There have been dozens of movies about our nation’s presidents. Many of them focus on presidential administrations or presidential controversies. Off to the side in many of these features are the First Ladies, who often have their own unique stories to tell. The new movie Jackie focuses on one such First Lady. The film focuses on her own story and her heartbreak after her husband’s murder.
The movie casts Jackie as the main character while her husband is only seen in flashbacks.
Because of this movie’s tremendous success, we decided to take a look at 5 other First Ladies who deserve their own films.
Martha Washington: George Washington set the standard for presidents to come but many have often forgotten about his beloved wife, Martha Washington, who set the standard for what First Ladies could do.
While she was married to a great public leader, she was a great private leader behind the scenes. As History.com reports, “As the wife of the Continental Army’s commander-in-chief, Martha Washington was integral to a fundraising campaign that called upon woman to donate money, clothing and supplies to the Revolutionary cause.” When she was First Lady, she began weekly receptions where she welcomed visitors into her home. According to MountVernon.org, “At these gatherings, members of Congress, visiting dignitaries, and men and women from the local community were received at the presidential mansion.” She set the tone for a First lady hosting visitors and did it commendably well.
Mary Todd Lincoln: Her husband helped save the Union while Mary Todd tried to keep her family intact. In 2012’s Steven Spielberg drama Lincoln, Oscar nominee Sally Field stood her ground as the tough First Lady but she was a supporting player there. She deserves her own chance in the spotlight.
In her own political choices, she stood out. As History.com notes, “Most Kentuckians from [her] social circle, and indeed her stepfamily, supported the Southern cause, but Mary was a fervent and tireless supporter of the Union.” In the same way that Jackie Kennedy faced tragedy, Mary Todd did too. She lost two sons and was sitting beside her husband when she was gunned down. She was also the victim of ridicule (as many of these first ladies were). As CNN reports, “In the White House fishbowl, the press constantly hounded her, and vicious gossips mocked her unflattering gowns, portraying her as a Confederate spy or a Western hick.”
She survived the backlash and heartbreak and showed tremendous fortitude in very difficult circumstances.
Eleanor Roosevelt: One of the most influential women of the 20th Century, Roosevelt helped redefine what the role of First Lady was. She became a household name in her own right, standing up for political issues publicly.
As a First Lady, she stood on the right side of history even when that was unpopular. According to History.com, “she was an early champion of civil rights for African Americans, as well as an advocate for women, American workers, the poor and young people.” After her husband passed away, Roosevelt continued to stand out as a public servant. History.com notes that “After President Roosevelt’s death, Eleanor was a delegate to the United Nations and continued to serve as an advocate for a wide range of human rights issues.”
She was a tremendous politician in her own right and deserves recognition for that.
Betty Ford: Gerald Ford was never elected president of the United States. He was thrust into the position. Betty was thrust into the spotlight as well.
Ford only served as a First Lady for a few years but they were important ones as the country faced some tough issues. Ford faced some difficult issues of her own. History.com notes that after getting diagnosed with breast cancer, “her public disclosure of [this] previously taboo subject encouraged thousands of women to seek medical treatment.” Years later, Ford– who suffered from addiction to both alcohol and prescription drugs– helped found the Betty Ford Clinic.
Years after her death, that clinic continues to serve the public and those facing addiction issues.
Nancy Reagan: Nancy Reagan was one of the strongest First Ladies in history. She was both a loyal advocate for her husband and his strongest ally.
A few months into her husband’s first term as President, he was shot and nearly killed by an assassin’s bullet. Nancy stood by him throughout that fraught period and as History.com notes, she faced her own health issues as well “undergoing a mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987.” After her husband’s administration ended, she helped care for her spouse as he faced Alzheimer’s disease.
Her story of being a strong partner for her spouse’s political career while standing up for him during great moments of crisis could prove great source material for a motion picture.