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April 1, 2019

Elizabeth Kahn revealed many intriguing details about these women, some shared by all (they all lost a child during their lifetimes), and others singular and unique.  Julia Gardener, wife of President John Tyler, was 30 years younger than her spouse and asked to be addressed as “Madame Presidentress.”  Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt was the first to hire a social secretary, an office staff and to elevate the role of First Lady as the nation’s official hostess. The best known and most admired among these five women was Eleanor Roosevelt, longest serving First Lady, who traveled the world, first as her husband’s representative, and then ultimately leaving her own indelible legacy as a civil rights activist, first UN delegate from the US and chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights.  Closer to our own era was Jackie Kennedy, the spouse of JFK, who beautified the White House, and who remains indelibly etched in our memories as the tragic figure in the blood-splattered pink Chanel suit on November 22, 1963.  Lastly, we have Barbara Pierce Bush, staunch advocate for literacy, and one of only two First Ladies to be both wife and mother of a President (the other being Abigail Adams).  Most of us associate the gracious and tenacious Mrs. Bush with her Texas life, but she was born in Flushing and raised in Rye, New York.
Did the Long Island roots of these five women influence their later lives in the White House?  We may never know the answer, but it’s nice to think that their Long Island experiences did indeed exert a positive influence over their roles as First Lady of the nation.