Behind every President of the United States is a First Lady, and so many of those women have been bright, quotable and/or fashion icons. We always have a fascination with the woman behind the most powerful person in office, so it was time to ask for our faves.
Heather Hogan: I love this huddle topic! There are so many brilliant First Ladies to choose from! I’m going to go with Abigail Adams. She was the first Second Lady and the second First Lady, which is a fun-fact that’s also a tongue twister. Unlike Martha Washington (the first First Lady), Abigail took an active roll in the politics of the day. When the Founding Fathers were sorting out their shit during and after the Revolutionary War, Abigail was constantly weighing in on matters ranging from domestic and foreign policy to social progress. She was a strident feminist, advocating education and vocational opportunities for women, as well as property rights. She was also staunchly anti-slavery. And John Adams listened to everything she had to say. In fact, Adams’ political opponents started calling her “Mrs. President” because she played such role in shaping Adams’ opinions on things.
Oh, and also, she was played by Laura Linney in the HBO miniseries John Adams.
Ali Davis: I’m a huge fan of Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, but for my favorite, I have to go with Abigail Adams.
She loved smart women — in fact, she felt women had a duty to be sharp and to be savvy about matters outside the home — and supported education all around, regardless of gender or skin color.
Dara Nai: I’m going with the forgotten Abigail — Abigail Fillmore, wife of Millard Fillmore. Not only was she well-read and a fine hostess, she usually went commando under her bustle, could really hold her whiskey, and ran a long-running, secret strip poker game in the White House basement. Abigail Fillmore lived to the ripe old age of 55, finally succumbing after a botched blood-letting to treat a toothache.
Emily Hartl: I know it’s trite, but Jackie O. was such a lovely, eloquent and stylish gal that I can’t help but have her in the number one First Lady place in my heart. If I could only pull off giant sunglasses I would be thrilled, what an icon.
Erika Star: It makes me feel brainy when I realize that I do, in fact, have a favorite First Lady — one Eleanor Roosevelt. Not only for being a civil rights leader, but also because she has some of the best quotes on record. My favorite being, “Do one thing everyday that scares you.” She had a lot of heart and remained involved in the aspirations of people far after leaving the White House. It doesn’t hurt that she was rumored to be gay.
Trish Bendix: Eleanor is my girl! Annie Lebovitz featured her favorite room to sleep in (a sunporch, essentially) in Pilgrimage and I fell in love with the former first lady a little bit more. She was so eccentric, as well as a forward-thinker and a feminist. She also said this brilliant thing: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Ain’t that the truth, Eleanor?
Courtney Gillette: Eleanor Roosevelt, for not only being an advocate of social justice, a feminist, and a wise intellectual (for a good time, Google “Eleanor Roosevelt quotes” and see how many of them you end up scribbling on post-it notes and tacking on your desk), but also for having a host of strong female (and sometimes lesbian) friends, including Lorena Hickok, the journalist better known as Hick. Hick and Eleanor had the closest thing to a lesbian affair you can have without actually, well, having a real-deal lesbian affair, as was documented in the 1998 book Empty Without You, a collection of the letters the two wrote each other constantly. If only these ladies had been around to enjoy the freedom of today, things might have been different for the FLOTUS.
Bridget McManus: Even though the huddle topic clearly states First Lady, I’m going with President Laura Roslin from Battlestar Galactica. So say we all!
Who is your favorite FLOTUS?