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First Ladies

  • [On being a First Lady:] You will find that you are no longer clothing yourself, you are dressing a public monument.

  • [The President of the United States] gets off easier than his wife, to whom we traditionally assign ceremonial tasks so we can scorn her for being frivolous — when we're not complaining that she has no business interesting herself in substantive state matters because nobody elected her to office.

  • No matter how different our First Ladies have been — and as individual women they have ranged from recluses to vibrant hostesses to political manipulators on a par with Machiavelli — they have all shared the unnerving experience of facing a job they did not choose.

  • First ladies are doing a lot. But the job remains undefined, frequently misunderstood, and subject to political attacks far nastier in some ways than those any President has ever faced.

  • I will tell you one thing. They will never drag me out like a little old widow like they did Mrs. Wilson when President Wilson died. I will never be used that way.

  • So many people, you know, hit the White House with their dictaphone running. I never even kept a journal. I thought, 'I want to live my life, not record it.'

  • The one thing I do not want to be called is First Lady. It sounds like a saddle horse. Would you notify the telephone operators and everyone else that I'm to be known simply as Mrs. Kennedy and not as First Lady.

  • Being first lady is the hardest unpaid job in the world.

    • Pat Nixon,
    • interview (1972), in William O. Foss, First Ladies Quotations Book ()
  • The first lady is, and always has been, an unpaid public servant elected by one person, her husband.

  • I have learned something about the job of being the President's wife. She is not chosen by anyone except her husband and she really has no obligations except to him.

    • Lady Bird Johnson,
    • speech (1968), in William O. Foss, First Ladies Quotations Book ()
  • First ladies throughout our history have been expected to be adoring wives and perfect mothers ...

  • I don't think I was as bad, or as extreme in my power or my weakness, as I was depicted — especially during the first year, when people thought I was overly concerned with trivialities, and the final year, when some of the same people were convinced I was running the show.