First Ladies of the United States

First Lady Helen Taft riding alongside President William Taft, in the early 1900s.
First Lady Helen Taft riding alongside President William Taft, in the early 1900s.

The First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS) is the title given to the wife of the President of the United States during the president’s term in office. Although the role of the first lady is not officially defined or structured, she often has a great impact on the social and political life of the nation. The first woman to use the title was Martha Washington, George Washington's wife. Melania Trump currently holds the title. The holder of the title has a significant role to play in the White House, as the role of the first lady has been evolving over time. Below is a synposis of some of the women who have served as first lady.

Functions of the First Lady of the United States

Since the inaugural of the first lady's position in 1789, the holders of the office have been known for their political and social influence. The women are known to be intelligent, ambitious, and liberated. They support the president in their personal lives and political careers. Some first ladies have even become political advisors to the president. The first lady is considered the hostess of the White House. This role has been considered the main primary function of the first lady since the beginning of office. She is regarded as a hostess mainly because she organizes and attends social and official ceremonies of the state. First ladies attract worldwide attention for their choice of style. For instance, Jacqueline Kennedy's style influenced many global manufacturers and young women.

Martha Dandridge

Martha Dandridge was the wife of George Washington, who was the first president of the United States. She is considered the first First Lady of the United States even though it was after her death when the title fell into use. She was opposed to Washington’s presidency, but immediately hosted state affairs and performed her hostess duties after he took over as the first president. Martha died in 1802 when she was 70 years of age.

Abigail Smith

Abigail Smith was the wife of John Adams, the second President of the United States. She was the first lady from 1797 to 1801. Abigail performed her hostess duties by holding dinner weekly and was a source of entertainment in Philadelphia. She actively participated in politics and advised the president on most of the matters he undertook. Abigail was supportive through his administration which is evident in the numerous letters she wrote to him. Abigail died at the age of 73 years in 1818.

Dolley Payne

Dolley Payne was the wife of James Madison, the President of the United States from 1809 to 1817. Dolley was famous for her social elegance and hospitality that helped popularize her husband. She assisted in furnishing the White House which was the official residence of the president of the United States. She was the first lady to be given a seat at the Congress. Abigail was born in 1768 and died in 1849.

Julia Gardiner

Julia Gardiner was the first lady of the United States from 1844 to 1845 and the wife to John Tyler, the tenth president of the United States. She became married to John Tyler after the death of his first wife Letitia Christian Tyler in 1842. Julia undertook her duties with energy. She hosted a great White House ball for 3,000 visitors on her last month as first lady. Julia was born in 1820 and died in 1889.


Despite the role lacking a specific designation, the first lady and her office play a significant role during a president’s reign. We’ve seen from the above analysis that besides being White House hostess, a first lady actively engages in politics as well as the nation’s social matters.

First Ladies of the United States

RankFirst Lady NameTime in OfficePresident
1Martha DandridgeApril 30, 1789 - March 4, 1797Washington
2Abigail SmithMarch 4, 1797 - March 4, 1801J. Adams
3Martha JeffersonMarch 4, 1801 - March 4, 1809Jefferson
4Dolley PayneMarch 4, 1809 - March 4, 1817Madison
5Elizabeth KortrightMarch 4, 1817 - March 4, 1825Monroe
6Louisa Catherine JohnsonMarch 4, 1825 - March 4, 1829J.Q. Adams
7Sarah Angelica SingletonJanuary 1, 1839 - March 4, 1841Van Buren
8Anna Tuthill SymmesMarch 4, 1841 - April 4, 1841W.H. Harrison
9Letita ChristianApril 4, 1841 - September 10, 1842Tyler
10Julia GardinerJune 26, 1844 - March 4, 1845Tyler
11Sarah ChildressMarch 4, 1845 - March 4, 1849Polk
12Margaret Mackall SmithMarch 4, 1849 - July 9, 1850Taylor
13Abigail PowersJuly 9, 1850 - March 4, 1853Fillmore
14Jane Means AplletonMarch 4, 1853 - March 4, 1857Pierce
15Harriet Rebecca LaneMarch 4, 1857 - March 4, 1861Buchanan
16Mary Ann ToddMarch 4, 1861 - April 15, 1865Lincoln
17Eliza McCardleApril 15, 1865 - March 4, 1869 A. Johnson
18Julia Boggs DentMarch 4, 1869 - March 4, 1877Grant
19Lucy Ware WebbMarch 4, 1877 - March 4, 1881Hayes
20Lucretia RudolphMarch 4, 1881 - September 19, 1881Garfield
21Frances Clara FolsomJune 2, 1886 - March 4, 1889, March 4, 1893 - March 4, 1897Cleveland
22Caroline Lavinia ScottMarch 4, 1889 - October 25, 1892 B. Harrison
23Ida SaxtonMarch 4, 1897 - September 14, 1901McKinley
24Edith Kermit CarowSeptember 14, 1901 - March 4, 1909T.Roosevelt
25Helen Louise HerronMarch 4, 1909 - March 4, 1913Taft
26Ellen Louise AxsonMarch 4, 1913 - August 6, 1914Wilson
27Eith BollingDecember 18, 1915 - March 4, 1921Wilson
28Florence Mabel KlingMarch 4, 1921 - August 2, 1923Harding
29Grace Anna GoodhueAugust 2, 1923 - March 4, 1929Coolidge
30Lou HenryMarch 4, 1929 - March 4, 1933Hoover
31Anna Eleanor RooseveltMarch 4, 1933 - April 12, 1945F.D. Roosevelt
32Elizabeth Virginia WallaceApril 12, 1945 - January 20, 1953Truman
33Mamie Geneva DoudJanuary 20, 1953 - January 20, 1961Eisenhower
34Jacqueline Lee BouvierJanuary 20, 1961 - November 22, 1963Kennedy
35Claudia Alta TaylorNovember 22, 1963 - January 20, 1969L.B. Johnson
36Thelma Catherine RyanJanuary 20, 1969 - August 9, 1974Nixon
37Elizabeth Ann BloomerAugust 9, 1974 - January 20, 1977Ford
38Eleanor Roselynn SmithJanuary 20, 1977 - January 20, 1981Carter
39Nancy DavisJanuary 20, 1981 - January 20, 1989Reagan
40Barbara PierceJanuary 20, 1989 - January 20, 1993George H.W. Bush
41Hillary Diane RodhamJanuary 20, 1993 - January 20, 2001Clinton
42Laura Lane WelchJanuary 20, 2001 - January 20, 2009G.W. Bush
43Michelle LaVaughn RobinsonJanuary 20, 2009 - January 20, 2017Obama
44Melanija KnavsJanuary 20, 2017 - PresentTrump

More in Politics