana governor Judy Martz, will go by. On the other hand, Gary Sebelius, husband of Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius, seems to prefer the term "First Dude." I hope this helps. Rascalb 07:05, Sep 3, 2004 (UTC)

The whole idea of a "First Lady" is a sexist one that assumes that a wife's only duty is to serve her husband, and be a hostess. This is now no longer the norm, women now lead their own lives and have jobs of their own.

The titles mentioned of "First Master" and "First Lord" are in fact technically more accurate terms than "First Gentleman", it's just that journalist and commentators seem to think that Gentleman is the equivalent of Lady in this context which, if you are pedantic, it isn't. The terms may sound silly, pompous, and old fashioned, but if that is an argument againt them, it is also an argument against both the names, but even more so the position and functions, of the "First Lady" and "First Gentleman". - Matthew238 23:13, 18 May 2006 (UTC)

Laura Bush[edit]

Laura Bush should not be listed as First Lady 2001-2008. Her husband's term expires an January 20 '2009, and unforseen circumstances could cause her to stop being FL. President Bush could die/resign/be removed from office, she could die, they could divorce. (Alphaboi867 00:46, 23 Mar 2005 (UTC))

The 22nd amendment might be repealed and Bush might continue as president after 2009, as well (God help us...) john k 02:10, 23 Mar 2005 (UTC)

  • If that ever does happen Canada's population will double overnight! And of if Hillary gets divorced Laura can divorce George and marry her in MA or CA! (Alphaboi867 04:43, 23 Mar 2005 (UTC))

No, this would mean she would not continually be first lady, and would fall simply under the category of "they could divorce." The only possibilities that would result in her ending her tenure as first lady at some point that is not January 20, 2009, are the president's death, resignation, or removal from office due to impeachment; Mrs. Bush's death; the couple's divorce; or a repeal of the 22nd amendment and Mr. Bush's reelection to a third term. Although, I notice that Hillary isn't listed as first lady for the seventeen days of her husband's term when she was a senator. Is this accurate? I understand that Chelsea fulfilled the role of first lady in this period (or, at least, that seems to be what this page is saying - I don't recall any specifics of this from when it happened), but does that mean that Hillary was not still the actual first lady? Isn't the wife of the president, whether or not she is also a United States Senator, still the first lady? So I find that dubious, but if we accept it, we could also see Laura being elected to the Senate or the House either in 06 or in a special election in 05 or 07. If she were elected governor of a state, that might also create issues. john k 06:21, 23 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Hillary Clinton: to Jan. 3 or Jan. 20[edit]

I now see why the chart indicated that Hillary Clinton was only First Lady until Jan. 3, 2001 and not Jan. 20, 2001 - because she became a US senator on Jan. 3 even though her husband was president until Jan. 20. I don't buy that though - she was still her husband the president's wife through Jan. 20 and so she was BOTH the First Lady AND a US senator between Jan. 3 and Jan. 20. She didn't automatically stop being a First Lady for 17 days just because she was also a senator. Moncrief 06:45, May 5, 2005 (UTC)

It's conflicting. I take the view that a senator has more power than a first lady. Chelsea Clinton took over Hillary Clinton's duties from Jan. 3 to 20 because Hillary Clinton became senator then. SNIyer12 19:06, Aug 7, 2005 (UTC)
The issue is not order of the honorariums ("senator" or "first lady"), but the fact that first lady has two different uses. Certainly as the wife of the President, Senator Clinton remained First Lady, but as hostess of the White House, Chelsea Clinton also served as First Lady. -Acjelen 21:25, 8 August 2005 (UTC)
I think that this is a case in which both titles are in play, however one must remember that First Lady is a familarism, it is not, nor has it ever been a position in the government, but mearly something that is bestowed upon the wife of a President. However Senator is an official term as an elected office. Therefore, while Hillary Clinton continued to be the First Lady as the wife of a sitting US President, she was officially Senator Clinton in her own right. Stu 01:49, 8 November 2005 (UTC)


It seems to me that the First Lady of the United States is (a) the wife of the sitting president and (b) the hostess of the White House. Though a recent term, in both senses it has been applied retroactively into the past. Since in several administrations, including that of President Clinton, the hostess First Lady has not always been the wife First Lady, then this article will need two tables: one for the wives of sitting presidents and one for hostesses of the White House. -Acjelen 21:21, 8 August 2005 (UTC)

Removed part about female President opting to be her own first lady[edit]

I removed the section that said (to effect) that there was a possibility that a female US President could opt to be her own First Lady. The President is the President - the President does not hold two jobs, the President leads the nation, period. I also eliminated some of the text regarding First Gentleman, which is purely speculative and thus innaproriate for this article. Stu 01:45, 8 November 2005 (UTC)

For the second time, I have removed the passage about a female President serving as her own "First Lady". Stu 03:24, 11 November 2005 (UTC)

I have removed the passage that you reinserted into the article on the American First Lady in which you state that a female President of the United States could choose to be her own First Lady. This is simply not true. The President of the United States is exactly that. We as a nation do not refer to a sitting President as the First Gentleman, therefore it follows that a female President would not be referred to as the First Lady. I have verified this information with Laura Bush's office and with the office of protocol at the State Department -- which almost laughed me off the line over confusion of duties. Both offices also were very clear that "First Lady" is a term bestowed upon the wife of a sitting President, any other female acting as hostess of behalf of the President (in those cases where there is no wife or the wife of a President is unable to serve in her official capacity), the designated woman is called the "White House Hostess", not First Lady.

Both offices also were very firm regarding any familiarisms that would be granted if and when a President would bring her husband to the White House. Both offices stated that "we'll cross that bridge when we come to it." Stu 03:23, 11 November 2005 (UTC)

Thank you for your edits to this page. There has been long-term confusion over who has "authority" to bestow the title "first lady". Since it is an unofficial title, the opinions of any office of the government remain just that - opinions. This would certainly not be the case for official titles, such as "Chief Justice of the United States". Additionally, the current opinion of those in the executive branch may not match those who hold the office in the future.
Here are some comments on specific points I just edited:
1 - Origins of the title - the etymology here seems to be agreed to by most research; the title started in the United States and spread from there. I have just significantly expanded this section, so the origins should be more clear.
2 - Second Lady - I respect Mrs. Cheney's desire to not be called "Second Lady". I don't imagine any woman would relish that title. Nonetheless the term is used by the popular press. I've just tried putting some compromise language in that addresses both points.
3 - Female President - Because this is so speculative, this section has been the subject of frequent dispute over the past few years. Remember; first lady has two meanings, "spouse of the president" and "hostess of the whitehouse". So, in the case of a female president, what would we call her spouse? It is all speculation, and it will probably be decided by the mainstream press as much as by the officeholder himself. "First Gentleman" seems to be the most likely candidate. But here is the second, and very key, point to address - who would be the "hostess of the white house"? By definition, the husband cannot be the hostess, so who would be?
I added a line about how this was resolved in a fictitious situation: President Mackenzie Allen's husband is titled First Gentleman but her mother eventually joins the white house as a de facto hostess. But I don't see why a First Gentleman couldn't perform all the functions of a 'hostess', if he was minded to do so. It's purely a gender stereotype that says he couldn't. Ender 22:19, 27 January 2006 (UTC)
Thanks again for your contributions -O^O
O^O, Again, I am hoping that we can get through these edits and work out a solution. First, I have reverted your deletions AGAIN. And lets go through your arguments point by point.
1) You state that the: "etymology here seems to be agreed to by most research" what are you basing this on? What are your sources - I would ike to verify them. My sources on the origins of the term are largely based on Burke's Peerage, who tracks British Royalty.
2) The term Second lady is seldom used in the press today. If it has been used of late, a Lexus/Nexus search would have pulled each oocurrances. Since 2000, the term has not been used in the press and is outdated. A Yahoo! search of the term returns only references to Wikipedia articles, hardly a ringing edorsement of the terms relevance. If it needs to be defined, then it belongs in Wikitionary.
3)Again, I restate the fact that according to the White House, the President is the President. A female President would be a hostess just as a male President is the host, however being the hostess at the White House does not automatically translate to First Lady as you seem to believe that it does. We do not call our male President the "First Gentleman", therefore it is a illogical to think that we would call a female President "First Lady". By the way, in the event that the President needed to appoint an event hostess for an evening, Protcol would allows her to do so. Stu 03:19, 12 November 2005 (UTC)
O^O, before we get into an edit war on the origins of First Lady, may I suggest that we try and work the issue through ourselves or submit the material for a request for comment.
In your response on the First Lady talk page, you made a statement that you had no such proof to the affirm the statements that I included on the origins as they relate to Great Britian. I would suggest that the place to verify the information as it pertains to Royal Succession against Burke's Peerage - it is the authority on the succession issues. It would also be helpful if you could supply your resources.
Again, I am hoping that we can work this out. Stu 03:04, 12 November 2005 (UTC)

Replying to what I see are the questions you asked:
1: For a reference of the etymology, I refer you to the Encyclopædia Britannica and the Oxford English Dictionary. The first source has a fairly good tracing of the history of the title, and the second source has several "earliest recorded usages".
2: I don't know why your Lexis search failed to find usage of the term "second lady", but I was immediately able to find recent usage of this title like:
  • December 17, 2004 - The Times (London)
  • October 19, 2004 - USA Today
  • August 2005 - Washington Magazine
I particularly like her May 30th, 2005 interview with Larry King, where Mrs. Cheney refers to herself as second lady.
3: Regarding your third point, I must not be grasping the distinction of the point you are trying to make. The title has the dual meaning of "hostess" and "wife", and the two do not need to be the same.
I did attempted an online search to cite Burke's Peerage for reference to British usage of the title, but found nothing. I'm skeptical, since I think OED would also show that usage, but am open to more information. The more accurate the article can be, the better. - O^O

O^O, before we get into an edit war on the origins of First Lady, may I suggest that we try and work the issue through ourselves or submit the material for a request for comment.

In your response on the First Lady talk page, you made a statement that you had no such proof to the affirm the statements that I included on the origins as they relate to Great Britian. I would suggest that the place to verify the information as it pertains to Royal Succession against Burke's Peerage - it is the authority on the succession issues. It would also be helpful if you could supply your resources.

Again, I am hoping that we can work this out. Stu 03:04, 12 November 2005 (UTC)

I would appreciate it if you would please not delete topics and move them about. The issue here is between you and I and it involves a common interest that we share - the accurate and verifiable inclusion of material in the First Ladies articles. I would also ask that you please do not delete information that simply disagree with - you plan to do so, please cite your sources. I have also been kind enough to direct you to Burke's Peerage regarding the origins of the term. As a courtesy in the future, please share your sources rather than simply delete material. In closing, you can win me to your argument (and support your claims) if you supply sources for verification. Stu 23:11, 12 November 2005 (UTC)
Hello Skoblentz, since the topic is "First Lady", I prefer to discuss it here.
There are six sources referenced in my posting above; The Oxford English Dictionary, Encyclopedia Britannica, (on the origins of the title), and three newspaper articles, and one television interview (on usage of Second Lady). I don't know why you claim I'm providing citations, when they have already been pointed out.
So, encyclopedia articles aside, that three newspaper articles and one television interview is extensive? With all due respect, that is taking liberties with the topic. And even with the encyclopedia references, that makes you more of an authority of anyone else? More of an athority that a that of the staff in the White House, office of Laura Bush? I personally think that your edits have been very POV.
Please refrain from inserting incorrect and non-factual changes into this article. -O^O 01:10, 13 November 2005 (UTC)
That would be in your eyes only. I have supplied Burkes Peerage and information directly from the White House on this, so I feel that my additions have merit and are verifiable for anyone who wishes to take the time. So I am asking you, please do not remove information which is relevant. Stu 02:30, 15 November 2005 (UTC)
P.S. - Follow-up note: I agree that the "female president" section could be made clearer. I'm not up to it tonight, but perhaps by reiterating that "first lady" has the split meanings of presidential spouse / social hostess, it could be stated more clearly.

It doesn't read well as it is. I've changed it to Stu's version (but understand that might not be appreciated given the depth of discussion here, which I didn't read before editing - sorry!). I think people are correct in saying there needs to be a distinction between the spouse of the President and the hostess at the White House. Presumably a female President would still be the hostess, but it seems ridiculous to suggest the President could also be the First Lady at the same time (unless the US has a lesbian President, and let's not go there...) Ender 11:27, 5 December 2005 (UTC)

Trying to isolate the differences[edit]

Skoblentz, it appears that one of us is not understanding the other. I accept it may be me that is misunderstanding you, however your statements also imply that you are not following what I am writing. You appear to be confusing information I post in support of one topic as if it was in support of another topic.
Let's break this down; what are the exact points of contention? My perception is that there are three:
1: Origins of the title "first lady".
2: Usage of the phrase "second lady".
3: What happens if there is a female president.
Are we at least in agreement that *these* are the topics under discussion? -O^O
O^O - I completly disagree with your position that "First Lady" is an American invention, and I take offense that you see fit to remove any mention of its (correct) origin in Great Britian almost immediatly without allowing others to read the text. That you remove it so quickly leads me to believe that you aren't even interested at looking up and at other sources of information, or at least stating that "some sources (ie Burke's Peerage, the Court of Marie Antoinette) show the use of the term in the 18th century."
As for Second Lady, I feel that this article is simply affected and pretends to be something that it is not - something that is relevant in today's world. According to the White House, "Second Lady" is something that is not officially used, nor is it something that the wives of the last several Vice Presidents has sought to promote or protect.
As for the text that supposses that a President can be her own First Lady, again I find "situation" affected and implausible. The President of the United States is the President of the United States. He (currently) is never referred to as the "First Gentleman", therefore I can not understand why it would acceptible to betstow upon a female President an additional title that is not relevant, and IMHO silly.
Topics aside, what I find most frustrating about our exchanges is that I sense that you feel yourself so perfect in your knowledge on this subject that you refuse to allow any view on the topic save your own. Stu 14:31, 15 November 2005 (UTC)
Hello Stu,
First, I apologize if my "attitude" has offended you. I know that I can come across aggressively in email and wiki-writing, and that is something I can work on. I think that both of us want to make this article the best it can be.
Second, I notice that both of us are editors that only make a few contributions per day, so I think the time that both of us spend here is valuable, and neither of us want to waste that time on an edit or revert war.
That said, here are my responses to the above three topics, in the reverse order we have been discussing them so far, because I want to talk about the ones we are most in agreement with first.
  1. 3 - female president - I'm completely open to rephrasing this language. It is pure speculation as to what will happen if and when there is a female president. The distinction that I want to preserve stems from "first lady" having dual meanings (spouse of the president, hostess of the whitehouse). Clearly, the male spouse of a female president wouldn't be called "first lady", and the press would probably call him something. However, (here is the distiction), it is impossible for a man to fill the role of the hostess. Some language should remain in the article to say that the female president could act as hostess, or she could delegate the hostess role to some other woman, or there could be no hostess. Again, I'm very open to rephrasing this paragraph, as long as we keep the distinction and the possibilities.
  2. 2 - second lady - I'm open to rephrasing this as well. Your point (I think) is that the current second lady doesn't like the title, and that it is even less official than "first lady". My point is that it remains an unofficial title, but that it is indeed used by those describing the spouse of the vice president, and even Mrs. Cheney has used it to refer to herself.
  3. 1 - origins of the title - I'm trying to be friendly, but here we are at a disagreement that is pretty strong. I look at your attempts to credit non-american origins to this title as a version of the Wikipedia:Flat_earth_problem. You are proposing a viewpoint that is completely at odds with every credible source on this topic that I'm familiar with. Not only does that include the Encyclopedia Britannica and Oxford English Dictionary, it also includes many primary books on the topic of first ladies. All of the following books mention this topic, and none of them propose a foreign origin of the title:
American First Ladies: Their Lives and Their Legacy (Gould, Lewis L.)
First Ladies {Betty Boyd Caroli)
The Presidents' Wives: Reassessing the Office of First Lady (Robert P. Watson)
Smithsonian Book of the First Ladies: Their Lives, Times, and Issues (Doris Faber)
First Ladies: the Saga of the Presidents' Wives and Their Power (Carl Anthony)
Please, if you have further evidence to support an alternative theory, or would care to post a reference (or passage) from Burke's, I would love to read it. But from where I sit, one alleged passage from Burke's does not overturn a half-dozen major works on the First Lady.
In closing (for tonight); I look forward to improving #3 and #2 so that all factual views are correctly presented. As for #1, I am going to strongly resist stating anything that is in conflict with the standard body of knowledge, without strong and well sourced evidence. - O^O
  • Suit yourself. I'm not getting involved in this matter any further, not because I bow to your point of view, but because you feel such a strong ownership in this article that further contributions are fruitless and your POV prevents adding information that would allow readers to make up their own minds Stu 14:07, 6 December 2005 (UTC)

Insight from the First Ladies Muesum Director[edit]

One last point that I wish to make before leaving this article, In communicating via email with the Director of the First Ladies Muesum in Canton Ohio, she helped to clarify the following points. If user: O^O disagrees with this, then I invite him to write the Director and hear it from her directly:

1) Wife of Sitting President The Wife of a sitting US President is Considered to be the First Lady of the United States.

2) Deceased Wife of President Elect The late wife of an elected President (she dies before he takes office) is considered to be First Lady for his term until the term ends, or he remarries while in office.

3) Official Hostess In the case above, and the President enters the White House having been previously widowed, he may appoint a person to act as "Offical Hostess" or "White House Hostess", however this person is not called "First Lady". (Note, the First Ladies Museum does however direct its collection and resources to documenting this appointed person on the same standing as First Lady because of her ongoing relationship with President as appointed).

4) Multiple Hostesses In the event that the President does not appoint one person to fulfill the role as White House Hostess, he may delgate the position by function if he so desires to many hostesses.

5) First Lady Unable to Fulfill Her Role In the event that a sitting President has a wife (who is the First Lady) who is unable to fulfill her hostess duties because of illness, then the President may appoint a person to act as the Official Hostess. However in this case, the Official Hostess is never considered to be First Lady.

I have also verified this with Mrs. Bush's office and they agree. Mrs. Bushes office also stated that while there has never been a Female President to date, they believe that should a woman ever be elected President, that the President would have, at the very least, a "Host" at social functions, and that role would be played by her husband (or if she is unmarried, by an appointed person to carry out the function.) Again, if O^O disagrees with this, he/she is more than welcome to contact the office of the First Lady. Stu 14:25, 6 December 2005 (UTC)

Stu - Please feel welcome to insert this information into the article, and I apologize if I made you feel unwelcome. I appreciate the effort you have put into this. My intent is that the article is consistent with (or represents) all major views. - O^O

First Lady Coin program[edit]

Could someone add at least a link if not a section about the First lady coin program ( that is starting here in a couple of weeks.

19:27, 31 January 2007 (UTC)Josh

Merge List_of_First_Ladies_of_the_United_States_by_longevity[edit]

Recently, a lot of "Lists of X by longevity" have been nominated for deletion. They're surviving for now, but many users feel they should be deleted. As a proposed compromise, "Lists of Longevity" can be merged into other lists. It would be fairly straightforward for me to modify the list on this page to contain a sortable table that could be sorted by name, date of birth, date of death, longevity, etc. This would be a merge of List_of_First_Ladies_of_the_United_States_by_longevity into this page. Would people be in support of this? It would prevent List_of_First_Ladies_of_the_United_States_by_longevity from being deleted, and incorporate more information to this page. I recently created a List of United States Presidents by age that used sortable tables to combine several lists like this, but I wanted to bring it up on the talk page before attempting it here. Does anyone object or have questions/concerns? --JayHenry 20:17, 10 July 2007 (UTC)


The introduction to this article claims that 'First Lady' refers NOT to the wife of the president, but to the hostess, yet most other references throughout the article refer to 'First Lady' as if it meant the wife of the President. If the claim in the introduction regarding 'hostess' is true, then the rest of the article must be rewritten to match that definition.

First Gentlemen?[edit]

I don't even know the answer to this question, but I think somebody should add something on like, when a woman is president. What would Bill Clinton become of Hilary became president? Or any man if his wife became president, or gays? I'm serious about this question, I'm not joking. Luligal (talk) 01:23, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

Reasonable question, but it is a hypothetical. Considering the position is not an appointed position and is somewhat an unofficial title, there is no protocol specifically aimed at it. Considering it is a hypothetical, there is very little information on the subject other than "what if"s and idle speculation. I presume that we will cross that bridge as a nation when we come to it. — BQZip01 — talk 03:55, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

It should be change to "Spouses of the Presidents of the United States" like the VP's "Spouses of the Vice Presidents of the United States" this fit for both First Lady and First Gentlemen? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:23, 31 August 2008 (UTC)

Perhaps when the time comes that there is a first gentlemen, we can change the title. For now, however, First Lady of the United States is the most common term to refer to the spouse of the president. Happyme22 (talk) 00:58, 31 August 2008 (UTC)
Well with a woman on a major Veep ticket for the first time in 24 years the answer may well come soon if people follow the convention for whatever the "Second [Male]" gets called. (Although back in 1984 did anyone ever ask what John Zaccaro would be called if the Dems won?) Timrollpickering (talk) 21:43, 31 August 2008 (UTC)

Official/Unofficial title?[edit]

As a non-American, this article confused me somewhat on the "official/unofficial" nature of the title of "First Lady", so it might benefit from a clarification. The opening paragraph states that the title "First Lady" is unofficial. However later on in the Section 3 there is reference to "Office of the First Lady" (noting specific staff assigned) and how it is a branch of the "Executive Office of the President". That comes across as if the office of the First Lady is in fact an official one. Could someone help make sense of this please? Thanks Manning (talk) 03:13, 25 March 2009 (UTC)

I can see how this could be confusing. The first lady is not an official position, nothing about it appears in the Constitution, she does not receive a salary, etc. Yet, the president's wife receives arguably the most press coverage of any woman in the nation in our modern times. Thus with the growth of television, radio, and Internet media, the first lady has become a very visable position and that is why she now has an official office to promote goals or special projects she chooses to undertake (Lady Bird Johnson had beautification, Pat Nixon had volunteerism, Nancy Reagan had Just Say No, Laura Bush had literacy, education, and AIDS awarenes), manage her schedule, etc. I believe the office was established by Rosalynn Carter in the late 1970s in the East Wing. Does that help? Happyme22 (talk) 01:42, 27 March 2009 (UTC)
You are quite correct in the sense that the title First Lady is unofficial. However, the Office of the First Lady is provided for by law, I accept that it doesn't call the established office, the Office of the First Lady, confusing I know. However, it should be noted that the title Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is unofficial as he is purely the First Lord of the Treasury, and the term Prime Minister is unofficial, but has come to be the official title. So it could be argued that by convention the title First Lady whilst being unofficial, has an official status by its de-facto usage, and thus, the Office of the First Lady gets its name.Benny45boy (talk) 22:15, 14 April 2009 (UTC)


This article serves to overly puff up the position of first lady. It's just an honorific, like a fellowship with a budget. Moreover, it's flatly wrong to say "A few first ladies have exercised a degree of political power." Presidents' wives may have political influence, but none of them could vote on legislation, sign a law, or enact a decree. --Tysto (talk) 18:43, 18 May 2009 (UTC)

Michelle Obama Law Career[edit]

ARDC - Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois !

Click to enlarge image. Everyday another Obama skeleton comes careening out of the closet.

This ADRC is for discipline reasons...not for those volunteering to stop practicing. It is COURT ORDERED...not "Michelle Obama ordered." Their website is very clear about their function and why they step in. (see below)

If this was a Republican, the Dems would have her up on charges already.

Schmoo, an attorney, points out, "sounds more to me like she was drummed right out of the practice of law. I am just dying to know what she did... she ran to have a court ordered inactive status done...and then no malpractice report needed to be provided.

She wanted this to 'go away" fast and furious and the details not come out in depositions, courtroom documents, rulings for the client/plaintiffs...etc..

I would love to know what she did. I believe barack himself was also disciplined--I know his law license is on "inactive" he lied about ever going by any other names when he applied for bar application. He also failed to state any prior drug use...(which he admitted in his books...and he had outstanding tickets that were never paid)."

Michelle Obama on court ordered inactive status with the Illinois State Attorney hat tip schmoopett


Michelle Obama is on COURT ORDERED INACTIVE STATUS--order said since she has been placed INACTIVE that "no malpractice record required."


What Is the ARDC? (this is NOT the Illinois Bar-where one can voluntarily be inactive) As our name implies, the ARDC is the agency of the Supreme Court of Illinois which registers attorneys and investigates complaints of misconduct filed against attorneys holding a license to practice law in Illinois.

Our principal purpose is to assist the Supreme Court to determine a lawyer's fitness to practice law in Illinois. If a complaint is made that an attorney, licensed to practice law in Illinois, has engaged in illegal, unethical or dishonest conduct, we will investigate and, if warranted, bring formal disciplinary charges. The Supreme Court of Illinois will then ultimately decide if a lawyer should be censured (publicly rebuked), suspended (having the law license to practice either taken away for a certain period of time or placed on a probationary period) or disbarred "> —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:59, 17 January 2010 (UTC)

First Ladies and Security Clearances[edit]

I'm wondering if anyone has any information on what (if any) Security Clearances the First Lady, or First Family for the matter may or may not be granted?

I ask because it seems insane to me that First Ladies (Or President's Wives more appropriately) can not be expected to be privy to all kinds of "Top Secret" information during conversations with their husbands.

As such, are they automatically granted any sort of Security Clearance to ensure that they are subject to the same laws against leaking ETC?

If this is the case, I would think it might make a good addition to the article.. Dphilp75 (talk) 18:57, 7 May 2010 (UTC)

The Pop Culture reference.[edit]

It really doesn't need to be there. Its incredibly distracting... I mean, one entry and its Wings? Anyway. I removed it. (talk) 00:05, 5 October 2012 (UTC)