10 Oct Responsibilities of the First Ladies of America
First Ladies of America What Are Their Responsibilities.
The United States Constitution does not establish either an office, or a role, for a First Lady of the United States. Hence, there is no established set of responsibilities or duties for her role as one of the First Ladies of America. A formal job description for a First Lady does not exist. As a result the definition of this position has evolved over two hundred and thirty years according to the desires and whims of those who hold it.
First Lady Martha Washington, as the wife of George Washington, believed that her primary obligation was to the president. His needs, his comfort, his health were foremost. In 1793, she was forceful in her attempts to persuade Washington to depart Philadelphia, then the capital city of the United States. Yellow fever ravaged the city and brought down many of its inhabitants including Alexander Hamilton, the Secretary of the Treasury. Most members of the federal administration fled the capital, but Washington lingered while he awaited Hamilton’ fate.
Martha Washington realized that another obligation of America’s first First Lady was to project her husband, and his fledgling government, as a significant presence in both social and ceremonial situations. Whenever she was visiting headquarters during the War of Independence, she used the opportunity to organize social engagements for Washington’s generals and staff. As first lady in New York City and in Philadelphia, she assured that the established social and ceremonial protocols of a head of state were adhered to.
The White House in the District of Columbia became the president’s home in 1800. First Lady Abigail Adams lived there for a few brief months during 1800. Subsequent first ladies were responsible for overseeing its maintenance and directing its staff. This third responsibility is recognized as a core duty of a president’s wife.
Mamie Eisenhower, the long term wife of an army officer took to this role with great confidence. Many first ladies enhanced the furnishings of the executive mansion. Jackie Kennedy was a famous exemplar.