Rosalynn Smith Carter
August 18, 1927, in Plains, Georgia
November 19, 2023 in Plains, Georgia
Rosalynn Carter served as first lady throughout her husband Jimmy Carter’s single term in the years 1977-1981. Rosalynn was 49 years old when she became first lady.
Rosalynn paved new roads for first ladies by not only campaigning extensively for and advising her husband, but also actively working to develop policy. She was the first first lady to sit in Cabinet meetings and also the first to represent the government in an official capacity while traveling abroad. On a visit to Latin America, Rosalynn acted not simply as an ambassador, but also as a presidential representative charged with discussing issues and policies. She in fact traveled quite often and visited 18 foreign nations and 27 U.S. cities within her first 14 months as first lady. Rosalynn was particularly interested in combating mental illness, serving as the honorary chairperson of the President’s Commission on Mental Health.
In their retirement from executive office, Rosalynn and former President Carter continued to work side by side supporting human rights, mental health, and free elections through their work at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
Rosalynn created five guidelines to help her and the campaign staff while traveling to unknown towns during her husband’s presidential campaign in 1976, including the following three:
“Visit the courthouse. Talk to clerks to find out who is influential. Then call on those people.”
“Insist on front-paper newspaper coverage. Avoid the women’s news pages.”
“Always stay with local families. It not only saves campaign funds, but it is a way to find out about local issues and make people feel more personally involved in the campaign family.”