The First Lady Whose Legacy Outshines Her Husband’s

How many American first ladies created legacies that overshadow those of their presidential husbands? It’s a case that can be argued for Betty Ford, who courageously took on taboo topics such as breast cancer, abortion and addiction—and in doing so, started national conversations that impacted, and saved, countless American lives.

On August 9, 1974, Betty Bloomer Ford was thrust onto the world stage when her husband, Vice President Gerald R. Ford, suddenly became President of the United States. Betty, a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan who had endured her father’s suicide and a brief, difficult first marriage, would recall the day her husband took the oath of office as the saddest of her life. The sadness came from the tremendous empathy she felt for her longtime friend Pat Nixon, whose husband had resigned the presidency in disgrace, but also, there was a sense of overwhelming responsibility. As first lady—a position for which there is no job description or guidebook—Betty’s every word and every move would be in the spotlight. At 56 years old, the former Martha Graham dancer and mother of four wasn’t about to reinvent herself.

“Okay, I’ll move to the White House,” she said, “do the best I can, and if they don’t like it, they can kick me out, but they can’t make me somebody I’m not.”

Seven weeks into her new role, Betty Ford faced an even greater challenge: A routine doctor’s visit had uncovered a lump in her breast.

She brought breast cancer out of the shadows.

In 1974, Breast Cancer Awareness Month didn’t yet exist. There were no guidelines for regular screenings, no fundraising walks, no patient-support groups. At that time, the words breast and cancer were spoken in hushed tones—like something shameful. But Betty was adamant she should be completely open with the American people. How many other women in America must be going through this too? she wondered.

Just two days after Betty’s doctor discovered the lump, the first lady went into surgery not knowing whether she had cancer, not knowing whether she would come out of the operating room with one breast or two. In what was standard practice at the time, Betty was put under general anesthesia while the doctors took a sample of the suspicious tissue. The biopsy proved malignant and the doctors immediately performed a radical mastectomy. Within hours of the operation, the White House held a press conference sharing the details of her surgery—including the good news that, largely because the cancer had been detected early, the first lady’s prognosis was excellent.

What happened next was remarkable. Women across the country lined up outside clinics to get breast exams; newspaper articles described how to perform self-exams; and in the first week after Betty’s surgery alone, the White House received more than 35,000 cards and letters.

Many women offered the first lady advice and encouragement from their own experiences, while thousands wrote that her courage to speak out prompted them to get checked. Some wrote with admiration: “One thing you have demonstrated to the American people is that you are not superhuman. You’re just a super lady.” Others expressed how their sentiments crossed party lines: “This has nothing at all to do with my political beliefs, since I would never in my entire life dream of voting for a Republican, but I will pray for you every night and please get better!” Literally overnight, Betty Ford removed the stigma from breast cancer, and changed women’s healthcare forever.

She took a stand on women's rights.

The response to her openness about breast cancer made Betty realize the power of her platform as first lady. One issue she felt strongly about was the Equal Rights Amendment—the proposed amendment to the Constitution that would provide for the legal equality of the sexes and prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender. Betty was a staunch supporter of ERA, but it was a political hot potato—one which her husband’s advisers preferred she avoid.

Not that Betty heeded their advice. In a speech at the 1975 International Women’s Year Conference in Cleveland, she proclaimed, “I do not believe that being first lady should prevent me from expressing my views… Why should my husband’s job, or yours, prevent us from being ourselves? Being ladylike does not require silence.”

While the ERA ultimately fell short of the 38 states required to approve its ratification, Betty continued to speak out on behalf of women’s rights.

She didn’t play it safe with touchy subjects.

Her candor sparked even greater controversy in a “60 Minutes” interview in August 1975, during which reporter Morley Safer probed her about hot-button issues of the time. When asked about the Supreme Court’s recent ruling legalizing abortion, she said “it was the best thing in the world,” because in her opinion it was time to “bring it out of the backwoods and into the hospitals where it belonged.” On the issue of marijuana’s growing prevalence among U.S. teens, Betty said she was sure her own children had probably tried it and that if it had been around when she was a teenager, she probably would have too. When Safer asked how she felt about premarital sex—and more pointedly, how she’d react if her 17-year-old daughter Susan was having an “affair”—Betty said she wouldn’t be surprised because Susan was “a perfectly normal human being” and perhaps premarital relations with the right person might lead to a lower divorce rate.

The response? Nothing short of shock and awe. No first lady had ever appeared on television like this before. While many found her answers appalling, polls showed the majority of Americans viewed her frankness as refreshing. Once again, she sparked a national dialogue—and her popularity soared.

In an interview for BETTY FORD: First Lady, Women’s Advocate, Survivor, Trailblazer, Betty’s eldest son Mike Ford told this author, “There was always a part of her that wanted to break out and come out of my dad’s shadow.” As first lady, Betty Ford was finally able to do just that. In her 1978 memoir, The Times of My Life, she reflected that “in the beginning, it was like going to a party you’re terrified of and finding out to your amazement that you’re having a good time. You never know what you can do until you have to do it.”

After the White House, the pills and alcohol took hold.

When Jimmy Carter beat President Ford in the 1976 presidential election, Betty’s time in the White House—and the spotlight—suddenly ended. The Fords moved to Rancho Mirage, California, a tony community near Palm Springs where they’d vacationed with friends for years, with hopes of enjoying retirement. For Betty, it was a difficult transition. Her husband, in high demand on the speech circuit, traveled almost constantly. And with all four children grown and living independently, Betty was often alone—and lonely.

For the previous 23 years, Betty had suffered chronic pain due to a pinched nerve in her neck. Over the years, doctors had prescribed ever-increasing strengths of pain medication along with Valium to ease her bouts of depression and anxiety. And at the White House, that continued, with the White House physician, Dr. William Lukash, providing Betty with a myriad of pills to ease whatever ailments she had. Like millions of other Americans, Betty presumed that if the doctor prescribed her something, it was safe. There was no warning that her nightly vodka-and-tonic could be detrimental—even dangerous—when mixed with the medication she was taking.

The combination of loneliness, depression, chronic pain, alcohol and prescription pills sent Betty spiraling downward, to the point where her family barely recognized her. Susan, the youngest of the Ford’s children and only daughter, noticed that her mother, who had always moved with a dancer’s grace, had become clumsy and shuffled her feet when she walked. Frequently, she slurred her speech; and many days, she stayed in her bathrobe. One day, Caroline Coventry, Betty’s personal assistant at the time, discovered a stash of prescription bottles. “The amount of medicine was staggering,” she recalled. Coventry wrote down all the medication—it filled three legal pages—and boldly confronted Betty’s personal physician in Rancho Mirage. His response? He thought he’d lose the former first lady as a patient if he didn’t give her what she asked for.

Everyone around Betty—her husband, her children, her friends—realized something was wrong. They just didn’t know what to do, or how to fix it.

VIDEO: Mrs. President: Betty Ford: Find out why historians say Betty Ford, one of our most popular--and outspoken--first ladies, probably did more for American women than any other first lady in history.

In the spring of 1978, Susan shared her worries about Betty to their gynecologist, himself a recovering alcoholic. He brought in some other professionals and a week before Betty’s 60 birthday, the family came together for an intervention.

It was a relatively new technique at the time—and the mere idea terrified them all—but everyone agreed they had to try it. For Jerry Ford, who just 15 months earlier had been the most powerful man on the planet, often making life-or-death decisions, nothing prepared him for this. One by one, family members told Betty stories of times she had hurt each of them while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. It was incredibly painful, but over and over again, they told Betty they loved her too much to lose her.

In 1978, there were few options for in-patient treatment for alcoholism and addiction. But after going through a horrible detox at home, under the supervision of a nurse, Betty was admitted to the Alcohol Rehabilitation Center in the Naval Regional Medical Center in Long Beach, California.

Betty agreed to put out a press release stating that she was being treated for an overmedication problem. But it wasn’t until a few weeks into her treatment that she admitted to herself—and the public—that she was also addicted to alcohol.

Like when she had gone public with her breast cancer, Betty’s courageous admission inspired a tremendous outpouring of sympathy and support. Thousands of letters came from people all over the world who applauded her and related to her plight. Often the letters included the question, “How did you do it?” And “Please help me.”

She helped women get equal opportunity for addiction treatment.

A year after her own intervention, Betty participated in one for her next-door neighbor and close friend, Leonard Firestone. When Firestone, the retired president of Firestone Tire & Rubber Company, came out of rehab, he convinced Betty they should team up to start a stand-alone in-patient treatment center to help others struggling with addiction.

Betty reluctantly agreed to put her name on the facility, which was housed on the campus of the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, and in October 1982, the Betty Ford Center opened its doors to the first four patients: two men and two women. Betty, who had been integral in every phase of fundraising, design and building, insisted there be an equal number of beds for women as for men. For although women were just as likely as men to be alcoholics, they were far less likely to seek treatment. And when they did reach out for help, most often they were treated through mental-health programs rather than specific treatment for their disease.

Every month for the next 25 years, Betty Ford spoke to the patients at BFC, beginning her talk with, “Hello, I’m Betty, and I’m an alcoholic.” More than 100,000 people have been treated there since the center’s inception, and it remains the only treatment facility in the world that has an equal number of beds for women as for men.

It is impossible to quantify Betty Ford’s legacy or to overstate it. Perhaps the finest tribute came from her husband, the 38 President of the United States: “When the final tally is taken, her contribution will be bigger than mine.”

Lisa McCubbin is the author of BETTY FORD: First Lady, Women’s Advocate, Survivor, Trailblazer and three New York Times bestsellers with Secret Service Agent Clint Hill. Follow her on Twitter @Lisa_McCubbin.

History Reads features the work of prominent authors and historians.

Pat Nixon has all too often been misinterpreted by historians, as well as reporters when she was first lady. She herself felt as though the public did not really understand who she was or her personality. She believed that her husband deserved the public’s attention, therefore, when she undertook a trip, whether as Goodwill Ambassador or for one of her domestic causes, she brought as small of an entourage as possible. The fact that Pat Nixon brought in around 600 historical acquisitions to the White House, or that she was the most traveled and most decorated first lady up to that time, has not received enough attention by historians.

We are left to wonder what else this first lady could have accomplished had she been able to see the country through its’ bicentennial year. Regardless, Pat Nixon was an accomplished first lady who was greatly admired by Americans and those around the world. If you visit the White House today, the work of Mrs. Nixon and her curatorial team can still be seen in many of the rooms on the State Floor. She was a first lady who sought little attention, and everyone who met her never forgot the poise and grace she carried, but above all, she was an indefatigable representative for her husband and country.

Let’s take a look at just some of her remarkable accomplishments as first lady.

What Will Melania Trump’s Legacy Be?

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On this, the strangest of inauguration days in America, one huge lingering question is how much Donald Trump will continue to factor into our lives after his presidency. But take comfort in this, at least: Melania Trump, dressed in funereal black and sunglasses to catch the chopper out of town, is saying goodbye to all that.

She’s been planning the exit for weeks, even as her husband suggested he might stick around. While Trump wasn’t accepting the results of the election—not accepting, in this case, means actively encouraging his ardent followers to riot against the election results at the Capitol—Melania was quietly packing up. CNN reported that she had “bit-by-bit overseen the moveout for weeks” and that shipping her items to Mar-a-Lago or storage was a “semi-clandestine operation.”

Determined to leave immediately, Melania is not letting things like tradition or good manners weigh her effort down. She reportedly outsourced the 80-some-odd thank-you notes written to staff who had taken care of the family in the residence, though they were signed “Melania.” A CNN source also said that, as of a week prior to her transition to private citizenship, she hadn’t established any sort of entity to keep her Be Best platform alive, nor had she reached out to the incoming first lady, Jill Biden, the way most first ladies have for their successors.

Four years ago, Melania arrived at the White House wearing Ralph Lauren and brought a gift, a “lovely frame” by Tiffany & Co., according to her predecessor Michelle Obama, who was made to scramble to figure out the breach in protocol. It was Melania’s effort to do something kind and polite for the family, whose nationality she had questioned as part of a racist conspiracy theory. Fast-forward, and both Trumps have declined to invite both Bidens to their home of three-some-odd years, though in Melania’s case, who knows whether that’s because she didn’t know she should, didn’t have the staff to set it up, or, most likely, didn’t want to. (Jill Biden had already been second lady, so maybe she thought her successor wouldn’t need as much of an introduction.) She’s now leaving her post as the first lady with the lowest approval rating of all time.

Trump’s heels caused a minor scandal in as headed out for hurricane relief in Texas.

Melania did, however, offer some words about her time in a pretaped video released Monday, which contained the usual, lite fare. “I have been inspired by incredible Americans across our country who lift up our communities through their kindness and courage, goodness and grace,” she said. “The past four years have been unforgettable. As Donald and I conclude our time in the White House, I think of all the people I have taken home in my heart and their incredible stories of love, patriotism, and determination.”

That was the only mention of her husband, the former president, and she denounced violence while plugging her childhood-well-being platform, Be Best. “Be passionate in everything you do,” she said. “But always remember that violence is never the answer and will never be justified.”

And: “In all circumstances, I ask every American to be an ambassador of Be Best. To focus on what unites us, to raise [sic] above what divides us, to always choose love over hatred, peace over violence, and others before yourself.”

Be Best, Melania’s main project as first lady, took a lot of heat over the years. It started off big and bulky and a year and a half late, and never really took shape from there. Even the name’s ungrammatical flair felt like a trap. When Be Best is in part an anti-bullying program, how best to point out that its title made slant sense without sounding like one was making fun of those for whom English is a second language?

The program became an ungainly catchall for anything the first lady did, whether she was visiting addiction treatment facilities or reading to children or talking about online safety with teachers. There were missed opportunities for real work: She rarely lobbied Congress on behalf of Be Best’s myriad efforts. In one memorable moment, she failed to mention the coronavirus at all to a room full of educators at the annual National Parent Teacher Association conference in Virginia. It was March 10, 2020.

Though she picked up the pace of her appearances over the years, either making stops for Be Best, campaigning with her husband, or traveling abroad with him or solo, she often spoke in prepared remarks, if at all. They were usually full of platitudes like the ones in her farewell address, and useful for eliding any detectable personality. That made it all the more shocking to hear her speak off-the-cuff, using her upset voice in a phone call with her former friend and aide, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who leaked it to press this past fall.

In the absence of words, her clothes and expressions were often left to speak for her. It’s possible that her biggest success during her time in the East Wing was driving the public and press mad with gestures—a slap of the president’s hand, a smile that vanishes as quickly as it came—and with clothing choices that, in theory, could have been a statement: pussy bow, pith helmet, the white pantsuit.

Think of the inauguration four years ago. She looked like she was going to make a real go of this first lady thing. She wore a Ralph Lauren suit (American designer! business!) in powder blue. It had a midcentury shape to it and so it recalled Jackie O (beloved, worldly first lady!). Her hair was swept back in a sensible low chignon (business again!). She was playing the part.

But actors come and go from a stage, and that’s what Melania did. Any idea that she would support American fashion brands fell away, as she never really did it with any consistency. (Obama had made explicit efforts on that front, mentioning J.Crew on Jimmy Fallon, for example, and wearing fledgling designers like Jason Wu to the first inaugural ball. Perhaps that is another odious comparison.)

As Winston Wolkoff told me and anyone else who asked, Melania was frustrated by attempts at interpreting “meaning” in her clothing, so much so that she wore a message on her back at the border in June 2018: a Zara jacket that said, “I really don’t care. Do u?” Though her official mouthpiece Stephanie Grisham said it meant absolutely nothing, just another case of folks reading too much into things the first lady wore, Melania eventually said in a rare interview that it was about the press, and how she doesn’t care what they say about her, while also claiming she is the “most bullied person in the world.” It echoed her husband’s bent toward hyperbole and self-pity.

Otherwise, she wore what she felt appropriate for any occasion, usually some American, or more likely European luxury label that would be at home in her former Upper East Side milieu. Without any real personal style of her own beyond luxury, she usually looked as if she was wearing really expensive costumes on a movie set. Looking back, the inaugural Ralph Lauren comes across as just that.

When I think about her legacy, I always come back to the first lady’s own words, written in a tweet that’s still up from way back in 2012: “What is she thinking?” Melania wondered. The mystery, the implied intrigue, the invitation to guess at something you can never know.

With the question she paired a photo of a beluga whale, appearing to laugh at us before slipping back away beneath the surface, invisible again.

Lady Bird Johnson: Her Legacy and Her Stamps

Reflecting on her years in the White House, Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson, the wife of President Lyndon Johnson, wrote in her diary: “…Using the White House as a podium---hopefully---to thank, to applaud, to advertise, to rally citizens to action in improving our environment, gives me joy.” This statement characterizes her style and political determination which she cultivated over decades alongside her husband while he served in the U.S. Congress, as Vice President, and as President.

Although Lady Bird left the White House 49 years ago, her legacy continues to flourish through her multiple beautification initiatives involving public spaces located along our interstate highways and public parks found at the federal, state and local levels. Her passionate desire for natural beatification through the use of native trees and flowering plants was lifelong. Early in her position as First Lady, she was involved in political activities that would further her initiatives. For example, she created and oversaw the Committee for a More Beautiful Capital, which brought together wealthy philanthropists, local civic leaders, and Interior Secretary Stewart Udall (whose department oversaw the National Park Service). She participated in White House legislative sessions and met with members of Congress to discuss her beautification and wildlife conservation objectives. Her first and most significant accomplishment resulted in the passage of the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, which was derisively referred by the legislation’s opponents as “Lady Bird’s Act.”

1965 combination commemorative cover. Source: Private Collection.

This combination cover shows the inauguration day postmark for Lyndon Johnson and the digital color postmark issued for Mrs. Johnson’s centennial birthday stamp. Her advocacy as an environmentalist, conservationist, and an architect of a national beautification program was an integral part of her husband’s Great Society domestic program and presidential initiatives.

The issuance of five stamps honoring her tremendous work as an environmentalist and conservationist has also contributed to her enduring legacy. The success of her policies were supported by two Postmaster Generals who were close friends of the Johnson family at the time the “Beautification” stamps were released in 1966 and 1969. Larry O’Brian, who had previously served as Johnson’s 1964 presidential campaign manager, was appointed 57 th US Postmaster General in 1965. During an internal postal meeting about proposed 1966 new issues held on November 4, 1965, the attendees discussed the possibility of a stamp celebrating landscape gardening. O’Brian advocated instead for a stamp to promote Mrs. Johnson’s beautification initiatives and celebrate passage of the Highway Act of 1965, which imposed limitations on billboards and encouraged the planting of native flowers and plants along interstate highways. Her close relationship with O’Brian also afforded Mrs. Johnson the opportunity to review, comment on and approve the preliminary stamp designs. The stamp quickly became very popular with the general public, particularly with gardening and flora interest groups. The initial printing of 120 million stamps did not satisfy the demand for the stamp and subsequent printings were required.

Issued on October 5, 1966, the first “Beautification of America” stamp was designed by Gyo Fujikawa and was considered one of the most attractive stamps issued in 1966. The stamp carried the legend “Plant for a more Beautiful America,” which was clearly a reference to public participation in Mrs. Johnson’s “Natural Beauty” campaign. The stamp shares similarities with the “Gifts of Friendship” series that was issued in 2015.

Following the popularity of the 1966 issue, the colorful “Beautification of America” set of four stamps were released on January 16, 1969. These stamps honored the accomplishments of Mrs. Johnson’s initiatives, which encouraged involvement from government and local community organizations. These stamp were proposed and shepherded through the design process by William Marvin Watson, who had succeeded O’Brian as the Postmaster General. Prior to the appointment, he served as Lyndon Johnson’s Chief of Staff, as well as the White House Appointments Secretary. Watson finalized the stamp issue only after Mrs. Johnson first saw and approved the draft designs. After her review, Mrs. Johnson’s final request to the Post Office Department was to have the stamps ready before she left the White House. The stamps also proved popular with the general public and the initial printing of 120 million stamps had to be increased to 170 million. The developmental artwork used in the design of the 1968 and 1969 stamps is currently on display at the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum in an exhibition titled Beautiful Blooms: A Portrait of Flowering Plants on Stamps. The pieces on are loan from the Postmaster General’s Art Collection.

The set of four stamps were designed by Walter Richards. The top left stamp offers the encouragement to “Plant for more Beautiful Parks” and depicts a field of daffodils along the Potomac River with the Washington Monument in the background. The top right stamp “Plant for more Beautiful Cities,” shows pink and red azaleas and white tulips with the U.S. Capitol in the distance. The lower left stamp reads “Plant for more Beautiful Streets” and is flush with rows of blooming crab apple trees along a paved suburban road. The lower right stamp is a scene of yellow and blue wildflowers along a highway with the caption “Plant for more Beautiful Highways.”

On November 30, 2012, USPS released a stunning souvenir sheet to honor Lady Bird Johnson’s Centennial Birthday and included a reprise of the five engraved stamps issued in 1966 and 1969. This sheet is a gorgeous commemoration of her legacy as an environmentalist and as an architect of a beautification program that has endured beyond her years as a First Lady.

This centennial birthday sheet represents the first time a souvenir sheet was issued for a First Lady and was approved by Patrick R. Donahoe, the Postmaster General appointed by President Barack Obama. The sheet honors Lady Bird Johnson’s continued accomplishments after leaving the White House. For example, on her 70th birthday, she founded the National Wildflower Research Center (renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center). The single stamp on the right of the sheet features Lady Bird Johnson’s official White House portrait, an oil painting by Elizabeth Shoumatoff. The first day of issue ceremony was held at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, which continues to be very active in ecological research, horticulture, and native plant conservation.

Martha Washington: America’s First, First Lady

What can be said about Martha Washington that hasn’t been thrown into the lexicon of American lore that we don’t already know about this American icon? Perhaps our first and only inclination of her reside with portraits of her in her elder years, looking every bit like someone’s grandmother. Or, perhaps you’ve heard of and even tasted a freshly baked pie named after her? She was married to George Washington, our nation’s first president that must mean she was the first, First Lady, correct?

By all accounts, Martha Dandridge was a beautiful young woman. Born into the wealthy planter Dandridge family, she was one of eight legitimate children to John Dandridge and Frances Jones. She married the much older Daniel Parke Custis at the age of eighteen in 1750. Parke Custis was a wealthy planter with considerable landholdings. Martha suffered personal tragedies several times in her life. She had four children with Daniel before his death in 1757, but only two lived beyond the age of three. Of these, her daughter Martha “Patsy” was by all accounts a beautiful girl. Unfortunately, she suffered from epilepsy and died at Mount Vernon during a seizure in 1773 at the age of 16. Her other surviving child, John “Jackie” married Eleanor Calvert in 1774, and the two would give Martha four surviving grandchildren before the war’s end.

Martha Washington

In 1758, Martha was courted by Col. George Washington, himself a wealthy planter in the Virginia tidewater country. Married on January 6, 1759, the two settled at Mount Vernon, with Martha bringing more than just her two children. She possessed over seventeen thousand acres of land and hundreds of enslaved people, all dwarfing Washington’s personal possessions. She was deeply devoted to Washington and fully supported him as the American Revolution broke out in 1775.

There is some dispute among historians over what camps Martha visited throughout the course of the war. Surviving documents and letters from personal friends do show her presence at the famous Valley Forge encampment during the winter of 1777-78. There she helped restore the confidence in her husband and presided over dinner functions with the wives of other officers. She was also present in New Jersey in 1783 as her husband navigated the disbanding of the army.

Following the war, Martha and George resettled at Mount Vernon, running the plantation and welcoming the revolving-door of guests who came to call on the retired war hero. They also became steadfast guardians and surrogate parents to Jackie’s two youngest children, Eleanor “Nelly” and George “Wash” Parke Custis. Their father, Jackie, had died of camp fever following the Siege of Yorktown in 1781. Martha, now having lost her last child, took on the role to raise her grandchildren. Jackie’s eldest two daughters, Elizabeth “Eliza” and Martha “Patsy,” remained with their mother, Eleanor Calvert Parke Custis, who would remarry in 1783 and bear sixteen more children in her lifetime.

Martha and George Washington

When the Philadelphia Convention in the summer of 1787 called her husband away, and then seemingly placed him in a position to become the new nation’s first president, Martha was supportive but wary of leaving Mount Vernon. However, once relocated to New York City and eventually Philadelphia, she soon took on the role that would become First Lady by organizing weekly dinner parties and social gatherings that became the talk of the town. During the Washington’s tenure in Philadelphia, they brought enslaved people from Mount Vernon to perform the duties as servants in the president’s house. Among these were a young girl named Ona Judge. Judge had grown up as a playmate to Eleanor and became the personal body servant (someone who dresses and attends to personal matters) to Martha when she reached her teen years. When Martha’s eldest daughter Elizabeth was to marry in 1796, the First Lady planned to gift her daughter the young girl as a wedding present. Though it appears she was treated well (by her own accounts), Judge nevertheless was terrified that she would never gain freedom if she returned to Virginia. At the time, Pennsylvania law stipulated that any out of state enslaved person who remained present for more than six months would be legally recognized as free. To prevent them from losing their servants, the Washingtons developed a scheme to rotate their slaves in and out of Philadelphia every six months. Judge, being allowed to run errands in Philadelphia, probably gained this information from the city’s numerous free African American communities. With their help, Judge escaped one evening during dinner. She wound up in New Hampshire, where she successfully resisted pleas from the Washingtons to return. Though free, under Virginia law, she technically remained a runaway fugitive for the rest of her life. Years later, while speaking to a local newspaper, Ona Judge recalled that her desire to be a free person was stronger than serve a lifetime in slavery.

Following Washington’s retirement from the presidency in 1796, they returned to Mount Vernon where they continued to raise Martha’s grandchildren and run the plantation. Though it seems Martha did cherish her grandson Wash, the General was frank that the boy showed no focus or skill in education or an apprenticeship. Nelly married in February 1799, much to the joy of both of her guardians. In December, Washington fell ill after a horseback ride during a cold rainstorm. Upon his death, Washington directed that all his slaves be freed upon Martha’s death. It would appear Martha became quite alarmed of her situation. Fearing for her life, she decided to manumit the people in Washington’s will on January 1, 1801. Her health continued to fail her in the following year, and she died on May 22, 1802, at the age of 70.

Virginia’s slave laws stipulated that dower slaves, or those who were passed onto heirs after the death of the patriarch, could only be held in trust by Martha. After her first husband died, Martha inherited over three hundred enslaved persons. Legally, she had no control over them, i.e. she did not technically own the property. Her children and their heirs did. Washington himself was the legal guardian of the estate and holdings, but even he could not do much but hold the contract in trust until the grandchildren came of age. Most of the enslaved peoples at Mount Vernon were the dower slaves of Martha and her grandchildren.

Historians have debated how committed Washington was to emancipation. As he grew older, its clear the Founding Father first grew wary of the profession for economic reasons. As the principles of the American Revolution spread throughout the population, Washington seems to have changed his mind sometime in the early 1780s and began saying he wanted to rid himself of “this business” of owning people in bondage. Several of his closest military officers, particularly the Marquis de Lafayette and John Laurens, were emerging as dedicated abolitionists. In several letters, it appears Washington sympathized with abolition and agreed that slavery was wrong. However, he also strategically avoided making any public speeches or announcements regarding these views, most likely because he was more concerned about keeping the Union together and because it likely would have put him in a complicated domestic situation at home. Some historians have hinted at evidence that suggests Washington wanted to do more regarding slavery but was pulled back by his commitment to Martha and the Custis estate. It does not appear Martha shared his views on slavery. We may never know her true feelings because she burned most of her correspondence after Washington’s death in 1799. At this time, we simply do not know how she particularly felt regarding abolition, but we know Martha came from the wealthy Virginia planter society of the eighteenth-century, and she benefited and enjoyed the lifestyle that came with running a plantation worked by enslaved people.

Marquis de Lafayette

When we view her legacy in American history, we can see how Martha Washington defined many of her time’s greatest qualities and strengths. In many ways, she showed the resiliency and fortitude women of the time did in fact possess. Upon the death of her first husband, she wielded immense monetary power and held thousands of acres of land on her own. This likely taught her how to manage and run a business, talents she employed later in life managing the household at Mount Vernon. On a domestic note, her recipes and cooking methods have produced countless successful cookbooks in American history. For those enthusiasts, her apple pies became a staple in American culture. Her presence alongside her husband during the American Revolution established a pillar of stability, whose physical and moral strength Washington relied on, and whose imagery was embraced by other wives and women of the age. In the 1780s, as the concept of republican motherhood blossomed, it was Martha Washington, whose fundraising during the darkest days of the war helped feed and clothe the army, inspired American women to become more involved in public and private life. Indeed, where Martha herself may have disagreed with some of the early suffragist’s grander plans, she nevertheless was an early influence on the expanding idea of what being an American citizen was supposed to mean. And we must recognize her contributions to this image, all the while as she continued to live a life of affluence, as someone who owned people. These contradictions must be understood, correctly. And we must recall that the Enlightenment provided many avenues of improvement, but society’s structures also remained frustratingly slow to adapt to these new principles.

Today, Martha rests next to the General in the tomb at Mount Vernon. Not far is a placard at the site of the unmarked graves of the plantation’s many enslaved peoples. In death, as in life, the contradiction is closely knitted to the American story, and it thankfully has been preserved for future generations. We must learn that many of our greatest citizens also were inconveniently human who left legacies that reflect simultaneously through lenses of admiration and frustration. Indeed, the great balance in our history has always been trying to convey which emotion serves our interests more. It does us and them no good to close one eye in order to focus solely with the other. Having learned this, we should walk away knowing that maintaining the balance is our most important commitment as educated American citizens.

WATCH: Where do retired aircraft end up?

Posted On January 15, 2021 16:20:00

Ever wonder where planes go to die? After their last mission, Air Force aircraft doesn’t just disappear. They retire to Arizona. And, if they’re salvageable, the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) makes sure they get recycled. If you were to fly over the Davis Monthan AFB in Arizona, know what you’d see? The resting place of thousands of retired aircraft. Davis is nicknamed “The Boneyard” for good reason – the base houses nearly 2,600 acres of aircraft, many of them retired and disassembled.


Edith Bolling was born October 15, 1872, in Wytheville, Virginia, to circuit court judge William Holcombe Bolling and his wife Sarah "Sallie" Spears (née White). [3] Her birthplace, the Bolling Home, is now a museum located in Wytheville's Historic District. [4]

Bolling was a descendant of the first settlers to arrive at the Virginia Colony. Through her father, she was also a direct descendant of Mataoka, better known as Pocahontas, [5] [6] [7] [8] the daughter of Wahunsenacawh, the paramount weroance of the Powhatan Confederacy. [9] On April 5, 1614, Mataoka (then renamed as "Rebecca" following her conversion to Christianity the previous year) married John Rolfe, the first English settler in Virginia to cultivate tobacco as an export commodity. [10] Their granddaughter, Jane Rolfe, married Robert Bolling, [11] a wealthy slave-owning planter and merchant. [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] John Bolling, the son of Jane Rolfe and Robert Bolling, [17] had six surviving children with his wife, Mary Kennon each of those children married and had surviving children. [18] Edith's great-great-grandmother was Mary (Jefferson) Bolling, sister to U.S. President Thomas Jefferson.

Edith was the seventh of eleven children, two of whom died in infancy. [19] The Bollings were some of the oldest members of Virginia's slave-owning, planter elite prior to the American Civil War. After the war ended and slavery abolished, Edith's father turned to the practice of law to support his family. [20] Unable to pay taxes on his extensive properties, and forced to give up the family's plantation seat, William Holcombe Bolling moved to Wytheville, where most of his children were born. [21]

The Bolling household was a large one, and Edith grew up within the confines of a sprawling, extended family. In addition to eight surviving siblings, Edith's grandmothers, aunts and cousins also lived in the Bolling household. Many of the women in Edith's family lost husbands during the war. [22] The Bollings had been staunch supporters of the Confederate States of America, were proud of their Southern planter heritage, and in early childhood, taught Edith in the post-Civil War South's narrative of the Lost Cause. As was often the case among the planter elite, the Bollings justified slave ownership, saying that the persons that they owned had been content with their lives as chattel and had little desire for freedom. [23]

Edith had little formal education. While her sisters were enrolled in local schools, Edith was taught how to read and write at home. Her paternal grandmother, Anne Wiggington Bolling, played a large role in her education. Crippled by a spinal cord injury, Grandmother Bolling was confined to bed. Edith had the responsibility to wash her clothing, turn her in bed at night, and look after her 26 canaries. In turn, Grandmother Bolling oversaw Edith's education, teaching her how to read, write, speak a hybrid language of French and English, make dresses, and instilled in her a tendency to make quick judgments and hold strong opinions, personality traits Edith would exhibit her entire life. [24] William Bolling read classic English literature aloud to his family at night, hired a tutor to teach Edith, and sometimes took her on his travels. The Bolling family attended church regularly, and Edith became a lifelong, practicing Episcopalian. [25]

When Edith was 15, her father enrolled her at Martha Washington College (a precursor of Emory and Henry College), a finishing school for girls in Abingdon, Virginia. [25] William Holcombe Bolling chose it for its excellent music program. [26] Edith proved to be an undisciplined, ill-prepared student. She was miserable there, complaining of the school's austerity: the food was poorly prepared, the rooms too cold, and the daily curriculum excessively rigorous, intimidating, and too strictly regimented. [27] Edith left after only one semester. [28] Two years later, Edith's father enrolled her in Powell's School for Girls in Richmond, Virginia. Years later, Edith noted that her time at Powell's was the happiest time of her life. [24] Unfortunately for Edith, the school closed at the end of the year after the headmaster suffered an accident that cost him his leg. Concerned about the cost of Edith's education, William Bolling refused to pay for any additional schooling, choosing instead to focus on educating her three brothers. [29]

While visiting her married sister in Washington, D.C., Edith met Norman Galt (1864–1908), a prominent jeweler of Galt & Bro. The couple married on April 30, 1896 and lived in the capital for the next 12 years. In 1903, she bore a son who lived only for a few days. The difficult birth left her unable to have more children. [30] In January 1908, Norman Galt died unexpectedly at the age of 43. Edith hired a manager to oversee his business, paid off his debts, and with the income left to her by her late husband, toured Europe. [31]

Re-marriage and early First Ladyship Edit

In March 1915, the widow Galt was introduced to recently widowed U.S. President Woodrow Wilson at the White House by Helen Woodrow Bones (1874–1951). Bones was the president's first cousin and served as the official White House hostess after the death of Wilson's wife, Ellen Wilson. Wilson took an instant liking to Galt and proposed soon after meeting her. However, rumors that Wilson had cheated on his wife with Galt threatened the burgeoning relationship. [32] Unsubstantiated gossip that Wilson and Galt had murdered the First Lady further troubled the couple. Distressed at the effect such wild speculation could have on the authenticity of the presidency and respectability of his personal reputation, Wilson proposed that Edith Bolling Galt back out of their engagement. Instead, Edith insisted on postponing the wedding until the end of the official year of mourning for Ellen Axson Wilson. [33] Wilson married Galt on December 18, 1915, at her home in Washington, D.C. Attended by 40 guests, the groom's pastor, Reverend Dr. James H. Taylor of Central Presbyterian Church, and the bride's, Reverend Dr. Herbert Scott Smith of St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C., performed the wedding jointly.

Hostessing and the First World War Edit

As First Lady during World War I, Edith Bolling Wilson observed gasless Sundays, meatless Mondays, and wheatless Wednesdays to set an example for the federal rationing effort. Similarly, she set sheep to graze on the White House lawn rather than use manpower to mow it, and had their wool auctioned off for the benefit of the American Red Cross. [34] Additionally, Edith Wilson became the first First Lady to travel to Europe during her term. She visited Europe with her husband on two separate occasions, in 1918 and 1919, to visit troops and to sign the Treaty of Versailles. During this time, her presence amongst the female royalty of Europe helped to cement America's status as a world power and propelled the position of First Lady to an equivalent standing in international politics. [35]

Though the new First Lady had sound qualifications for the role of hostess, the social aspect of the administration was overshadowed by war in Europe and abandoned after the United States formally entered the conflict in 1917. Edith Wilson submerged her own life in her husband's, trying to keep him fit under tremendous strain, and accompanied him to Europe when the Allies conferred on terms of peace.

Increased role after husband's stroke Edit

Following his attendance at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, Woodrow Wilson returned to the United States to campaign for Senate approval of the peace treaty and the League of Nations Covenant. However, he suffered a stroke in October 1919 which left him bedridden and partially paralyzed. [36] The United States never did ratify the Treaty of Versailles nor join the League of Nations, which had initially been Wilson's concept. At the time, non-interventionist sentiment was strong.

Edith Wilson and others in the President's inner circle hid the true extent of the President's illness and disability from the American public. [36] [37] [38] Edith also took over a number of routine duties and details of the Executive branch of the government from the onset of Wilson's illness until he left office almost a year and a half later. From October 1919 to the end of Wilson's term on March 4, 1921, Edith, acting in the role of First Lady and shadow steward, decided who and which communications and matters of state were important enough to bring to the bedridden president. [39] Edith Wilson later wrote: "I studied every paper sent from the different Secretaries or Senators and tried to digest and present in tabloid form the things that, despite my vigilance, had to go to the President. I, myself, never made a single decision regarding the disposition of public affairs. The only decision that was mine was what was important and what was not, and the very important decision of when to present matters to my husband." Edith became the sole communication link between the President and his Cabinet. She required they send her all pressing matters, memos, correspondence, questions, and requests. [35]

Edith took her role very seriously, even successfully pushing for the removal of Secretary of State Robert Lansing after he conducted a series of Cabinet meetings without the President (or Edith herself) present. [40] [41] She also refused to allow the British ambassador, Edward Grey, an opportunity to present his credentials to the president unless Grey dismissed an aide who was known to have made demeaning comments about her. [35] [42] She assisted President Wilson in filling out paperwork, and would often add new notes or suggestions. She was made privy to classified information, and was entrusted with the responsibility of encoding and decoding encrypted messages. [43]

Controversy Edit

In My Memoir, published in 1939, Edith Wilson justified her self-proclaimed role of presidential "steward," arguing that her actions on behalf of Woodrow Wilson's presidency were sanctioned by Wilson's doctors that they told her to do so for her husband's mental health. [44] Edith Wilson maintained that she was simply a vessel of information for President Wilson however, others in the White House did not trust her. Some believed that the marriage between Edith and Woodrow was hasty and controversial. Others did not approve the marriage because they believed that Woodrow and Edith had begun communicating with each other while Woodrow was still married to Ellen Wilson. [43]

In 1921, Joe Tumulty (Wilson's chief of staff) wrote: "No public man ever had a more devoted helpmate, and no wife a husband more dependent upon her sympathetic understanding of his problems . Mrs. Wilson's strong physical constitution, combined with strength of character and purpose, has sustained her under a strain which must have wrecked most women". [45] In subsequent decades, however, scholars were far more critical in their assessment of Edith Wilson's tenure as First Lady. Phyllis Lee Levin concluded that the effectiveness of Woodrow Wilson's policies were unnecessarily hampered by his wife, "a woman of narrow views and formidable determination". [46] Judith Weaver opined that Edith Wilson underestimated her own role in Wilson's presidency. While she may not have made critical decisions, she did influence both domestic and international policy given her role as presidential gatekeeper. [47] Dr. Howard Markel, a medical historian, has taken issue with Edith Wilson's claim of a benign "stewardship". Markel has opined that Edith Wilson "was, essentially, the nation's chief executive until her husband's second term concluded in March of 1921". [48] While a widow of moderate education for her time, she nevertheless attempted to protect her husband and his legacy, if not the presidency, even if it meant exceeding her role as First Lady. [49]

In 1921, Edith Wilson retired with the former president to their home on S Street NW in Washington, D.C., nursing him until his death three years later. In subsequent years, she headed the Woman's National Democratic Club's board of governors when the club opened formally in 1924 and published her memoir in 1939. [50]

On December 8, 1941, one day after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war, taking pains to draw a link with Wilson's April 1917 declaration of war. Edith Bolling Wilson was present during Roosevelt's address to Congress. [51] Twenty years later, in 1961, Mrs. Wilson attended the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. [52]

Wilson died of congestive heart failure at age 89, on December 28, 1961. She was to have been the guest of honor that day at the dedication ceremony for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge across the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia, on what would have been her husband's 105th birthday. [53] She was buried next to the president at the Washington National Cathedral. [54]

Edith Wilson left her home to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, with a condition that it be made into a museum honoring her husband. The Woodrow Wilson House opened as a museum in 1964. To the Library of Congress, Mrs. Wilson donated first President Wilson's presidential papers in 1939, then his personal library in 1946. [55]

The Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Foundation & Museum in Wytheville, Virginia was established in 2008. The foundation has stabilized the First Lady's birthplace and childhood home it had been identified in May 2013 by Preservation Virginia as an Endangered Historic Site. The foundation's programs and exhibits aspire to build public awareness "honoring Mrs. Wilson's name, the contributions she made to this country, the institution of the presidency, and for the example she sets for women." The Foundation shares First Lady Mrs. Wilson's journey "From Wytheville to The White House". [ citation needed ]

In 2015, a former historic bank building in Wytheville, located on Main Street, was dedicated to the First Lady and bears her name. Adapted as the Bolling Wilson Hotel, it serves Wytheville residents and travelers alike. [56]

Melania Trump's comparisons to other well-dressed first ladies ring hollow considering her legacy — or lack thereof

Ahead of her speech, Peter Navarro, a trade adviser for the White House, called Melania the "Jackie Kennedy of her time," saying she has the "beauty, the elegance, the soft-spokenness" of JFK's first lady.

Vogue's Edward Barsamian has also made this comparison, saying that on Trump's Inauguration day, Melania "laid the foundation" in her quest to help redefine the politics of fashion by wearing a blue Ralph Lauren dress that was "Camelot-inspired."

Barsamian was ostensibly referencing the early-1960s era when "Camelot" was the hottest show on Broadway and America had a youthful King Arthur and Guinevere of its own in the White House.

But Melania's comparisons to Jackie Kennedy pretty much end at the hem.

Unlike Melania, Jackie O was known for standing solidly behind something — she was a patron of the arts, known not just for her renovations of the White House, but also, during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, for contributing support to both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities (both long targeted by Republican politicians, including Trump).

Melania, on the other hand, oscillates — mostly silently — between being annoyed at and vaguely supportive of her husband.

She regularly smacks Trump's hand away from her in public and has launched an anti-cyberbullying campaign called "Be Best," even though her husband has made cyberbullying into a fact of public life.

But when the president was criticized for interning children at the border, she wore a jacket that read "I really don't care, do U?" while visiting those same kids. And after her husband was heard on tape making crude remarks about the female anatomy, she wore a pink blouse with a bow named after that same body part.

Melania has long used fashion as both a cloak of invisibility and her weapon of choice. Her expressions are often as carefully composed and indecipherable as her perfectly tailored gowns, polished hair, and manicured hands, wrapped along the handles of an endless variety of Hermes Birkin bags.

By and large, Melania's poised style hasn't been matched by her prose, except when she spoke movingly at the RNC four years ago — although that speech turned out to be strikingly similar to one given by yet another former first lady, Michelle Obama.

From a style lens, the public perception of the current first lady and her predecessor couldn't be more different.

Michelle was often criticized, not celebrated, for wearing expensive clothes — whereas Melania often wins praise for her fashion choices. Michelle was noted for her love of more affordable brands, such as J Crew, and was most likely to don a pair of Converse sneakers on a day's outing.

Of course, affordable isn't Melania's schtick — it's Manolo Blahnik or bust. And the people seem to have no problem with that.

But perhaps what Michelle lacked in an endless supply of Dolce & Gabbana gowns, she made up for in charismatic social efforts that have helped define her public persona — and current career as a professional speaker — today.

Melania’s Ex-BFF: There’s Blood on Her Hands

The First Lady is complicit in the destruction of America.

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff

Photo Illustration by Lyne Lucien/ The Daily Beast/Getty

What we have all witnessed since the day Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States is criminal, and what I have personally experienced since the day he was elected on Nov. 8, 2016, is shocking, awful, disheartening and shameful. Every single MAGA mob rioter who stormed the U.S. Capitol did so “at the direction of, and in coordination with” President Trump, and it was an assault on human life and our great democracy. Unfortunately, our president and first lady have little, if any, regard for either.

Everyone around them has stoked and massaged their egos and wittingly agreed to the falsehoods and poisonous lies, veiled as truths, that built this house of mirrors. I take responsibility for being Melania’s enabler, and her using me became the basis of our friendship. I can’t believe how blind I was to the depth of her deception and lack of common decency.

I wish I could say I was shocked by President Trump's actions, but sadly I can not, or say I don’t comprehend Melania’s silence and inactions, but pathetically, they are both expected. Melania knows how to “Be Best” at standing up and reading from a teleprompter and not from the heart. She and her husband lack character, and have no moral compass. Although my intentions to support the first lady in the rollout of her initiatives were always pure, I’m disheartened and ashamed to have worked with Melania.

It is our moral imperative to instill in our children the skill set needed to embrace values of empathy and communication that are at the core of kindness, mindfulness, integrity, and leadership, all of which instill positive feelings of mutual respect. We all know that our children learn by example, and it goes without saying, it begins at home. Melania told me boldly, “Look, I know what the truth is, and it doesn’t need to be explained. Some things don’t need to be dignified with an answer.” As I said in my book, Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady, “A Trump is a Trump is a Trump.”

Throughout the years, Melania controlled her image, created her fairytale narrative, and remained an enigma, which enabled her to play make believe. I felt it my civic duty to stop protecting her and to unearth the “most mysterious First Lady,” the world has ever known. By sharing my history with her, I unmasked her true identity and revealed an unvarnished portrait of a woman whose veneer I’ve stripped off, leaving nothing but an “unapologetically, skin-deep” woman. Only they could flick aside having their lives ripped open and all their regretful, hateful, humiliating moments splayed out for the world to see and judge. Melania and Donald are a perfect match.

Melania held one of the most honorary positions in the world, one that so many brave Americans have fought and died for. Michelle Obama, and so many first ladies before her, accomplished so many things. Michelle was beautiful, brilliant and wise on the inside and out, and in spite of being criticized constantly, actually enacted programs to help children and military families instead of just talking about it. Since Melania wasn’t going to be “given credit by the media” and had little support, she resigned herself to just go through the motions. She left behind no legacy or profile to be proud of as First Lady of the United States. I made a life-changing mistake and continued working for Melania, even though I knew the environment was toxic after the planning of the inauguration, because I believed I could make a difference. What a fool I was, thinking I could make a difference in the middle of this den of thieves.

Melania is no better than Donald is in terms of needing attention. She wasted a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a platform to make a difference in the lives of so many children and didn’t provide any of that. She was just there as an extension of Donald, used to “soften” his image, highlight his showmanship, and smile for the cameras. In her free time she took up “albuming” and made scrapbooks filled with photographs of herself. Melania is simply an extension of her husband, just as hypocritical, speaking out of both sides of her mouth, when it suits her best. The tapes push beyond the, “he said/she said,” and despite attempts at a public image of concern and care what was on the back of Melania’s jacket wasn’t just by design, it's her mantra. It extends to responsibilities as first lady, which was, “I DON’T CARE.”

Melania herself is a double-edged sword. As an immigrant, she represents the American dream come true. On the flip side, Melania symbolizes what is wrong in America. Millions idolized her and believed in her, but why? Name one thing that she actually accomplished. Try. People warned me not to work for them. And now, I can tell you, having seen it firsthand, that no one will escape the destruction created by these people.

Melania represents what is wrong in America. She got a pass in life because in America, white, “beautiful” women who are silent always have gotten a pass. Melania has made “beautifully” designed parties, events, rooms, and comes across to children as “sweet and caring.” All these ideas go back to the ’50s where women were silent and pretty, racism was rampant, immigrants did the dirty work, and men made fortunes in dirty ways. Many wives of malignant American men have done the same. At their core they are Machiavellian. Win at all costs. And make it look pretty. Melania knows exactly what is going on. Melania has always had her own agenda, BE BEST says it all. Be Best no matter what the cost.

It now makes sense to me why Melania kept her chief of staff, Stephanie Grisham, around—because she spent her time in office combatively speaking to the press and spreading falsehoods about others. It came as no surprise to learn, with less than two weeks to go, Grisham jumped ship during Trump’s self-imposed reprehensible implosion. Grisham was probably fired and used this opportunity to pretend she had a moral line in the sand.

Also, at this moment, when children are asking their parents why people destroyed our Capitol, what will be her answer? Will she continue the lies that it was antifa? Or will she tell the truth, which is, Trump lit the match that sparked the rioting and decimation. He, his children, and personal lawyer incited violence and told people to riot.

What does a mother do when a father is an abuser? Many still believe that Melania is powerless, but don’t be fooled she is an abuser too, of the worst kind. The kind that speaks kindly to children. The sickness is under the skin. Melania knows and supports Donald and his viewpoints. If you hit him, he’ll hit you back harder. He’s the brass knuckles, aggressive guy, and she elects to grin and bear it. She turns a blind eye. The truth is she’s actually encouraging him to go for it. Be aggressive. She’s his biggest cheerleader. Well, he should pay a price. No one is above the law.

The fleecing of America will be the legacy the Trump family name will be synonymous with, their time in the White House will always be aligned and maligned with scandal, and they will always be remembered as the most careless president, first lady and first family our country has ever known.

As people are dying in America from COVID because of his ineptness, if Melania had an ounce of Eleanor Roosevelt in her, she would be out there getting the vaccine to people, supporting our nurses and doctors, and helping at food banks. They will depart the White House, with no regrets, leaving dead bodies behind, and driving off to Mar-a-Lago without looking back.

Movie review: &aposJackie&apos examines JFK&aposs legacy and the first lady who shaped it

This is an archived article that was published on in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Few moments in history have been dissected as thoroughly as that day in Dallas, Nov. 22, 1963, when John F. Kennedy was shot and killed.

But while movies have looked at the killing itself (the Zapruder film), the people who worked around the president that day ("Parkland") or the many conspiracies that swirled around his death ("JFK"), one person&aposs story has remained largely untold. That&aposs the story of the woman who sat next to JFK in his final moments: his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy.

Director Pablo Larrain and screenwriter Noah Oppenheim — aided by a breathtaking central performance by Natalie Portman — blend historical events and educated speculation with delicate care and emotional impact in "Jackie." The result is a moody and heartfelt examination of JFK&aposs death and its aftermath, through the eyes of the first lady who ensured her husband&aposs legacy would be lasting.

The movie starts with the public Jackie, the patrician with the whisper-soft voice whom most Americans met when she led a televised tour of the White House. Portman impersonates that Jackie in every technical detail, but she also gives us something more: a sense of intelligence that shines in spite of the restrictions placed on her in the sexist 1960s.

Larrain and Oppenheim go deeper to bring forward the private Jackie, the one who fought expectations — and members of the stubborn Johnson administration quickly taking over the White House she renovated — to preserve JFK&aposs place in history.

That story is told through a framing device, as a nameless journalist (played by Billy Crudup) meets Jackie at Hyannis a week after JFK&aposs death. Jackie lays down the law that she will tell the reporter which quotes are approved and which are not, and then proceeds to compare the Kennedy White House to King Arthur&aposs court — as emulated by what she says was Jack&aposs favorite musical, "Camelot."

The scene shifts to Dallas and the chaos after the assassination. Then things move quickly back to Washington, as Jackie takes charge to plan a funeral procession for her husband, modeled after the honors given to Abraham Lincoln. As she does, she must comfort her young children, Caroline and John Jr., and confront the reality that she must move out of the White House to make room for the Johnsons.

Oppenheim&aposs script carefully crosses the divide between documented events and those moments when Jackie was alone or with people — like a sage priest, played by John Hurt — who kept their counsel private. The result is less of a historical document and, thanks to some educated guesswork and dramatic license, more of an emotional chronicle.

Larrain, a Chilean director whose campaign drama "No" was a masterpiece of political optimism, here creates a poetic diary of shifting moods, as Jackie moves from grief to despair to maternal protectiveness to a steely resolve to represent Jack&aposs memory. With cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine&aposs command of spaces and Mica Levi&aposs haunting score, Larrain turns the White House into a gilt-edge prison from which Jackie must ultimately escape to save herself and her family.

It&aposs a space where many talented actors have subsumed their wilder impulses to Larrain&aposs controlled approach. The standouts in the supporting cast include Peter Sarsgaard as a haunted Robert Kennedy, and Greta Gerwig as Nancy Tuckerman, Jackie&aposs social secretary and seemingly the only friend she has in the White House.

"Jackie," though, belongs wholly to the actor in the title role. Portman&aposs performance reaches past mere impersonation — though she delivers the details of Jackie&aposs mannerisms with precision — to capture her sense of dignity that allowed her, in the face of her husband&aposs horrific death, to complete the task of establishing his place in history. It was Jackie&aposs, and the country&aposs, most terrible hour, but thanks to the woman "Jackie" depicts so beautifully, it was also our most defining hour.

Watch the video: What are the roles of the First Lady? (January 2022).