American presidents have shaped the course of global affairs for generations. But as the saying goes, behind every great man there's a great woman. While the first ladies often remain overshadowed by their husbands, some have carved unique niches in their time and left their own lasting legacy. Dolley Madison helped establish the role of the first lady in the early 1800s. Eleanor Roosevelt gave voice to policy issues in a way that made her a forerunner of first ladies like Hillary Clinton. And Jackie Kennedy created glamorous trends that made her more popular than her husband. In Charles River Editors' First Ladies series, listeners can get caught up on the lives and legacies of America's most famous first ladies in the time it takes to finish a commute. And they can do so while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.
If Dolley Madison was instrumental in molding the role of first lady in the 19th century, credit can be given to Eleanor Roosevelt for revolutionizing the political nature of the role in the 20th and 21st centuries and making it possible for presidents like Bill Clinton to enlist their wives to handle political duties. At the same time, history might remember Eleanor more for what she did outside of the White House, as she became a critically acclaimed and world-famous international author, and an advocate of civil and women's rights. By the time she had finished working for the United Nations, and working on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, President Truman rightly called her "the first lady of the world".
Eleanor is one of her country's most famous and admired first ladies, an ironic fact considering she was worried that being the wife of a successful politician would force her to take on what she considered to be irrelevant ceremonial roles.