When President Barack Obama is sworn in for a second term Monday, Jan. 21, the spotlight also will shine on First Lady Michelle Obama and the record-breaking 20 female senators who are now part of the 113th Congress.
Diana Carlin, Ph.D., associate vice president for graduate education and professor in the department of communication, is available to discuss the accomplishments, history and influence of presidential wives. For example:
• Much like Jacqueline Kennedy and Michelle Obama, Martha Washington was considered a "fashionista" in her own time.
• Edith Roosevelt was the first presidential wife to have her own staff.
• Herbert Hoover's wife, Lou Henry, was the first woman with a degree in geology.
• Eleanor Roosevelt was the first First Lady to speak at a nominating convention.
• Dolley Madison was the first First Lady to attend her husband's inaugural.
And what about the term "First Lady?" It was first used in a eulogy by President Zachary Taylor at the funeral of Dolley Madison. Previously they had been referred to as "Lady Washington, etc. or "Mrs. President."
Take the "First Ladies Quiz" Diana Carlin gives to her students.
What Do You Know About the Women Behind the Men?
1. Who was the first First Lady to sit in on a cabinet meeting? (a) Eleanor Roosevelt, (b) Edith Wilson, (c) Julia Grant, (d) Rosalynn Carter
2. Which First Lady decoded war messages for her husband? (a) Mary Todd Lincoln, (b) Martha Washington, (c) Eleanor Roosevelt, (d) Edith Wilson
3. Which First Lady was the first to promote American designers? (a) Martha Washington, (b) Nancy Reagan, (c) Jacqueline Kennedy, (d) Dolley Madison
4. Which First Lady promoted co-education by raising funds for Johns Hopkins Medical School if they would admit women? (a) Eleanor Roosevelt, (b) Caroline Harrison, (c) Edith Roosevelt, (d) Lady Bird Johnson
5. Which First Lady completed the White House restoration started by Jackie Kennedy? (a) Lady Bird Johnson, (b) Pat Nixon, (c) Betty Ford (d) Rosalynn Carter
6. Which First Lady fulfilled the role for two presidents? (a) Abigail Adams, (b) Caroline Harrison, (c) Dolley Madison, (d) Martha Washington
7. Who was the first candidate's wife and later First Lady to declare a policy platform of her own? (a) Rosalynn Carter, (b) Nancy Reagan, (c) Eleanor Roosevelt, (d) Lady Bird Johnson
8. Which First Lady handled her husband's campaign news releases and later served as an advisor rather than "keep house or make butter?" (a) Sarah Polk, (b) Eleanor Roosevelt, (c) Edith Roosevelt, (d) Mary Lincoln
9. Which First Lady was the only one to be married in the White House? (a) Julia Tyler, (b) Edith Wilson, (c) Frances Cleveland, (d) Edith Roosevelt
10. Which First Lady is referred to as the "first woman president" due to her active role in her husband's administration? (a) Edith Wilson, (b) Hillary Clinton, (c) Nancy Reagan, (d) Eleanor Roosevelt
Answers: 1. (c), 2. (d), 3. (a), 4. (b), 5. (b), 6. (c), 7. (a), 8. (a), 9. (c), 10. (a)
Carlin authored a chapter on Lady Bird Johnson's rhetoric for the book on modern first ladies, Inventing a Voice. She is co-author of Gender and the American Presidency: Nine Presidential Women and the Barriers They Faced. Carlin also can talk about the growing number of women in political life and the obstacles that have slowed that growth.
Carlin is well known for her research which focuses on political communication with an emphasis on debates, women in politics, speech writing and civic engagement. In 1992, she created the national project , DebateWatch, which encourages citizens to watch presidential debates in groups, talk about them and submit reactions. Carlin also has studied presidential inaugurals and speechwriting and authored a chapter on President Truman's speechwriting process.
Her most recent work includes publications about the 2008 Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin campaigns and civil society projects in Moldova, Russia, Georgia and Afghanistan.