Melania Trump Has Some Pretty Big Shoes To Fill
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Melania Trump Has Some Pretty Big Shoes To Fill

FLOTUS joins the rankings of many influential women in United States history.

Melania Trump Has Some Pretty Big Shoes To Fill
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You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world's problems at once, but don't ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.
- Michelle Obama

Once it became possible that President Trump would be in office, there were many articles, posts, and talk-show conversations about Melania Trump becoming First Lady that arose. Can she handle it? What will she do? How will she compare to those who had the role in the past?

The First Lady usually serves as the official hostess and engages in some sort of advocacy work. However, being first lady has no official duties or any clear manuscript or playbook. Breaking away from what is tradition, Melania Trump and 11-year-old son Barron plan to remain in New York City at least until the end of his school year.

Even though Melania doesn't currently live in the White House residence herself, she has already started to host events in her role as First Lady while her husband's presidency is underway. She announced the reopening of the the White House Visitors Office on February 14th, co-hosted and attended the Annual Governors Ball on February 26th, and is set to attend, along with President Trump of course, the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on April 17th.

First Ladies are often some of the most famous women in the United States, and are capable to influence, or at least are thought to be capable to influence, the President. Because of their high position and proximity to the President, advocates and patrons of causes and organizations would ask First Ladies for their support. Sometimes they were successful in finding a spokesperson. The First Lady was and is held to high standard. Here are just a few of the good and respectable women that First Lady Melania Trump will be compared to.

Martha Washington

She was the first of the First Ladies. She had nobody to base her actions, her words, or her beliefs on. She couldn't look to anyone for advice. She established servitude to the people before her husband even took office. She assisted the soldiers her husband commanded during the American Revolution, "Often starving for want of food, their feet freezing in the snow and their outer garments too thin to withstand the cold, she made the rounds of visiting them, providing as much food as she could have donated, sewing socks and other outer garments and prevailing on local women to also do so, she also nursed those who were ill or dying. Her commitment to the welfare of the American Revolutionary War veterans would remain lifelong.”

Letitia Tyler

She was bedridden for a large portion of her husband's time in office. However, she didn't let that stop her. She used her time to still socialize and spend time with her growing family, while giving to the poor and various charities. "While she largely remained seated in her room, her Bible and prayer books being the only reading at her side table....She was able to speak, often encouraging that the family must enjoy the social opportunities that came to them as the presidential family despite her inability to join them. The incapacitated First Lady also directed that many charitable contributions be made from her own personal but limited wealth to the poor of Washington".

Mary Todd Lincoln

Her husband was in office at a time when tensions were high in the United States, the U.S. Civil War. She was an active participant in the war effort, "She worked as a volunteer nurse in the Union hospitals....She was largely successful in her objective of using entertaining as a means of raising Union morale."

She was also active and supportive of the freeing of slaves. "Numerous abolitionists...attested to her core value of full emancipation of African-American slaves and her influence on the President to see this not only in political but human terms as well." She didn't look at abolishing slavery as merely a good political move for her husband, but as the right thing to do for humankind. The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 by her husband was a personal victory for her.

Lucretia Garfield

Although not publicly, she supported the fight for women's suffrage. Her daughter said that even as she got older, she strongly believed in "equality of sexes" and saw "no reason why woman should not be entitled to all the privileges that men enjoy." She stood strong in her beliefs when "Congress was determining the payment that was due to the late President's doctors and recommended paying his male physician $1,000 but awarding half of that amount to Susan Edson, his only female physician, [she] declared it to be 'discrimination' and insisted on pay equity between them: the woman doctor was also given $1,000."

Frances Cleveland

Frances was another of our First Ladies to strongly advocate for women. She supported "young women musicians in an era when the professional field of those who were offered the most lucrative and extensive performance contracts was limited almost exclusively to men. She sponsored a young violinist to study in Berlin and the girl became the first American to win the prized Mendelssohn Stipendium."

Ida McKinley

She did her charity work and supported organizations in a way uniquely her own. Instead of publicly appearing for events and such, she would donate "a pair of slippers which she famously knitted, to be auctioned," and "by sending elaborate floral arrangements which she often designed herself with flowers taken from the White House conservatories."

Florence Harding

One of her major activist stances during her husband's time in office was for the lives of animals. She was a strong advocate for the goals of the ASPCA and Animal Rescue League. It has been said that she "turned down invitations to rodeo shows, and removed all the big game heads placed in the state dining room by Theodore Roosevelt." "Cruelty begets cruelty," she wrote, "hardness towards animals is certain to breed hardness towards our fellow man. Of this, I am very sure from both observation and analogy, the converse is just as true. That is why I am always willing to give every encouragement to humane causes."

Eleanor Roosevelt

She had a major influence and impact on the presidency of her husband. She helped him during major health struggles, making some of his tough decisions with him. She wasn't afraid to take charge, to stand apart, and to stand up for what she believed in.

She took to advancing the role women were able to have outside of the home. One advancement in particular was a ban on male reporters in her White House press conferences. Publications could only carry her news "by continuing to employ the women reporters given exclusive access to the press conferences." Her practice was important for "establishing women reporters as part of the permanent and modern White House Press Corps." Before her stance, women were limited to covering issues that seemed more feminine in their time, issues that were light and less serious, covering things such as entertainment and style topics. Women became more competitive in the journalism world, rising in the ranks.

Another cause she fought for was the rights for African-Americans. There were small acts that showed this, such as when she was asked to attend the African American Howard University, "she wanted herself photographed as two uniformed male honor guards escorted her in." She also became the first white resident of D.C. to join their chapters of NAACP and National Urban League. It's often said that, "No one single act as First Lady, however, more dramatically illustrated her belief than her much publicized February 26, 1939 resignation from the Daughters of the American Revolution when that organization adhered to local racial restrictions and refused to rent its Constitution Hall for a concert by opera singer Marian Anderson....she [later] had Anderson sing in the White House for the King and Queen of England."

Jacqueline Kennedy (Onassis)

She was a huge advocate for the arts during her husband's presidency and throughout her life. She looked to showcase a lot more art in the White House. While at the White House, "she hosted performances of opera, ballet, Shakespeare and modern jazz, all performed by American companies. After her meeting with French Minister of Culture Andre Malraux in May of 1961, he made a loan to the U.S. from France of the Louvre Museum's famous Mona Lisa painting, and [she] presided over the unveiling. From Malraux, she developed ideas on the eventual creation of a U.S. Department of the Arts and Humanities."

Rosalynn Carter

She took an interest in the elderly, something I hadn't really seen before. She "lobbied Congress for passage of the Age Discrimination Act to do away with mandatory age retirement within the federal workplace, and to raise the limit to seventy in the private sector. She further lobbied for the Older American Act, a funding increase in elderly services, as well as the Rural Clinics Act and Social Security reform to benefit seniors." That's just the beginning of her support and care for the elderly.

Barbara Bush

Even in the era we were in, there still existed literacy barriers among adults in the United States, and Barbara took notice of this. The issue became one of her main focuses as First Lady. "Barbara founded the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, a private organization that solicited grants from public and private institutions to support literacy programs....At the time of her tenure, statistics showed that 35 million adults could not read above the eight-grade level and that 23 million were not beyond a fourth-grade level. She appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show addressing the issue, and made regular broadcasts on Mrs. Bush's Story Time, a national radio program that stressed the importance of reading aloud to children."

Michelle Obama

She advocated for a healthier America and, in particular, an active and healthy life for the youth of America. She started a "fitness program for kids as part of her Let's Move initiative....she has worked to get young people to try out a new sport or activity. 'This year, 1.7 million young people will be participating in Olympic and Paralympic sports in their communities—many of them for the very first time. And that is so important, because sometimes all it takes is that first lesson, or clinic, or class to get a child excited about a new sport,' she said."

She also wrote a book as part of her work to encourage healthy eating. "American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America (2012) explores her own experience creating a vegetable garden as well as the work of community gardens elsewhere." While discussing the book in an interview, she said that she "sees the book as an opportunity to help readers understand 'where their food was coming from' and 'to talk about the work that [she's] doing with childhood obesity and childhood health.'"

My research on and quotations about our lovely First Ladies came from the website of the National First Ladies' Library, with the exception of Michelle Obama. Her section was based on her Biography page.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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