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Rosalynn Carter is an American First Lady best known as the wife of President Jimmy Carter during his term from 1977-'81.
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Rosalynn Carter is an American First Lady born on August 18, 1927, in Plains, Georgia. She met Jimmy Carter through a mutual friend,
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and in 1946 she married him at age 18. Carter was at her husband’s side during his political rise in the ‘60s. She became First Lady of Georgia when her husband won the Governor’s role in 1970 and First Lady of the U.S. when he was inaugurated as president in 1977. One of her most important roles during her husband’s presidency was as the Active Honorary Chair of the President's Commission on Mental Health.
Rosalynn Carter was born Eleanor Rosalynn Smith on August 18, 1927, in Plains, Georgia. The first of four children, her father, Wilburn Edgar Smith, worked as a mechanic and a farmer, and her mother, Allie Murray Smith was a housewife. However, in 1940, when her father died, Rosalynn was forced to take a job at a hairdresser to help her mother make ends meet. Her mother also took on various jobs to help support them.
Rosalynn attended local high school in Plains, and graduated as valedictorian. It was during high school that she met Jimmy Carter, her best friend's older brother, and a cadet at the Annapolis Naval Academy. The two began to date, and in December 1945, Carter proposed to Rosalynn, who refused his proposal because she thought it too early in their courtship. Undeterred, Carter proposed again two months later, and Rosalynn accepted. They were married on July 7, 1946, at Plains Methodist Church.
The newlyweds moved to Norfolk, Virginia, the first in a long series of assignments in Jimmy's naval career that would take them to bases around the country for the next seven years. Their three sons—John, James and Jeffrey—were also born during this time (they would later have a daughter, Amy, in 1967), and Rosalynn split her time between raising them and continuing an education in literature and art through home-study programs.
In 1953, following the death of Jimmy's father, they returned to Plain, and Jimmy ran the family peanut business. In what would prove to be the first in a long line of collaborations between Rosalynn and her husband, she was responsible for the business's bookkeeping.
In 1961, Jimmy Carter was elected to the Georgia Senate, frequently leaving Rosalynn to see to the business while he was away attending legislative sessions. She also handled his political correspondence during his subsequent two terms.
The couple's working partnership was further cemented when Jimmy ran for governor of Georgia in 1970 and Rosalynn campaigned for her husband. It was on the campaign trail that Rosalynn became deeply interested in mental-health issues, as a result of her frequent conversations with his constituents.
When Jimmy was ultimately elected governor, Rosalynn saw to all the traditional responsibilities of a first lady, such as hosting, but she also went further, taking over the financial accounting of the governor's mansion as well as its landscaping, and also wrote a book about the mansion.
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When the 19th Amendment was ratified, women were finally given the right to vote, and over the years many courageous women have stepped onto the national political stage as well. In 1916, Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to Congress and almost a century later Sonia Sotomayor became the first Latina woman to serve on the Supreme Court. And within the last two decades, the esteemable Hillary Clinton has served as First Lady, a New York senator and Secretary of State. These women, and many more, are setting the stage for the future of female leaders in Washington.
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