What are the roles of First Lady of the United States?

Malini VK - Infobite  4-Sep-2020

What are the roles of First Lady of the United States?

First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS) is the hostess of the White House, usually the wife of the President of the United States (POTUS). If the president is a bachelor or a widower, the position will be filled by a female relative or his friend.

A Renowned public figure:

  • The role of the first lady is not a fixed one. It depends on the individual's vision and it has been evolved over centuries since 1790. However, the major duty is to organize and attend official ceremonies and functions.

  • Although unpaid and unelected, first ladies have held a highly visible position in the American society. This provides them with a platform to influence people with their behavior and opinion. Many first ladies have served as fashion icons for how an American woman should speak, dress and cut their hair.

  • First ladies usually publish their memoirs which are viewed as a potential source of extra information about their husband's administration which the public always crave for.


  • Martha Washington was the first to serve as the First Lady. Although she stopped from taking stand on important political issues, she was carefully watched and hailed as "Lady Washington".

  • She was followed by Abigail Adams who on the other hand actively took part in the development of political parties and acted as a counsel for her husband.

  • Since Thomas Jefferson was a widower during his presidency, he asked the wife of Secretary of State James Madison to serve as the hostess. Dolley Madison involved herself in decorating the president's residence as elegant as possible and entertained the guests often.

  • It was after the American Civil war (1861-1865), first ladies began to receive national attention. There were articles about her and the family.

  • During 20th century, the president of the United States began to play a greater role in the world affairs and the role of the first lady also grew naturally. They involved in more political issues as a helping hand.

  • Edith Wilson, wife of Woodrow Wilson was the first president's wife to travel internationally as her husband's companion during peace talks at Versailles, France.

  • First ladies of the 20th century took major tasks like running her husband's newspaper, taking active part in political campaigns, giving voice for causes like girl scouts and physical education for women.

You go girl!

  • Rosalynn Carter (1977-81), wife of Jimmy Carter defined a new meaning to the title. She began campaigning for her husband during election. After becoming first lady, she traveled to seven Latin American countries to discuss trade and defense with the political leaders.

  • Nancy Reagan's anti-drug campaign and Barbara Bush's campaign to increase literacy were noted steppingstones to the title.

  • When Hillary Clinton took the title, she was already a successful woman with a law degree. She is known for her social activism and independent power to make decisions. She took frequent trips to abroad without the president, gave independent interviews, her successful candidacy for the U.S senate seat from New York state in 2000 set a high bar for the role of a first lady.

  • Michelle Obama put her unique style to the role. She is known for her acclaimed speeches, served as a role model for women and worked actively for poverty awareness, education, nutrition, physical activity, and healthy eating. She supported American designers and was considered a fashion icon.

  • Melania Trump has stated that she wants to use her position to help children, including prevention of cyber-bullying and supporting children whose lives are affected by drugs.

Ronald Regan and Barack Obama stressed the importance of the first ladies in the United States and it's a shame they are not being salaried.