I’m currently in the process of beginning research for my dissertation which is handed in next year. I’m writing mine about the role of the First Lady (I study American Studies).
From the small amount of research I’ve done so far I’ve learnt some things about them which I didn’t expect at all.
Things like…I don’t like the sound of Jackie Kennedy nearly as much as I thought I did and yet Nancy Reagan sounds a lot nicer than I was expecting. Or the heartwarming fact that these women have something of a support network with previous First Ladies assisting and advising the new one to the role. This comes regardless of differing political views.
And I’ve been saddened by the sacrifices some of these women have had to make. Whether it be staying with a man they didn’t love for the sake of the presidency or losing the man they love to the stress and pressure that caused their ill health and eventual death.
I guess it’s easy to forget that these women are just ordinary people who, in most cases, didn’t choose to be there. I’ve found myself going in with a certain expectation which comes from nothing other than what I know of their husband, exactly the problem they were facing while they were First Lady and something I should know better than to do.
The concept of the First Lady is so very American to me. Here people care very little about who the Prime Minster’s wife is or what she’s doing or wearing or saying. Unless she does something horrendously wrong she can live her life fairly unnoticed by the general public. The difference between her and the First Lady is startling.
The First Lady and her family are under the watchful eye of the country constantly. The First Lady must be the perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect hostess. She is under immense pressure to fulfill those roles along with the knowledge that her actions could help or hurt the country’s opinion on the man she’s doing it all for, the man she happened to fall in love with (or not in some cases), the man she married.
The idea that these women are ‘just a wife’ is bizarre if you learn a little about them. The vast majority of them have worked full time at being the First Lady. They spend hours working for their chosen causes, replying to letters, making visits.
I guess all I’m trying to say is that there’s so much to learn about each of these First Ladies and I’m excited to find out more!
The more I read the more I’m in awe of these women. I certainly couldn’t do it.
That’s all for now