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And the Most Notable First Lady Is...Laura Bush?

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Laura Bush receives a 29 percent longer write-up than any other First Lady on the White House website's official bio pages

laurabush10.jpgInternational Women's Day was recognized a week ago celebrating the achievements of women across the world throughout history.

The First Lady remains one the most recognizable women in the United States, though her role, of course, has changed considerably throughout the centuries, from a social hostess to championing causes to shaping public policy.

While there are many beloved First Ladies in U.S. history, the biography of one such woman on the White House's website, is particularly highlighted and a good deal longer than any other.

But her name may be a bit of a surprise.

It does not belong to the First Lady who spent the longest time in the White House (Eleanor Roosevelt).

Nor the first to hold a job after marriage (Abigail Fillmore).

Nor the first to die while her husband was in office (Letitia Tyler).

Nor to any of the iconic early First Ladies of a young nation (e.g. Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Dolly Madison).

Nor to the woman who some called the "Secret President" when her husband suffered from ill health (Edith Wilson).

Though this First Lady was popular and did leave the White House with a very high favorability rating.

A Smart Politics tabulation of First Lady official White House website biographies finds that Laura Bush by far receives the most ink, with a 45 percent longer write-up than the average biography and a 29 percent longer biography than the next closest First Lady - Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Laura Bush's biography is 732 words long, with most of the information about her life detailing her work on education, human rights, women's health, and global health issues during her eight years in the White House.

Bush exited the White House in January 2009 with a high favorability rating of 76 percent according to Gallup, though that was still a far cry from her mother-in-law Barbara's rating of 85 percent in January 1993.

Bush's biography is 29 percent longer than that of her predecessor - Hillary Clinton at 568 words.

Clinton's biography, the second longest on the White House's website, includes a mention of her tenure as Secretary of State, and would no doubt be updated and expanded should she run and win the presidency in 2016.

While there are many interesting stories behind the 45 official First Ladies (46 if one counts Frances Cleveland twice), Laura Bush's biography is 227 words longer than average length of the other 44, who clock in at an average length of just 505 words.

Michelle Obama's bio is the sixth longest at 535 words, just behind Grace Coolidge (541), Abigail Adams (540), and Jane Pierce (536).

Rounding out the Top 10 are Ellen Wilson (533), Pat Nixon (532), Sarah Polk (531), and Lucy Hayes (530).

Six First Ladies receive particularly short bios on the White House website, with Hannah Van Buren understandably at the bottom at just 407 words.

(Mrs. Van Buren died nearly two decades before Martin won the presidency, but is officially considered a First Lady as he never remarried).

Rachel Jackson's biography is the second shortest at 413 words followed by Ellen Arthur (427), Frances Cleveland (429), Eliza Johnson (432), and Anna Harrison (440).

It is true more is known about First Ladies serving today due to their higher public profile and increased day-to-day exposure in the media.

However, the relative increased focus on Laura Bush is curious considering there is certainly a wealth of biographical information available about many iconic First Ladies, such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Dolly Madison - who rank 21st and 31st respectably for bio length on the White House website.

Length of Official First Lady White House Website Biographies

#
First Lady
Word Count
45
Laura Welch Bush
732
44
Hillary Rodham Clinton
568
32
Grace Anna Goodhue Coolidge
541
2
Abigail Smith Adams
540
15
Jane Means Appleton Pierce
536
46
Michelle Obama
535
29
Ellen Axson Wilson
533
39
Patricia Ryan Nixon
532
12
Sarah Childress Polk
531
20
Lucy Ware Webb Hayes
530
11
Julia Gardiner Tyler
529
26
Ida Saxton McKinley
527
1
Martha Dandridge Custis Washington
527
42
Nancy Davis Reagan
526
35
Elizabeth Virginia Wallace Truman
526
43
Barbara Bush
525
28
Helen Herron Taft
525
37
Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy
524
3
Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson
524
33
Lou Henry Hoover
523
41
Roslynn Smith Carter
520
34
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt
520
36
Mamie Geneva Doud Eisenhower
519
19
Julia Dent Grant
519
40
Elizabeth Bloomer Ford
518
5
Elizabeth Kortright Monroe
515
38
Claudia Taylor (Lady Bird) Johnson
511
30
Edith Bolling Galt Wilson
511
6
Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams
511
21
Lucretia Rudolph Garfield
509
4
Dolly Madison
506
31
Florence Kling Harding
504
10
Letitia Christian Tyler
500
17
Mary Todd Lincon
493
14
Abigail Powers Fillmore
486
27
Edith Kermit Cardow Roosevelt
485
16
Harriet Lane*
484
24
Caroline Lavinia Scott Harrison
481
13
Margaret Mackall Smith Taylor
464
9
Anna Tuthill Symmes Harrison
440
18
Eliza McCardle Johnson
432
23,25
Frances Folsom Cleveland
429
22
Ellen Lewis Herndon Arthur
427
7
Rachel Donelson Jackson
413
8
Hannah Hoes Van Buren
407
* Niece of lifelong bachelor James Buchanan. Data compiled by Smart Politics.

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2 Comments


  • What a surprise and funny story. Iconic First Ladies, to me, are Eleanor Roosevelt and Jacqueline Kennedy.
    Laura Bush's painting is nice by the way.

  • No malice intended but while Laura Bush's page lists accomplishments I hadn't known before, it still struck me as excessively laudatory.

    That may, however, reflect my perception that of our modern-day First Ladies she was among the most shy and least charismatic.

    In that particular category, the FL I'd most like to know more about is poor, epileptic Ida McKinley.

    According to her WH page:

    "Contrary to protocol, she was seated beside the President at state dinners and he, as always, kept close watch for signs of an impending seizure. If necessary, he would cover her face with a large handkerchief for a moment."

    God, what a ghastly moment that must have been for all concerned, yet I've read that after her husband's assassination Ida never had another epileptic seizure.

    Pardon my rambling & thanks for an enjoyable post.

  • Leave a comment


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