Joan Mondale

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Joan Mondale
Second Lady of the United States
In role
January 20, 1977 – January 20, 1981
Vice PresidentWalter Mondale
Preceded byHappy Rockefeller
Succeeded byBarbara Bush
Personal details
Joan Adams

(1930-08-08)August 8, 1930
Eugene, Oregon, U.S.
DiedFebruary 3, 2014(2014-02-03) (aged 83)
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Walter Mondale
(m. 1955)
Children3, including Ted and Eleanor
EducationMacalester College (BA)

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, the 42nd Vice President of the United States. 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 on August 8, 1930 in Eugene, Oregon, one of three daughters of the Rev. John Maxwell Adams, a Presbyterian minister, and his wife, the former Eleanor Jane Hall.[1] 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, where her father was chaplain, with a bachelor's degree in history. After graduation, she worked at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

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 Mondale 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 Mondale 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 Mondale 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 Mondale 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 Mondale 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, 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.[8]


On February 2, 2014, the Mondale family announced that she had entered hospice care due to Alzheimer's disease.[9][10]

Joan Mondale died at the hospice in Minneapolis the following day, surrounded by members of her family.[11] Her remains were cremated.[12]


  • Politics in Art. 1972. ISBN 978-0822501701.
  • The Mondale Family Cookbook. 1984. ASIN B000LGQZPC.
  • Letters from Japan. 1997. ISBN 978-0966222005.


  1. ^ a b c 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. (subscription required)
  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 (February 4, 2014). "Joan Mondale, Art-Loving Wife of U.S. Vice President, Dies at 83". Bloomberg. Retrieved February 4, 2014.
  4. ^ "Walter Mondale Fast Facts". Retrieved February 4, 2014.
  5. ^ The Future of the Cookbook. Kim Beeman, September 24, 2009.
  6. ^ "The Nation: We've never Had Him at Home'". July 26, 1976 – via
  7. ^ Joan Mondale: An Inventory of Her Papers
  8. ^ "Honoring our friend, Joan Mondale". Textile Center. February 4, 2014. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  9. ^ "Joan Mondale: A Remembrance". The Huffington Post. February 4, 2014.
  10. ^ Peterson, Brian. "Joan Mondale, wife of former VP Walter Mondale, dies at 83". Star Tribune. Retrieved February 4, 2014.
  11. ^ "Joan Mondale, wife of former VP Walter, dies at 83". December 15, 2011. Retrieved February 4, 2014.
  12. ^ "Dignitaries, family bid final farewell to Joan". Star Tribune. February 12, 2014.

External links[edit]

Honorary titles
Preceded by
Happy Rockefeller
Second Lady of the United States
Succeeded by
Barbara Bush