Birthday: August 18, 1927
Age: 94 Years, 94 Year Old Females
Sun Sign: Leo
Also Known As: Eleanor Rosalynn Smith Carter
Born in: Plains, Georgia
Famous as: Former First Lady, Activist
Spouse/Ex-: Jimmy Carter (m. 1946)
children: Amie Carter, Donnel Carter, Jack Carter, James Carter
U.S. State: Georgia
education: Georgia Southwestern State University
awards: American Peace Award
Delta Prize for Global Understanding
National Women's Hall of Fame
Women's Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award
Presidential Medal of Freedom
Who is Rosalynn Carter?
Rosalynn Carter is the wife of Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States. She served as the first lady of the United States from 1977 to 1981. She was Jimmy’s closest advisor during the presidency. She also supported many social causes over the years, mostly during her stay in the White House. Most of all, she has been concerned towards the mental health area and worked extensively to diminish the stigma attached to the psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. Born and brought up in Georgia, Rosalynn had to drop out of the college midway due to financial difficulties. She met Jimmy Carter through a common friend and got married to him in 1946 when she was 18 years old. Throughout the 60’s and the 70’s, she worked to support the political career of Jimmy. Other than being the Active Honorary Chairman of President’s Commission on mental health, she had advocated women rights. In 1984, she released her autobiography titled ‘First Lady from Plains’. She has been active in the social activism till now and is remembered as one of the most generous, strong-willed and socially and politically active first ladies in the American history.
Childhood & Early Life
Rosalynn Carter was born as Eleanor Rosalynn Smith in Plains, Georgia on 18th August 1927 to a lower middle class family. She was the eldest of four children born to Wilburn Edgar Smith and his wife Allie Murray Smith. Wilburn worked as a farmer and a mechanic and hardly made enough money to make the family go on without hassles.
Rosalynn grew in poverty but she says that their parents were kind and didn’t let their children know what being poor was. They belonged to a relatively poor locality where each one of the neighbouring families struggled to make the ends meet. Rosalynn played with boys from her neighbourhood as there was no girl of her age around. That could be one reason why she turned out to be a strong willed woman.
When she was 13 years old, her father died and the family became highly dependent on the mother and the eldest sister Rosalynn. She was good in academics but post her father’s death she started working with her mother to get going. She learned hairdressing and worked as a hairdresser for many years.
She attended Plains High School and studied very hard to fulfil her demised father’s wishes of seeing Rosalynn attending college. Since her childhood years, she was highly interested in structures she saw around her, which led her to believe that maybe she would have a bright future in architecture. Once she was out of high school, she enrolled into Georgia Southwestern College. But due to the lacklustre financial conditions of the family, she had to drop out midway.
She had already met and started dating Jimmy Carter before she went to college, who was attending the Annapolis Naval Academy at that time. In December 1945, Jimmy proposed her for marriage but she denied thinking she was too young for a serious commitment. However, she didn’t refuse when Jimmy proposed her second time just a couple of months later. And thus began Rosalynn’s journey towards becoming the strong support system of an enigmatic politician Jimmy Carter.
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Georgia s First Lady
Jimmy’s career took him to many different naval bases around the country and Rosalynn accompanied him wherever he went. For the next seven years the couple gave birth to three children while Rosalynn continued with self studies in arts and literature.
Jimmy’s father died in 1953, following which he quit his job as a naval worked and returned back to the plains, his hometown, and started working in his family’s peanut business. Jimmy ran the business while Rosalynn looked after the accounting books. Meanwhile, Jimmy started gaining an interest in politics and his family having a strong social status in Plains, Jimmy started campaigning for seat in Georgia’s senate.
In 1961, Jimmy was finally elected in the senate and while he looked after a political career and attended legislative sessions, Rosalynn looked after the business. Jimmy’s political correspondence was also handled by her during his two consecutive terms as the senator.
In 1970, Jimmy ran for the seat of Georgia’s governor and Rosalynn strongly stood by him and had an active role in the campaigning process. This was the time when she faced sudden bouts of anxiety and depression and became aware of the mental health issues which weren’t taken very seriously back in those days. She also conversed with many people during that time and became further determined to tackle the issues.
Jimmy eventually became the governor of Georgia and Rosalynn fulfilled all the duties as the first lady, such as hosting the delegates. She also went many steps further and handled the finances in the mansion along with writing a book about her experience of living in the governor’s place. Apart from all that, she started working towards mental health and worked closely with Governor’s Commission to Improve Services to the mentally and Emotionally Handicapped.
The White House
In 1974, Jimmy Carter announced that he would be contesting in the 1976 Presidential elections. Rosalynn started campaigning for him and travelled almost every other state of the United States and advocated Jimmy’s deeds as the governor of Georgia. She came into public notice when she became the first lady to make a campaign promise for herself in order to improve the mental health care system in the country.
When Jimmy was elected as the 39th President of the United States, it was said to be the result of Rosalynn’s emotional impact on the public. Anyways, she held a place in Jimmy’s cabinet and advised him on several domestic and international affairs. She also travelled neighbouring countries as personal representative of the President of the United States, her husband Jimmy Carter.
However, the American political collective didn’t agree to that and considered her highly under skilled to be handed over such important meetings. Jimmy was further criticized for giving too much power to her. Rosalynn understood and stopped her political travels and turned them into humanitarian trips instead.
Rosalynn then went on serving on Active Honorary Chair President’s Commission on Mental Health. She handed over the Mental Health System Bill to congress in 1979, hence fulfilling her election campaign promise. The bill supported the state and federal support for the mentally ill patients and also to diminish the discrimination against the patients. The bill was passed in September 1980.
Apart from mental health issues, her other most important concern was welfare of the elderly. The age discrimination act was subsequently passed, which lifted the restrictions on the age of retirement in the American workforce.
She was a down to earth person and well aware of her moral obligations as the first lady of the United States. She herself selected the menus during the dinners, refused to serve hard alcohols during parties, wore non-designer simple attires and introduced poetry and jazz festivals into the White House. These things, among others, made her the most loved first Lady in the history.
Life Post White House
In 1980, Jimmy intended to run for the presidency yet again but he was mostly confined to the White House owing to the Iranian Hostage Crisis. During that time, Rosalynn went out of her way to campaign on his behalf. Despite that, Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy to become the 40th President of the United States.
Although she was no longer the first lady of the United States, she didn’t sit idle and co-authored her autobiography ‘First Lady from Plains’. It was highly praised as it gave an honest account of her husband’s work ethics in the White House. She also worked strongly towards other issues such as childhood immunization, women safety and equality, conflict resolution and human rights.
For her work towards the causes, she was awarded with numerous honours during her lifetime. One among them was Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest American Civil Honour. She also won the Georgia Woman of the Year in 1996 and American Peace Award in 2009.