The 1970's were a transitional period for
American women. Yet the assured, hard-working wife of our 39th president carved out a non-traditional role for
herself and rewrote the role of first lady into its modern form.
At the White House, she was an equal partner
to her husband. Yes, she was an advisor and sounding board– but she was also a virtual co-president who sat in on cabinet
meetings, testified before Congress, and traveled abroad as the president’s personal representative for discussions
with foreign officials.
Rosalynn was a driving force for mental
health and was active honorary chair of the President’s Commission on Mental Health, which resulted in passage of the
Mental Health Systems Act of 1980. Certainly she advanced her office beyond that of mere hostess and was the most politically
active first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt.
The press tagged her the "Steel Magnolia,"
which had an specious connotation. She was neither steely nor a coy Southern belle. She was smart and ambitious in a purposeful
way and had an energetic style that could make traditionalists twitch (such as her support of the Equal Rights Amendment).
She has always been a public service volunteer through-and-through.
She sparked the Carter Administration with
her heartfelt and ambitious agenda. As an activist for mental health care she plowed through even when her actions were considered
inappropriate for a ‘first lady.’ But it should be noted that when Jimmy Carter’s approval rating plummeted,
hers tied with mother Teresa as the most admired woman in the world.
Rosalynn graduated from Georgia Southwestern
College in 1946. She is the mother of four (although only her youngest, Amy, lived in the White House). She is a busy lecturer
and is a fellow at the Emory University Department of Women’s Studies in Atlanta. In what must be a small amount of
‘free’ time, she likes to fly-fish, swim, and ride her bike.
"First Lady from Plains." 1994
"Helping Yourself Help Others: A Book for
Caregivers," with Susan Ma Galant. 1995
"Everything to Gain: Making the Most of
the Rest of your Life," with Jimmy Carter. 1995
"Helping Someone with Mental Illness: Compassionate
Guide for Family, Friends, and Caregivers," with Susan Ma Galant. 1999