U.S. presidents are often put in the spotlight, but what many people overlook is the work of America’s First Ladies. This list offers insight into the most influential First Ladies for global issues and their efforts to address these issues.
Top 8 Most Influential First Ladies for Global Issues
- Eleanor Roosevelt- Weeks after Franklin Roosevelt assumed his role as president, Adolf Hitler became the chancellor of Germany. Hitler’s reign spurred a European refugee crisis. Eleanor Roosevelt used her platform as First Lady to garner U.S. support for refugees. To that end, she came out as a supporter of the Wagner-Rogers bill. This bill would allow the entry of 20,000 German children into the U.S. The Wagner-Roger bill ended up dying in committee, but the First Lady didn’t stop there. Eleanor Roosevelt proceeded to establish the U.S. Committee for the Care of European Children. USCOM was able to bring refugee children from France safely into the U.S.
- Patricia Nixon- This First Lady was known for her avid support of volunteerism and charitable causes. During her time in the White House, she made numerous journeys abroad. The first solo trip Patricia Nixon took was to Peru to provide relief supplies to earthquake victims. She later traveled as her husband’s Personal Representative to Africa and South America.
- Rosalynn Carter- Rosalynn Carter embarked on perhaps one of the most ambitious international missions taken by a First Lady. In 1977, she visited Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Jamaica and assumed the position of the President’s representative. She took part in meetings to discuss policy issues such as drug trafficking, arms reduction and human rights. She continued her work in 1979 when she learned of the Cambodian refugee crisis. After seeing the conditions of the crisis for herself, she urged the U.N. to get involved in the issue. As a result of her urging, the National Cambodian Crisis Committee was established.
- Nancy Reagan- This First Lady is well known for her efforts to address the global drug epidemic. In 1985, Nancy Reagan held a First Ladies Conference on Drug Abuse to discuss solutions to drug abuse with other first ladies from across the globe. The following year, Reagan became the first First Lady to meet with the U.N. General Assembly where she highlighted the importance of attacking the world’s growing drug epidemic.
- Hillary Clinton- Hillary Clinton formed an impressive network with female global leaders across the world. She helped establish Vital Voices, an initiative that encouraged the incorporation of women in politics. She spoke out about gender equality at home and abroad. Clinton was one of the only political figures to draw attention to the violent treatment of Afghan women by the Taliban regime.
- Laura Bush- As First Lady, Laura Bush allocated much of her time towards improving global education and health. In 2005, she made the journey to Afghanistan to promote teacher-training institutions for women. Towards the end of her husband’s presidency, Bush continued traveling the world to promote the importance of global health. In 2007, she traveled to the Middle East to raise awareness for women’s health and breast cancer.
- Michelle Obama- In 2015, Michelle Obama launched the Let Girls Learn program. This program focuses on getting girls worldwide into school and making sure they remain in school. Let Girls Learn works with USAID, the State Department and the Peace Corps to carry out its mission. In 2016, Obama traveled to greet recipients of the benefits of the Let Girls Learn program in Liberia and Morocco.
- Melania Trump- Melania Trump has shown that she intends on following in the steps of her predecessors. She has targeted disease, trafficking and hunger as some of her main issues. The First Lady urged the U.N. to do more to aid these causes. She most recently embarked on a trip to Kenya, Egypt and Ghana. The First Lady was touched by the experience, and according to President Trump, there are intentions of helping these regions in the future.
– Gabriella Gonzalez