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Why Being the First Lady Can Be the Second Hardest Job in the Nation

Why Being the First Lady Can Be the Second Hardest Job in the Nation

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The photos of First Ladies Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Melania Trump paying respects to Barbara Bush at her funeral remind us that there are many ways to be a modern first lady. Sometimes they perfectly reflect the times we live in; sometimes they are way ahead of their time; and sometimes they lag behind progress women are making in society.

In other words, people admire them or revile them. But they are expected to be a presence on the national and international scene no matter the buzz about them.

From the very first presidency, Martha Washington revealed that presidential spouses would play some role in the public life of America’s chief executives. George Washington decided that his wife should preside over a “drawing room” reception each Friday evening at the president’s residence, then located in New York, where she would greet men and women who came to meet her husband. The Washingtons also hosted weekly dinner parties for government officials and foreign dignitaries.

VIDEO: Mrs. President: Dolley Madison: From her eye-catching fashion to her penchant for politics, Dolley Madison set the stage for future first ladies.

Dolley Madison perfected the art of presidential entertaining in the early 1800s, making the incommodious aspects of the new capital, Washington, D.C., more tolerable and uniting political opponents around convivial soirees over which she presided in fashion-setting dresses and head-pieces that included dramatic feathers.

Mary Todd Lincoln’s stylish wardrobe was a source of journalistic gossip, and her extravagant taste in clothes and White House furnishings (particularly in light of national sacrifices during the Civil War) embarrassed her frugal husband.

Eleanor Roosevelt attracted opprobrium for her unprecedentedly active political role in FDR’s twelve-year presidency. Given the physical constraints he faced from polio’s aftereffects, she served as his surrogate while traveling the globe, collecting observations that she shared with the president. But Eleanor had her own, often more liberal, social agenda, and, if conservatives hated “that man” (as they called the president), they may have despised the first lady even more.

Following Mrs. Roosevelt’s very active and controversial first ladyship, Bess Truman, Mamie Eisenhower, Jackie Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson and Pat Nixon resorted to a more traditional model of what political scientist Robert Watson labels “supportive spouses/model wives,” a perfect match for post-World War II era domesticity. With the exception of Mrs. Johnson, who extensively campaigned for LBJ and worked on beautifying America as part of her public policy project, these first ladies were content to host social events and stand behind their men.

Mrs. Truman disliked Washington and spent considerable time in her hometown of Independence, Missouri, abandoning the president to lead a lonely life in the White House or Blair House, while the Executive Mansion was gutted and restored.

As the modern women’s movement progressed in the 1970s, Betty Ford and Rosalynn Carter began to forge a new template for first ladies as active, political partners. Mrs. Ford made headlines with her outspoken positions in favor of women’s rights and encouraged President Ford to nominate the first female to the U.S. Supreme Court. (He didn’t, appointing John Paul Stevens instead.) Attending Cabinet meetings and testifying before Congress, Mrs. Carter publicly championed the cause of effective treatments for mental illness.

Nancy Reagan seemed a contrast to these two liberated first ladies in her more traditional marriage. Known for gazing adoringly at her husband, she only reluctantly embraced an anti-drug policy as an antidote to criticism of her more extravagant Hollywood lifestyle. Following the Carters’ attempts to mitigate the imperial presidency, the Reagans reinstated the more lavish elements of White House entertaining, a politically tone deaf move in the midst of the early 1980s’ recession.

Babara Bush managed to hit an almost perfect note for her time. Although both George and Barbara Bush were to-the-manner-born, and summered at the family compound in tony Kennebunkport, Maine, the first lady won over the hearts of average Americans with her authenticity, frankness, grandmotherly persona and embrace of family literacy. The epitome of a World War II generation matron, she had married handsome Navy aviator George H. W. Bush at age 19, never pursued a professional career outside the home, and devotedly kept the home fires burning while her husband climbed the ladders of success in business and politics. She will likely be the last presidential spouse not to have her own professional life before arriving at the White House.

When Barbara Bush died at age ninety-two, Jon Meacham eulogized her as the “last first lady of the Greatest Generation.” Indeed, she represented a bridge from the home-centric lives of women in that cohort to the career-orientated Baby Boomers, like her successor Hillary Clinton. Candidate Bill Clinton famously declared that voters would get “two for the price of one” by electing him, and, in fact, his wife saw herself as a sort of co-president in driving the health care reform policy process. Despite her brilliant defense of it before congressional committees, the bill failed. Negative reaction to her stepping beyond the informal bounds of an unaccountable first lady resulted in Mrs. Clinton’s returning to a more traditional model of promoting women’s and children’s causes. She had to wait until after her husband’s tumultuous second term to become the first former first lady to be elected to the Senate, become Secretary of State, and be the first woman presidential nominee of a major party.

VIDEO: Barbara Bush: In Memoriam (1925-2018) – First Lady and First Mom: HISTORY honors First Lady Barbara Bush, only the second woman in history to have been the wife and mother of a president, who died April 17th, 2018 at the age of 92.

Mrs. Clinton’s missteps required subsequent first ladies Laura Bush and Michelle Obama to embrace the previous traditional role for first ladies in order to comply with the “un-Hillary” model demanded by voters. Laura Bush, a former school librarian, naturally followed her mother-in-law’s precedent and embraced literacy as her pet policy. Despite Mrs. Obama’s impressive career in law and hospital administration, she focused on “soft power” issues of nutrition and children’s health. But her extroverted personality prompted pop-culture appearances with late-night comedian Jimmy Fallon and on the teen sit-com “iCarly” – which, again, seemed in step with the times. Like Jackie Kennedy and Melania Trump, Mrs. Obama performed the unenviable task of raising young children in the White House fishbowl.

​At her controversial but ultimately triumphant speech at Wellesley College in 1990, Barbara Bush remarked that one day a member of the audience might walk in her footsteps as the president’s spouse. The punchline, “And I wish him well,” brought down the house. Only when a man assumes the role of first gentleman might the presidential spouse model match the desires and qualifications of the individual in that role, rather than the expectations and demands of the body politic.

Barbara A. Perry is Presidential Studies Director at UVA’s Miller Center. Follow her on Twitter @BarbaraPerryUVA.

History Reads features the work of prominent authors and historians.

Our New Postracial Myth

The postracial idea is the most sophisticated racist idea ever produced.

About the author: Ibram X. Kendi is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and the director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. He is the author of several books, including the National Book Award–winning Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in Americaand How to Be an Antiracist.

T he signposts of racism are staring back at us in big, bold racial inequities. But some Americans are ignoring the signposts, walking on by racial inequity, riding on by the evidence, and proclaiming their belief with religious fervor. “America is not a racist country,” Senator Tim Scott said in April.

Black babies die at twice the rate of white babies. Roughly a fifth of Native Americans and Latino Americans are medically uninsured, almost triple the rate of white Americans and Asian Americans (7.8 and 7.2 percent, respectively). Native people (24.2 percent) are nearly three times as likely as white people (9 percent) to be impoverished. The life expectancy of Black Americans (74.5 years) is much lower than that of white Americans (78.6 years). White Americans account for 77 percent of the voting members of the 117th Congress, even though they represent 60 percent of the U.S. population.

Just as you can recognize an impoverished country by its widespread poverty, you can recognize a racist country by its widespread racial inequity. In the United States, Black college graduates owe an average of $25,000 more in student loans than white college graduates. Native Americans die from police violence at three times the rate of white people Black people die at 2.6 times the rate and Latino people die at 1.3 times the rate. In the United States, racial inequity is widespread by any measure.

And yet, some don’t want the American people to stop and see. They don’t want our kids to learn about the racism causing racial inequity. They are trying to ban teaching it in schools Florida passed the latest such ban last Thursday.

They can’t acknowledge racial inequity because to acknowledge it is to discuss why it exists and persists. To discuss why racial inequity exists and persists is to point to the libraries of nonpartisan studies documenting widespread racism in the United States.

To say that there is widespread racial inequity caused by widespread racism, which makes the United States racist, isn’t an opinion, isn’t a partisan position, isn’t a doctrine, isn’t a left-wing construct, isn’t anti-white, and isn’t anti-American. It is a fact. But in recent years, some have reduced a host of facts to beliefs. “I don’t believe that,” Donald Trump said in September when a reporter asked him about the existence of systemic racism.

This is a precarious time. There are people tired of quarantining their racist beliefs, anxious about being held accountable by “wokeism” and “cancel culture,” yearning to get back to the normality of blaming Black inferiority for racial inequity. The believers are going after these people with disinformation. They are putting words in the mouths of Black Lives Matter activists, critical race theorists, the writers of the 1619 Project, and anti-racist intellectuals—and attacking the words they put in our mouths. Representative Ralph Norman of South Carolina claims that we believe “people with white skin are inherently racist.” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis claims that we believe “all our institutions are bankrupt, and they’re illegitimate.”

No nation, no person, is inherently or permanently racist. The anti-racist resistance to slavery and Jim Crow is as much a part of American history as those peculiar institutions are. White people have been abolitionists and civil-rights activists, and they are among the people striving to be anti-racist today. Some institutions in the United States have been vehicles of equity and justice. But what we write or say or think doesn’t matter to the believers. All that matters to them is ensuring that adults and children continue to walk on by the signposts of racism that implicate them. All the believers want to do is make myths out of reality to keep the American people out of reality.

“It is time for America to discard the left-wing myth of systemic racism,” former Vice President Mike Pence tweeted on June 3. “America is not a racist Nation—America is the most just, righteous, noble and inclusive Nation that has ever existed on the face of the earth!”

“America is not a racist Nation” is the new “America is a postracial nation.” We are witnessing the birth of the new postracial project.

I couldn’t have directed anyone to my favorite Philadelphia restaurant as a doctoral student in 2008. It had no sign. I don’t even remember its name. Most people walking by it on North Broad Street would not have known it was there. Whenever I walked in, searching for a late-night meal, I was greeted by its unappetizing decor.

But I adored this discreet hole-in-the-wall, blocks from my home in North Philadelphia. I adored what I smelled whenever I stepped inside. I adored what I heard—the unseen owner/cook/waitress/hostess greeting me from far back in the steaming kitchen.

Forgive me. I don’t remember the elderly Black woman’s name. I’m not much of a small talker. Neither was she.

Most nights, I’d walk over to the kitchen. I’d return her greeting. I’d order a platter. I’d sit on down and wait. And wait. And read. And think. And wait. All in perfect peace.

But not on the night of January 3, 2008. A tiny, grainy box television seized my attention as soon as I heard it. I had not been following the presidential campaign season closely. I didn’t watch much television or read much news. I had been hibernating in my studies since beginning my doctoral program months earlier.

So on that night, I did not go to the kitchen. I shouted my order as I’d seen other people do. She nodded and kept on cooking.

All the tables were empty. I chose one. The TV was mounted where the grime of the ceiling and discoloration of the wall met. I did not know that Iowa had had its Democratic caucus that day. I sat in silent shock when the network announced that the Black candidate had won that lily-white state.

When he came out to deafening applause from his supporters, the cook turned waitress came out with her food and her smile. She placed both down on my table without a word. Then she turned around and looked up, like me, at the mounted TV.

Almost as if on cue from a director, Senator Barack Obama began to speak.

“Thank you, Iowa,” he began. “You know, they said this day would never come.”

The crowd applauded. I sat there, still, like my food.

“But on this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do.”

Obama spoke on and the lady stood on, rugged and tender, like our environment.

“We’re choosing unity over division, and sending a powerful message that change is coming to America.”

The message was indeed powerful. If he could win Iowa, he could win America. Change seemed to be coming. The audience started chanting.

“We want change! We want change! We want change! We want change!”

By the next morning, some white Americans had started transfiguring We want change into We have changed. “What was remarkable was the extent to which race was not a factor in this contest,” Adam Nagourney wrote in The New York Times.

As Obama won more primaries, the narrative spread. The fact that racial inequity existed and persisted didn’t matter. The day after Obama won South Carolina on January 26, Peter J. Boyer identified Obama and Cory Booker, then Newark’s mayor, as members of “the post-racial generation” in The New Yorker.

By the end of January, journalists were explaining what “postracial” meant. “The post-racial era, as embodied by Obama, is the era where civil rights veterans of the past century are consigned to history and Americans begin to make race-free judgments on who should lead them,” NPR’s legendary analyst Daniel Schorr reported, adding that “it may still be too early to speak of a generation of colorblind voters, but maybe color blurred?”

Thereafter, Obama’s campaign tunes of racial progress were further remixed as tunes of racial arrival. “So, in answer to the question, ‘Is America past racism against black people,’ I say the answer is yes,” John McWhorter wrote in Forbes weeks after Obama’s election.

T he postracial myth was embedded so deeply into the American consciousness that when Trump ran a racist campaign and won eight years later, countless people were shocked. The myth of a postracial America died with Trump’s election. It has now been resurrected, paving the conceptual way for Trump’s return and the ruin of this nation.

The people who promulgated the original postracial project in 2008 aren’t necessarily the same people resurrecting it today. The postracial myth was first propagated by liberals who were eager to avoid grappling with persistent inequities. Back then, many liberals were stepping over the reality of inequality to fantasize that the nation had done the impossible—elected a Black president—because it had overcome racism. The denial of racism stymied the battle against it, leading many Americans to underestimate the political appeal of birtherism and Trump, providing a clear runway for his MAGA campaign to take off, and then allowing it to land in the White House.

And now, even though Trump’s ghastly presidency and the ghastly murder of George Floyd awoke many liberals to the need to build an anti-racist nation, many conservatives have seized on the postracial myth to fight those efforts. They insist that anti-racism is anti-white. That insistence echoes the mantra coined by the longtime white supremacist Robert Whitaker in 2006: “Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.” GOP politicians want their voters to feel aggrieved and enraged before the 2022 election. They want them to believe the violent lie that teaching critical race theory amounts to attacking and harming white children. Republican politicians want their voters to believe the fantasy that systemic racism is “a bunch of horse manure,” as DeSantis called it.

But I’m hardly shocked that this racist idea has been resurrected. The postracial idea is the most sophisticated racist idea ever produced. It keeps resurfacing and mutating and harming in new forms.

Crude popularizers of racist ideas, such as Trump, tell people precisely how other racial groups are inferior immigrants from Latin America, he said, are criminals, drug dealers, and rapists. That sort of racism is relatively easy to recognize and dismiss.

But the postracial idea is the hardest racist idea to put down. Everyone is inclined to consume it. White people and people of color alike long for racism to end. When we yearn for something to end—and don’t know what the end looks like—it is easy to make ourselves believe the end is near. Believing the myth of a postracial America is a cheap way to feel good, like buying the fast food down the block from my favorite restaurant in Philadelphia. We don’t realize that to believe the postracial myth is to normalize racial inequity and deny that racism is dividing and devastating our society.

Because although Americans see racial inequity, we don’t all agree on its causes. Many Americans search for nonracial explanations for racial inequity, particularly class and its proxy, education. But presenting class as the answer avoids the question of why people of color are unduly poor and white people are disproportionately wealthy. It ignores the racial inequities between classes. It ignores the fact that in New York City, college-educated Black women suffer more severe pregnancy-related complications than do white women who haven’t completed high school. It ignores the fact that white Americans who haven’t graduated high school have more wealth than Black college graduates.

The cause of racial inequity is either racist policy or racial hierarchy. The racial problem is the result of bad policies or bad people. Either Asian New Yorkers experienced the highest surge in unemployment during the pandemic because they are lazy and prefer welfare over work—or the inequity is the result of racist policy. Either Black and Latino people are the least likely to be vaccinated against COVID-19 because there’s something wrong with them—or the inequity stems from racist policy. Either Black girls are six times as likely to be expelled from school as white girls because they misbehave more—or the inequity is caused by racist policy. To believe in racial hierarchy, to say that something is wrong with a racial group, is to express racist ideas.

The sophistication of the postracial myth is simple: Eliminating the explanation of racism for racial inequity ensures that the believers willingly consume and cook up their own racist ideas to explain the racial inequity all around them.

I’ d often bring a bag of books to my favorite restaurant. I’d read as I waited a long while for my food. I devoured books and essays on Black life, racism, anti-racism, and history. I had studied these topics for years. But nothing prepared me for the intensity of doctoral studies. Nothing prepared me for the precision and collisions of the sharp minds around me. Nothing prepared me for writing practically a book a semester in the form of multiple 30-page research papers. Nothing prepared me for the total life immersion of study.

In fact, I was readying myself to join a guild of intellectuals with expertise on the structures of racism. This guild studies, diagnoses, and strives to eliminate racism. The believers call us “race hustlers,” but they would never call oncologists “cancer hustlers.” They’ll do anything to delegitimize our training and expertise, which veils their absence of training and expertise, which legitimizes their postracial fairy tales.

Fighting racism—in academia, in media, in activism, in art, in education, or in public service—is more than a job for most of us. It’s a calling to save nations from their national histories, to save human beings from human beings. Racism is an existential threat to the United States, like climate change, pandemics, and nuclear war. We know that the American people can’t handle this truth, but we tell them anyway and brace ourselves for the postracial gales bound to come—such as this one.

Our multiracial, multidisciplinary, multisectoral guild remains as indistinct on the streets of the U.S. as my favorite restaurant was 13 years ago. We don’t have a name. We don’t hold up signs displaying our expertise. To the American people, our expertise simultaneously exists and doesn’t. It exists when people believe us. It doesn’t exist when people don’t believe us. Our remedies and reparations for racism are rejected when they go “too far.”

Because everyone, apparently, is an authority on damn near everything. I can tell an astrophysicist that she is wrong about the existence of extrasolar planets, and she can tell me that I am wrong about the existence of racism. Humility is dead. Expertise is losing out to the world of make-believe, where everyone knows it all, where the climate isn’t changing, where vaccines aren’t saving lives, where teaching our kids the truth is harmful, where anti-poverty programs aren’t better crime fighters than cops, where assault rifles aren’t used to commit mass murder, where Nikole Hannah-Jones doesn’t deserve tenure, where the 2020 election wasn’t legitimate, and where the original postracial project didn’t produce the infernal Trump presidency.

To use W. E. B. Du Bois’s words, “lies agreed upon” are king. Ignorance preyed upon is king. Patriotism as racism is king. The conspiracy theory is king.

Anyone can diagnose their nation as “not racist.” In the world of make-believe, who cares whether they can’t define what they mean by that? Who cares about definitions? Who cares about the vulnerability of kids to racist messages? Who cares about education? Who cares whether GOP state legislators are attacking the recognition of racism as they institute racist voting policies to maintain their power? Who cares about democracy? Anyone can be interviewed and listened to and taken seriously when they claim that racism doesn’t exist, when they vilify the 1619 Project, when they demonize critical race theory, when they slander anti-racism—when they wholly disregard racial inequity and injustice and violence. Anyone can participate in the new postracial project.

I watched Obama’s Iowa victory speech on a tiny mounted television with a stranger as my food cooled. I hardly realized that at that very moment, racial reality was cooling too.

“This was the moment,” Obama proclaimed that night.

This was the moment when the eagerness of many Americans to close the book on America’s racist past ended up closing the book on America’s racist present, which closed the book on America’s racist future, which wrote the book on how America ends.

“This was the moment,” Obama said again. “Years from now, you’ll look back and you’ll say that this was the moment.”

Indeed, this was the moment when the American people created the original postracial project that is bearing down on Americans yet again, like a knife over a nation’s heart.


The use of the title First Lady to describe the spouse or hostess of an executive began in the United States. In the early days of the republic, there was not a generally accepted title for the wife of the president. Many early first ladies expressed their own preference for how they were addressed, including the use of such titles as "Lady", "Mrs. President" and "Mrs. Presidentress" Martha Washington was often referred to as "Lady Washington". One of the earliest uses of the term "First Lady" was applied to her in an 1838 newspaper article that appeared in the St. Johnsbury Caledonian, the author, "Mrs. Sigourney", discussing how Martha Washington had not changed, even after her husband George became president. She wrote that "The first lady of the nation still preserved the habits of early life. Indulging in no indolence, she left the pillow at dawn, and after breakfast, retired to her chamber for an hour for the study of the scriptures and devotion." [3]

Dolley Madison was reportedly referred to as first lady in 1849 at her funeral in a eulogy delivered by President Zachary Taylor however, no written record of this eulogy exists, nor did any of the newspapers of her day refer to her by that title. [4] Sometime after 1849, the title began being used in Washington, D.C., social circles. One of the earliest known written examples comes from November 3, 1863, diary entry of William Howard Russell, in which he referred to gossip about "the First Lady in the Land", referring to Mary Todd Lincoln. The title first gained nationwide recognition in 1877, when newspaper journalist Mary C. Ames referred to Lucy Webb Hayes as "the First Lady of the Land" while reporting on the inauguration of Rutherford B. Hayes. The frequent reporting on Lucy Hayes' activities helped spread use of the title outside Washington. A popular 1911 comedic play about Dolley Madison by playwright Charles Nirdlinger, titled The First Lady in the Land, popularized the title further. By the 1930s, it was in wide use. Use of the title later spread from the United States to other nations.

When Edith Wilson took control of her husband's schedule in 1919 after he had a debilitating stroke, one Republican senator labeled her "the Presidentress who had fulfilled the dream of the suffragettes by changing her title from First Lady to Acting First Man". [5]

Another acronym used is FLOTUS, or First Lady of the United States. According to the Nexis database, the term (which is pronounced FLOW-tus, to rhyme with POTUS, and not FLOT-tus) was first used in 1983 by Donnie Radcliffe, writing in The Washington Post. [6] [7]

Non-spouses in the role Edit

Several women (at least thirteen) who were not presidents' wives have served as first lady, as when the president was a bachelor or widower, or when the wife of the president was unable to fulfill the duties of the first lady herself. In these cases, the position has been filled by a female relative or friend of the president, such as Jefferson's daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph, Jackson's daughter-in-law Sarah Yorke Jackson and his wife's niece Emily Donelson, Taylor's daughter Mary Elizabeth Bliss, Benjamin Harrison's daughter Mary Harrison McKee, Buchanan's niece Harriet Lane, and Cleveland's sister Rose Cleveland. [ citation needed ]

Potential male title Edit

Each of the 46 presidents of the United States have been male, all of whom have either had their wives, or a female hostess, assume the role of First Lady. Thus, a male equivalent for the title of first lady has never been needed. However, in 2016, as Hillary Clinton became the first woman to win a major party's presidential nomination, questions were raised as to what her husband Bill would be titled if she were to win the presidency. During the campaign, the title of First Gentleman of the United States was most frequently suggested for Bill Clinton, although as a former president himself, he may be called "Mr. President". [8] In addition, state governors' male spouses are typically called the First Gentleman of their respective state (for example, Michael Haley was the First Gentleman of South Carolina while his wife, Nikki, served as governor). [9] Ultimately, Hillary Clinton lost the election, rendering this a moot point.

In 2021, Kamala Harris became the first woman to hold a nationally elected office when she took office as vice-president, making her husband, Doug Emhoff, the first male spouse of a nationally elected officeholder. Emhoff assumed the title of Second Gentleman of the United States ("gentleman" replacing "Lady" in the title) making it likely that any future male spouse of a president will be given the title of First Gentleman. [10]

The position of the first lady is not an elected one and carries only ceremonial duties. Nonetheless, first ladies have held a highly visible position in American society. [11] The role of the first lady has evolved over the centuries. She is, first and foremost, the hostess of the White House. [11] She organizes and attends official ceremonies and functions of state either along with, or in place of, the president. Lisa Burns identifies four successive main themes of the first ladyship: as public woman (1900–1929) as political celebrity (1932–1961) as political activist (1964–1977) and as political interloper (1980–2001). [12]

Martha Washington created the role and hosted many affairs of state at the national capital (New York and Philadelphia). This socializing became known as the Republican Court and provided elite women with opportunities to play backstage political roles. [13] Both Martha Washington and Abigail Adams were treated as if they were "ladies" of the British royal court. [11]

Dolley Madison popularized the first ladyship by engaging in efforts to assist orphans and women, by dressing in elegant fashions and attracting newspaper coverage, and by risking her life to save iconic treasures during the War of 1812. Madison set the standard for the ladyship and her actions were the model for nearly every first lady until Eleanor Roosevelt in the 1930s. [11] Roosevelt traveled widely and spoke to many groups, often voicing personal opinions to the left of the president's. She authored a weekly newspaper column and hosted a radio show. [14] Jacqueline Kennedy led an effort to redecorate and restore the White House. [15]

Many first ladies became significant fashion trendsetters. [11] Some have exercised a degree of political influence by virtue of being an important adviser to the president. [11]

Over the course of the 20th century, it became increasingly common for first ladies to select specific causes to promote, usually ones that are not politically divisive. It is common for the first lady to hire a staff to support these activities. Lady Bird Johnson pioneered environmental protection and beautification. [16] Pat Nixon encouraged volunteerism and traveled extensively abroad Betty Ford supported women's rights Rosalynn Carter aided those with mental disabilities Nancy Reagan founded the Just Say No drug awareness campaign Barbara Bush promoted literacy Hillary Clinton sought to reform the healthcare system in the U.S. Laura Bush supported women's rights groups, and encouraged childhood literacy. [11] Michelle Obama became identified with supporting military families and tackling childhood obesity [17] and Melania Trump used her position to help children, including prevention of cyberbullying and support for those whose lives are affected by drugs. [18]

Since 1964, the incumbent and all living former first ladies are honorary members of the board of trustees of the National Cultural Center, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. [19]

Near the end of her husband's presidency, Clinton became the first first lady to seek political office, when she ran for United States Senate. During the campaign, her daughter Chelsea took over much of the first lady's role. Victorious, Clinton served as junior senator from New York from 2001 to 2009, when she resigned to become President Obama's secretary of state. Later, she was the Democratic Party nominee for president in the 2016 election, but lost to Donald Trump.

The Office of the First Lady of the United States is accountable to the first lady for her to carry out her duties as hostess of the White House, and is also in charge of all social and ceremonial events of the White House. The first lady has her own staff that includes a chief of staff, press secretary, White House Social Secretary, and Chief Floral Designer. The Office of the First Lady is an entity of the White House Office, a branch of the Executive Office of the President. [20] When First Lady Hillary Clinton decided to pursue a run for Senator of New York, she set aside her duties as first lady [21] and moved to Chappaqua, New York, to establish state residency. [22] She resumed her duties as first lady after winning her senatorial campaign, [23] and retained her duties as both first lady and a U.S. senator for the seventeen-day overlap before Bill Clinton's term came to an end. [24]

Despite the significant responsibilities usually handled by the first lady, she does not receive a salary.

Established in 1912, the First Ladies Collection has been one of the most popular attractions at the Smithsonian Institution. The original exhibition opened in 1914 and was one of the first at the Smithsonian to prominently feature women. Originally focused largely on fashion, the exhibition now delves deeper into the contributions of first ladies to the presidency and American society. In 2008, "First Ladies at the Smithsonian" opened at the National Museum of American History as part of its reopening year celebration. That exhibition served as a bridge to the museum's expanded exhibition on first ladies' history that opened on November 19, 2011. "The First Ladies" explores the unofficial but important position of first lady and the ways that different women have shaped the role to make their own contributions to the presidential administrations and the nation. The exhibition features 26 dresses and more than 160 other objects, ranging from those of Martha Washington to Michelle Obama, and includes White House china, personal possessions and other objects from the Smithsonian's unique collection of first ladies' materials. [25]

Some first ladies have garnered attention for their dress and style. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, for instance, became a global fashion icon: her style was copied by commercial manufacturers and imitated by many young women, and she was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1965. [26] [27] Mamie Eisenhower was named one of the twelve best-dressed women in the country by the New York Dress Institute every year that she was First Lady. The "Mamie Look" involved a full-skirted dress, charm bracelets, pearls, little hats, and bobbed, banged hair. [28] Michelle Obama also received significant attention for her fashion choices: style writer Robin Givhan praised her in The Daily Beast, arguing that the First Lady's style had helped to enhance the public image of the office. [29]

During the Mid-20th century, it became common for the First ladies to adopt specific causes to frequently speak about. It also became common for the First lady to hire a staff to support her agenda. Recent causes of the First Lady are:

  • Eleanor Roosevelt Women's rights, civil rights, and humanitarian efforts
  • Jacqueline Kennedy White House restoration and the Arts
  • Lady Bird Johnson Environmental protection and Beautification
  • Pat Nixon Volunteerism
  • Betty Ford Women's rights, Substance abuse
  • Rosalynn Carter Mental health
  • Nancy Reagan "Just Say No", drug awareness
  • Barbara Bush Childhood literacy
  • Hillary Clinton Healthcare in the United States
  • Laura Bush Childhood literacy
  • Michelle Obama "Let's Move!" reducing childhood obesity
  • Melania Trump "Be Best" cyberbullying awareness
  • Jill Biden "Joining Forces" military families

As of January 2021 [update] , there are five living former first ladies, as identified below.

Second Marriages Are More Likely To End In Divorce. Here's Why

Marrying for a second ― or third time ― is not for the faint of heart.

Even with the best intentions, statistics show that second or later marriages are much more likely to end in divorce than first marriages.

Why are these unions more perilous than first marriages? Below, marriage therapists share seven reasons why remarrying couples have a harder time staying together.

“A lot of couples enter into second marriages before the first one is finished. This can contribute to trust issues surfacing later on in areas such as communication with an ex or activity on social media sites. Healthy boundaries are crucial in all relationships, but especially in second marriages.” ― Kurt Smith , a therapist who counsels men

“In first marriages, it’s expected that couples will split finances as well as share financial goals and responsibilities. Because of the higher age of couples in second marriages, couples often get together with much more financial assets than they had in their first marriages. They also probably had independent financial goals they’ve been working towards for a long time before they got married a second time. And just because they’re married now doesn’t mean that their goals should change from what they were before they were married. There are also questions about how to split household finances and how to divide assets that were accrued before the current marriage. Money is already a top issue that couples fight about. With more complicated finances, couples in second marriages are more likely to fight about finances, which often leads to divorce.” ― Aaron Anderson , a marriage and family therapist in Denver, Colorado

“Couples remarrying should still get premarital (or pre-commitment) counseling. A good counselor or religious figure will be able to ask the questions you need answered before you wed, including some questions you may not have thought of or are avoiding. You’ll start out on a more secure basis with some independent advice and counsel.” ― Tina B. Tessina, a psychotherapist and author of How To Be A Couple And Still Be Free

A senator from California and a former prosecutor, Ms. Harris has a track record in breaking new ground. Now, she is the first woman, first Black person, and first person of Asian descent elected to the country’s second-highest office.

A barrier-breaking prosecutor with a love for grilling — “Question, I will repeat —” — and music — ♫ “One nation under a groove —” ♫ California Senator Kamala Harris is making history as the first woman, and first woman of color, elected vice president. “Let’s talk about who is prepared to lead our country over the course of the next four years.” She ran for president, going head-to-head with Biden over school busing. “You know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.” But she later endorsed him, and he picked her as his running mate. And soon they will be entering the White House together. “I am incredibly honored by this responsibility, and I am ready to get to work.” Haris has a track record of being the first. “You may be the first to do many things, but make sure you’re not the last.” She was the first black person and first woman to become district attorney of San Francisco, and later attorney general of California. “I decided to become a prosecutor because I believed that there were vulnerable and voiceless people who deserved to have a voice in that system.” And in 2016, she was elected the first Black senator from California. And now she will be the first woman, first Black person and first person of Asian descent elected to the country’s second-highest office. So what is she known for in Washington? “So my question to you —” As a senator, Harris served on four committees, and was perhaps best known for her tough questions. “It makes me nervous.” “Is that a no?” “Is that a yes?” “Can I get to respond please, ma’am?” “No, sir. No, no.” And some of her policy priorities? Criminal justice reform and racial justice legislation. “Racial justice is on the ballot in 2020.” After George Floyd’s killing in police custody, Harris became an outspoken voice in the national debate on police brutality. “We should have things like a national standard for excessive use of force.” And on the campaign trail, she doubled down on that message, making a concerted effort to reach voters of color. “People have been asking, ‘Why should I vote?’ One: Honor the ancestors. Honor people like the late, great John Lewis, who shed his blood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge so we could vote.” But she’s faced criticism from progressive activists over her record as a prosecutor, including her push for higher cash bails for certain crimes, and for refusing to support independent investigations for police shootings as recently as 2014. So what does she bring to the White House? “This is our house!” She is policy-oriented and pragmatic. Proponents say that her experience in law enforcement will help her face the unique challenges of the moment and that her lack of ideological rigidity makes her well suited for the vice presidency. “We can overcome these challenges.” Harris embodies the future of a country that is growing more racially diverse. As one of the best-known Black women in American politics, Harris now finds herself the most clearly positioned heir to the White House, with the oldest incoming president in history.

From the earliest days of her childhood, Kamala Harris was taught that the road to racial justice was long.

She spoke often on the campaign trail of those who had come before her, of her parents, immigrants drawn to the civil rights struggle in the United States — and of the ancestors who had paved the way.

As she took the stage in Texas shortly before the election, Ms. Harris spoke of being singular in her role but not solitary.

“Yes, sister, sometimes we may be the only one that looks like us walking in that room,” she told a largely Black audience in Fort Worth. “But the thing we all know is we never walk in those rooms alone — we are all in that room together.”

With her ascension to the vice presidency, Ms. Harris will become the first woman and first woman of color to hold that office, a milestone for a nation in upheaval, grappling with a damaging history of racial injustice exposed, yet again, in a divisive election. Ms. Harris, 56, embodies the future of a country that is growing more racially diverse, even if the person voters picked for the top of the ticket is a 77-year-old white man.

In her victory speech Saturday, Ms. Harris spoke of her mother and the generations of women of all races who paved the way for this moment. “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last,” she told a cheering and honking audience in Wilmington, Del. “Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”

That she has risen higher in the country’s leadership than any woman ever has underscores the extraordinary arc of her political career. A former San Francisco district attorney, she was elected as the first Black woman to serve as California’s attorney general. When she was elected a United States senator in 2016, she became only the second Black woman in the chamber’s history.

Almost immediately, she made a name for herself in Washington with her withering prosecutorial style in Senate hearings, grilling her adversaries in high-stakes moments that at times went viral.

Yet what also distinguished her was her personal biography: The daughter of a Jamaican father and Indian mother, she was steeped in racial justice issues from her early years in Oakland and Berkeley, Calif., and wrote in her memoir of memories of the chants, shouts and “sea of legs moving about” at protests. She recalled hearing Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to mount a national campaign for president, speak in 1971 at a Black cultural center in Berkeley that she frequented as a young girl. “Talk about strength!” she wrote.

After several years in Montreal, Ms. Harris attended Howard University, a historically Black college and one of the country’s most prestigious, then pursued work as a prosecutor on domestic violence and child exploitation cases. She speaks easily and often of her mother, a breast cancer researcher who died in 2009 of her white and Jewish husband, Douglas Emhoff, who will make history in his own right as the first second gentleman and of her stepchildren, who call her Momala.

It was a story she tried to tell on the campaign trail during the Democratic primary with mixed success. Kicking off her candidacy with homages to Ms. Chisholm, Ms. Harris attracted a crowd in Oakland that her advisers estimated at more than 20,000, a tremendous show of strength that immediately established her as a front-runner in the race. But vying for the nomination against the most diverse field of candidates in history, she failed to capture a surge of support and dropped out weeks before any votes were cast.

Part of her challenge, especially with the party’s progressive wing she sought to win over, was the difficulty she had reconciling her past positions as California’s attorney general with the current mores of her party. She struggled to define her policy agenda, waffling on health care and even her own assault on Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s record on race, perhaps the toughest attack he faced throughout the primary campaign.

“Policy has to be relevant,” Ms. Harris said in an interview with The New York Times in July 2019. “That’s my guiding principle: Is it relevant? Not, ‘Is it a beautiful sonnet?’”

But it is also this lack of ideological rigidity that makes her well suited for the vice presidency, a role that demands a tempering of personal views in deference to the man at the top. As the vice-presidential nominee, Ms. Harris has endeavored to make plain that she supports Mr. Biden’s positions — even if some differ from those she backed during the primary.

While she struggled to attract the very women and Black voters she had hoped would connect with her personal story during her primary bid, she continued to make a concerted effort as Mr. Biden’s running mate to reach out to people of color, some of whom have said they feel represented in national politics for the first time.

Many witnessed — and recoiled at — the persistent racist and sexist attacks from conservatives. President Trump has refused to pronounce her name correctly and after the vice-presidential debate, he derided her as a “monster.”

For some of her supporters, the vitriol Ms. Harris had to withstand was another aspect of her experience they found relatable.

“I know what I was thrown into as the only African-American at the table,” said Clara Faulkner, the mayor pro tem of Forest Hill, Texas, as she waited for Ms. Harris to address a socially distanced crowd in Fort Worth. “It’s just seeing God move in a mighty way.”

While some members of the political establishment professed outrage at the insults, friends of Ms. Harris knew that her pragmatism extended to her understanding of how the political world treats women of color.

Senator Cory Booker, a colleague and friend of Ms. Harris’s who has known her for decades, said in an interview that some of her guardedness was a form of self-protection in a world that has not always embraced a barrier-breaking Black woman.

“She still has this grace about her where it’s almost as if these things don’t affect her spirit,” Mr. Booker said. “She’s endured this for her entire career and she does not give people license to have entrance into her heart.”

After waiting days for results, Democrats rejoiced in a victory that offered a bright spot in an election that delivered losses to many of their candidates, including several high-profile women.

Representative Barbara Lee, Democrat of California, who got involved in politics through Ms. Chisholm’s presidential campaign, said she always believed she would see the first Black woman at the steps of the White House.

“Here you have now this remarkable, brilliant, prepared African-American woman, South Asian woman, ready to fulfill the dreams and aspirations of Shirley Chisholm and myself and so many women of color,” she said. “This is exciting and is finally a breakthrough that so many of us have been waiting for. And it didn’t come easy.”

The Democrats’ down-ballot defeats tempered the celebratory mood a bit, as did a wistful sense among some activists and leaders that this historic first still leaves women in second place — closer than ever to the Oval Office, sure, but not in it.

The end to a presidency that inspired waves of opposition from women, many politically engaged for the first time, has left the “highest, hardest glass ceiling” intact. Democratic primary voters, including a significant number of women, had rallied behind Mr. Biden, eschewing the women and people of color in the race because they believed Mr. Biden would be most capable of beating Mr. Trump. Scarred by Hillary Clinton’s defeat four years ago, many believed the country was not quite ready to elect a female commander in chief.

Ms. Harris’s presence on the ticket will forever be linked to Mr. Biden’s explicit promise to select a female running mate in an acknowledgment that the party’s future probably does not look like him.

Ms. Harris now finds herself the most clearly positioned heir to the White House. Perhaps more than any other vice president in recent memory, she will be carefully scrutinized for her ambitions, a level of attention that is perhaps inevitable for the No. 2 of the oldest incoming No. 1 in history.

Mr. Biden understands this, Mr. Booker said: “He is really bringing us to the next election.”

Allies say Ms. Harris is acutely aware of her place in history. She views her work as connected to both the civil rights leaders who came before her — the “ancestors,” as she calls them — and the generations she hopes to empower.

Representative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington, a rising figure in the party’s left wing, said Ms. Harris’s ascent was a deep source of pride among South Asians, expanding the imaginations of how high they can climb in American public life. Ms. Jayapal has spoken proudly of her own connection to the new vice president, writing an op-ed article in The Los Angeles Times in August describing their intertwined family history in South India.

“She understands what it means to be the child of immigrants — what it means to be a person of color seeking racial justice,” she said, pointing to Ms. Harris’s work on rights for domestic workers and helping Muslim immigrants get access to legal counsel. “There’s just so much you don’t have to explain to a Vice President Harris and I believe she will fight for many of the issues that are important to our South Asian community.”

The small sorority of Black women in federal politics also views Ms. Harris as a mentor and an ally, praising her championing of issues like Black maternal mortality and anti-lynching legislation that have not typically received the spotlight that can follow a high-wattage political brand.

When Representative Lauren Underwood was mounting her first race for Congress, trying to become the first Black woman to win her predominantly white suburban Chicago district, Ms. Harris reached out for coffee.

“There’s not that many Black women who have been at the highest level of politics in this country. Not that many Black women who have run very competitive races,” said Ms. Underwood, who became the youngest Black woman ever elected to Congress in 2018. “To have the opportunity to learn from, counsel from and just know someone who has done that is something I find incredibly valuable.”

Kimberlé Crenshaw, a prominent Black progressive scholar, hailed Ms. Harris’s ascension to the vice presidency and described her as “well positioned to weather the storms that will definitely come now that she has broken through the glass ceiling.”

But amid the joy and sense of empowerment in seeing a woman of color as the nation’s second-highest elected official, she also cautioned that the history-making moment should not distract progressives from continuing to push their agenda.

“This is still the Biden administration — what Kamala Harris thinks or does has to be recognized as being part of that administration,” she said. “So we cannot let the pedal to the metal be slowed in any way because we’re celebrating the fact that we’ve had this breakthrough moment.”

For others, that moment has been a very long time coming.

Opal Lee, 94, paid a poll tax when she first went to vote, choosing between casting her ballot for the Democratic candidate or buying food for her four young children. Decades later, Ms. Lee, a former teacher and activist from Fort Worth, Texas, celebrated at President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Despite the health risks from the coronavirus pandemic, Ms. Lee has no intention of missing Mr. Biden’s inauguration in Washington this January — to witness Ms. Harris.

“I want to be able to tell my great-great-grandchildren how it felt for a woman to be vice president,” she said. “I just got to go.”

4. Micro-managing

It’s become a bit of a cliche, but micro-managing is an all-too-common pitfall for many managers – especially first timers.

Micro-managing is corrosive for a number of reasons. First, it signals a lack of trust. When you step in and second-guess every decision that your team members make, you’re essentially telling them that you know better than they do.

Second, it’s not scalable. In order to be successful, you need to be able to delegate! Otherwise, you become a bottleneck and your team’s productivity grinds to a halt.

Make sure to give your direct reports some latitude, and let go of your desire to control every outcome. Remember too that mistakes aren’t the end of the world – they’re actually opportunities for your team to grow. Without having to handle every single situation, you’ll find your employees will feel more comfortable on their own and experience an increase in employee engagement around the office.


Many ancient civilizations had a form of organized firefighting. One of the earliest recorded fire services was in Ancient Rome. The Aboriginal Australians had been managing and responding to wildfires for thousands of years, with women being involved. [1]

Firefighting became more organized from the 18th century onwards, led with the rise of insurance companies and then with the rise of government fire services in the 19th century. In 1818, Molly Williams was recorded as being the first female firefighter in the United States. As a slave in New York City, she joined a volunteer engine company. [2] Young women in boarding houses in the United Kingdom were taught fire drills, including high ladder rescues. During World War II, women served in the wartime fire services of the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand both in support and frontline roles.

As a result of the second-wave feminism movement and equal employment opportunity legislation, official obstacles to women were removed from the 1970s onwards. The first female firefighter in the United Kingdom (Mary Joy Langdon) was recruited in 1976, [3] while the first in New Zealand (Anne Barry) joined in 1981. [4] Many fire departments required recruits to pass tough fitness tests, which became an unofficial barrier to women joining. This led to court cases in a number of countries. In 1979 communications centre worker Anne Barry applied to join the NZ Fire Service as a career firefighter but her application was rejected on the grounds of gender. In 1981 she won her two year battle with the Fire Service Commission and was allowed to apply to join the New Zealand Fire Service as a career fire fighter. [4] In 1982, Brenda Berkman won a lawsuit against the New York City Fire Department over its restrictive fitness test. She and 40 others then joined as its first female firefighters. A similar lawsuit led to the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 1999 (in the case British Columbia (Public Service Employee Relations Commission) v. BCGSEU) that fire departments could not use restrictive fitness tests unless they could justify the need for them. [5] [6]

Nevertheless, the percentage of women recruited by fire departments has been low. In the UK, women make up 5% of firefighters [7] which is less than the percentage for police officers (29%), [8] paramedics (38%) [9] and military personnel (10%). [10] A report by the London Fire Brigade found that discouraging factors included the portrayal of firefighting in the media, a lack of information available to young girls and unrealistic ideas about the role. [11] Other issues include shift patterns that are not suitable for mothers with young children. [12]

Australia Edit

The Aboriginal Australians developed techniques for managing bushfires in the 60,000 years before the arrival of European settlers, with women being involved. [1] [13]

Amazon Ladies Fire Brigade Edit

Excluding these indigenous precursors, the first all-female firefighting crew was recruited in 1901 in Armidale, New South Wales. [14] It was formed in response to a fire at Cunningham House in the same town. [15] Known as The Amazons [16] this volunteer crew complimented the all-male paid firefighting crew, and was the first example in Australia of male and female crews doing routine fire drills together using the same equipment. Station Officer Minnie Webb was the first female Captain in Australia. [17] The creation of the Amazon Ladies Fire Brigade and their operational and dress uniforms was inspired by Captain Webb of the paid firefighting brigade in Armidale. Captain J.T.A. Webb became captain in 1898. He held this position until his death on 17 May 1924. He formed the first women's fire brigade in the early 1900s and also instructed the all-female brigade at the New England Girls School and the fire squad at The Armidale School in October 1923. [18] Penrith Fire Museum [19] has an archived collection on Captain Webb's career. Webb immigrated from England, and where he had seen the trained female fire responders that were common at all-female British boarding schools (see United Kingdom, below on this page). The Amazons was a one-off local initiative and the Webb children were recruited into both the male and female brigades. The model was not adopted elsewhere in Australia. However, the Dubbo Dispatch and Independent Bulletin of 1905 reported [20] that the Dubbo Brigades had attended in Dubbo with 'upwards of 70 Brigades' from across NSW, and an 'exhibition of hose and ladder. and life-saving' had been performed by the Amazon Ladies Brigade [21] [22] [23]

Unlike Britain, Australian jurisdictions did not establish voluntary female brigades during WWI, and despite great interest in the Amazons during 1901–1905, no other jurisdictions took up the idea. Captain Minnie Webb went on to become a nurse serving in WWI.

Women's fire auxiliaries in World War II Edit

As was the case in Britain, women's fire auxiliaries were established in World War II in most jurisdictions in Australia [24] to fill vacancies created when male firefighters enlisted in the war. Tasmania was ordering uniforms for the Women's Fire Auxiliary in January 1940. [25] On 20 August 1941, the Tasmania Women's Fire Auxiliary were part of a parade (a march-past) for Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Winston Churchill. [26] Queensland established a Women's Fire Auxiliary in October 1941. [27] Their duties were to include "driving and trailing vehicles to fires, repairing hoses, operating chemical extinguishers, looking after canteens, and extinguishing incendiary bombs". The Forestry Department of Western Australia recruited an all-female fire crew in Sawyers Valley. Initially only employed on weekends, they became full-time. In addition to fire suppression they carried out fuel reduction burning, firebreak maintenance, fire spotting and upgrading bush phone lines. [28] In 1942 the WA Fire Auxiliary, made of up men and women, gave a demonstration of their skills. [29] In the same year (1942) the Board of Fire Commissioners of NSW established the Women's Fire Auxiliary. [30] Women served as volunteer firefighters in urban and rural locations across Australia and New Zealand. In New South Wales, recruitment took place in Wagga Wagga, [31] Newcastle [32] [33] [34] Wollongong [35] and Broken Hill. [36] A uniform, including a helmet, dress uniform hat, operational overalls and dress uniform jacket was provided. The Australian War Memorial has photos of the NSWFB uniform. [37] Dorothy Barrett, organiser and Chief of the NSW Women's Fire Auxiliary was photographed in 1946 in uniform [38] No book has been written about the female chiefs of the Women's Fire Auxiliaries, though Trove has established a 1947 press cuttings book. [39] Also in 1942, South Australia established a Women's Fire Auxiliary and recognition was given to the vital role women were to play in emergency response. [40]
At the 2006 Women in Fire Fighting Conference, Childs curated a reproduction of historic uniforms. [41] [42]

In the post-war era, women remained unable to join fire services as paid firefighters, though there was a growth of local women's auxiliaries across Australia. In the 21st century, these women would be seen as providing operational support and contributing to community fire safety, but in the post-war era they were often portrayed and respected as tea ladies and sandwich makers. The women who volunteered made an important contribution to fire preparedness and response. [43] [44] [45]

Modern developments Edit

After the passage of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, official limits on women joining were removed. In 1985, Heather Barnes, Denise Butcher, Dawn Maynard and Allison Meenahan joined New South Wales Fire Brigade (NSWFB) as Australia's first paid career firefighters. In 1998, the NSWFB (now Fire and Rescue NSW) appointed its first female station officers.

The first National Women in Firefighting Forum (thereafter known as WIFF) was held in 2005 at Sydney Airport with the theme of "Firing Up Women". It was opened with a keynote address by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Gow. [46] A second conference was held in 2006 [47] and included New Zealand female firefighters. The theme was "Same but Different". The first timeline of women in firefighting was created. [48] A vote was unanimously recorded to establish a women in firefighting association run by and for female firefighters, and out of this vote Women and Firefighting Australasia (WAFA) was born. In 2007 the first Board of WAFA was established with Susan Courtney as its president.

Prior to 2005 most research, including health, uniform and risk research assumed all cohorts were male, with Robyn Cooper's work in 1997 an exception. [49] From 2005 onwards, some research has been done into roles and challenges for female firefighters in Australia. [50] [51] [52] [53] [54] [55]

In 2006 Childs [56] reported that less than 5% of any fire service in Australia was made up of full-time paid female firefighters, and also reported a web survey under the title "Not just fitting in". [57] Ainsworth et al (2013) argued that in 2006 indicated that out of 33,659 volunteer firefighters, 3,798 (11%) were women. In 2011, this number had increased to 5,466 (14%). [58] In 2015 a report by Women in Firefighting Australasia found that no fire agency had succeeded in improving the overall percentage about 5%. [59] However, while overall total percentages had not been exceeded between 2006 and 2015, overall percentages across all fire services had improved. For example, the Northern Territory had improved from 0% to 2%.

The percentage of career female firefighters remain at or below 5% of Australian fire services agencies, despite the history and activism noted above. Controversy remains acute. [60] [61] [62] Allegations of sexism [63] [64] and bullying [65] [66] remain. There has also been a movement towards setting physical standards based on evidence of what is necessary. [67] [68] [69]

Notable moments Edit

  • 1901 – The Amazons was formed in Armidale NSW Australia
  • 1941–1945 Women's Fire Auxiliaries were established across Australian jurisdictions
  • 1945–1947 Pre-war bans on single and married women being employed in certain industries [70][71] including firefighting, were reinstated as part of demobilisation
  • 1950-70s Many Women's Fire Auxiliaries were formed, such as the Morphett Vale and Districts EFS Ladies Auxiliary and Burnside CFA SA Women who took a more active role learning basic firefighting and the operation of the radio room
  • 1977 – NSW Anti-Discrimination law passed
  • 1984 – The Australian Sex Discrimination Act was passed [72]
  • 1985 – Heather Barnes, Denise Butcher, Dawn Maynard and Allison Meenahan became the first female firefighters in the NSWFB
  • 1987 – Adrienne Clarke became South Australia's first female professional firefighter with the Metropolitan Fire Service (SAMFS)
  • 1988 – The induction of the first professional female firefighters in the MFB took place in September (Names of women?)
  • 1992 – Melanie Goehr first professional female firefighter in NTFRS
  • 1994 – Kristen Appel appointed leader of an all-female firefighting team of NT Park Rangers in charge of Arltunga Historical Reserve East Macdonnell Ranges NT
  • 1998 – Vicki Hunter, Sally Foote and Dawn Maynard first female Station Officers in NSWFB
  • 1999 – Shameena Wells became the first Muslim woman in Australia to win first place at the NSWFB field day held at the NSW Fire Museum Penrith NSW
  • 2000 – 5 female firefighters of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service awarded a national Firefighting medal (names of women?)
  • 2001 – The first all-female and all-First Nations fire crew was established at Lake Tyers, Victoria
  • 2002 – The first female Aviation Rescue and Firefighting graduates were deployed by Air Services Australia (names of 2 women?)
  • 2004 – Jennifer Filmer awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for 30 years service to rural fire in Victoria
  • 2004 – Viviene Raffaele was awarded the Australasian Fire Service Medal for services to firefighting in the ACT
  • 2005 – First Women in Firefighting Forum (WIFF)
  • 2005 – The WA Branch of the United Firefighters Union replaced the word 'firemen' with 'firefighter' on their website
  • 2006 – First Australasian Women in Firefighting Conference
  • 2008 – Michelle Young was appointed as the first female Station Officer with Queensland Fire & Rescue
  • 2014 – Charmaine Sellings, Rhonda Thorpe and Katrina Mullet, long time members of the all-female and all-First Nations firefighters of the Lake Tyers Brigades of the CFA Victoria, were awarded 10 year service medals
  • 2016 – Women made up 50% of the recruits graduating class of Fire and Rescue NSW (formerly NSWFB) [73]

Austria Edit

A female fire brigade was formed in 1912, with an initial recruitment of 60 women. [74] Women were admitted to volunteer fire brigades in 1978, [75] and as professionals in 1993. [76]

Canada Edit

The oldest fire department and fire insurance company as well as the longest-serving firefighters in Canada originated in Nova Scotia. The terms "smoke-eaters" and "leather lungs" were used to describe firemen who had no need to come out for fresh air, and this success was attributed to male facial hair that was thought to act as a "watery sponge" that held fresh air. Since they lacked this facial hair, women were unable to earn these titles. [77]

In the late 1800s, many fire halls, including ones in Nova Scotia, united to compete in sports and physical challenges relating to fire fighting. However, it would not be until over one hundred years later, during the feminist movements of the 1960s, that the absence of women in contact sports was questioned. [77] [78]

A "boys' club" culture existed in many fire departments, as the majority of the firefighters were white males. The firefighters were held to strict standards and were fined (or could even be fired) for spitting on the floor, being late to meetings, and being drunk on or off duty. However, many of the firefighters would support each other by not reporting another member when they were intoxicated. [77]

In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in British Columbia (Public Service Employee Relations Commission) v. BCGSEU that a mandatory fitness test for those seeking to become firefighters in British Columbia unfairly discriminated against women. The test had been based on the physiology of male firefighters. The Court ruled that employers must show that any required workplace tests are necessary, and that there has been some effort to accommodate individuals. [5] [6]

Female-focused camps to train young women in firefighting skills have been created by fire departments in Ottawa and London, Ontario, and have led to similar camps being established in the U.S. [79]

Currently, only 3% of firefighters in Canada are women. [80] Many female firefighters have reported facing resistance when they try to move up in rank, feeling the need to be overqualified in order to compensate for their gender and to prove that they were hired based on merit and not simply an attempt at diversification. [81] [82] Female firefighters also report experiencing bullying, harassment, and sexual harassment on the job. [80]

France Edit

In 2015, 3% of firefighters were women, with 6.4% of these women holding the title of fire officer. [83]

Germany Edit

Volunteer female firefighters worked in Berlin and Breslau during World War I but ceased at the end of the war. Women were again recruited during World War II, especially as drivers. This continued until 1955 when they had all been replaced by men. In the German Democratic Republic (GDR), women were extensively used both in support roles and as frontline firefighters. Women continued to take up all roles in the 1990s. The first recorded female firefighter in Berlin was Tanja Grunwald, in April 1994. [84] Female professional firefighters now number about 1,000 (2.3%), with approximately 80,000 volunteers (10%). [85]

Norway Edit

The first documented female firefighters in Norway joined the fire services during the 1980s. [86] [87] In 2011, 3.7% of the Norwegian firefighters were women. [88]

Hong Kong Edit

The Hong Kong Fire Services Department started recruiting women for control and ambulance staff in the 1980s however, the first firewoman was not hired until 1994.

As of 2003, there were 111 uniformed females, but only 8 were operational firefighters. [89]

India Edit

In 2003, the Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services permitted women to join and a appointed Priya Ravichandran as a Divisional Fire Officer, making her one of the first female fire officers in the country, and the first one to win the Anna Medal for Bravery. [90] In the same service Meenakshi Vijayakumar has attended more than 400 incidents [91] and in 2013 was awarded the President’s Fire Service Medal for Gallantry. [92]

In 2009, a proposal was mooted in the Municipal Corporation Chandigarh to allow women into the fire services. [93]

In 2012, the Mumbai Fire Brigade inducted five women firefighters, making them the first in the history of the organisation. [94]

In 2013, the department inducted its second batch of women firefighters. [95]

Iran Edit

Japan Edit

As of 2003, the Tokyo Fire Department (TFD) – the second biggest fire department in the world – had 666 female firefighters, or 3.8% of the total. [89]

In 2009, as part of a recruitment drive, it was stated that there were 17,000 female fire service staff, though it is not clear how many of these were operational rather than support roles. [96]

In 2015, the TFD had 18,700 active firefighters. [83] Only 1,200 (6.4% of the operational force) were women. [83]

The first woman was appointed to the Kawasaki Fire Department rescue unit in 2016. [83]

All of these however are office staff and not engaged in actual firefighting

Netherlands Edit

Women firefighters have been serving in the Netherlands since at least 1939. [97]

In 2000, women accounted for 3.3% of professional firefighters. [98]

New Zealand Edit

Overview Edit

Notable moments Edit

  • 1979 – Fire communications centre worker, Anne Barry, applied to join the NZ Fire Service as a career firefighter and her application was rejected on the grounds of gender
  • 1981 – July Sapper Jan Graham of the Royal New Zealand Engineers becomes the NZ Army’s first full time female firefighter
  • 1981 – July 27 Anne Barry won her 2yr battle with the Fire Service Commission and was allowed to apply to join the NZFS as a career fire fighter [4]
  • 1981 – 4 November Elizabeth England and Anne Barry completed the NZFS recruit course, with overall placings of 2nd and 3rd respectively, becoming New Zealand’s first female career firefighters, and the first female career firefighters in Australasia
  • 1985 – Julie Croswell was appointed as the third female firefighter
  • 1988 – Nella Booth [99] and Sheralee Rickaby [100] were appointed as the fourth equal female firefighters. Booth was appointed to Petone Station, Wellington Fire Region and Rickaby was appointed to Upper Hutt, Wellington Fire Region, of the NZ Fire Service
  • 1979 – November. A number of women competed for the first time in New Zealand at a provincial United Fire Brigades Waterways Competition – Tokomaru Bay, East Coast
  • 1989 – Christine Hewson became the New Zealand Fire Service’s first volunteer Station Officer of the Hawea Volunteer Fire Brigade
  • 1993 – July. Christine Hewson became the New Zealand Fire Service’s first female Chief Fire Officer (CFO) when she was appointed as Chief of the Lake Hawea Volunteer Fire Brigade. Christine had served in the Brigade since May 1979
  • 1995 - Nicky Lafferty joined the NZFS career staff at Silverdale Fire Station, Auckland.
  • 1998 – Nella Booth was appointed as the first career firefighter Station Officer (SO, Fire Safety) of the NZ Fire Service, Central Fire Station, Auckland
  • 1998–2008 Nella Booth was Chair of New Zealand Fire Service Women
  • 1999 – Allana Ranui was appointed New Zealand Fire Service’s first Maori female CFO, for the Murupara Volunteer Fire Brigade
  • 1999 – Alison Timms was appointed action Chief Executive of the New Zealand Fire Service, holding the position until 2001
  • 2001 – 28 April Rosemary Higgins becomes New Zealand’s first female 25yr Gold Star recipient. She joined the British Fire Service since 1959, and upon moving to New Zealand in 1975, she joined the Hamilton Fire Brigade in the Communications Centre. She was the only uniformed woman in Hamilton for nearly 17 years. When she retired from the Communication Centre, she joined the Pauanui Volunteer Fire Brigade
  • 2001 – May Nella Booth convened a group of career female firefighters in Auckland to discuss the possibility of setting up a support/network group. Many topics were discussed over the two days of the meeting, and one outcome was the formation of New Zealand Fire Service Women (NZFSW)
  • 2005 – Nella Booth (SO), Senior FF Megan Tate and (1 other female ff) attended the first Women in Firefighting Conference in Sydney as representatives of New Zealand Fire Service Women (NZFSW)
  • 2006 – Nella Booth (SO) joined the Steering Committee of the Australasian Women in Firefighting Conference, Sydney Australia, and gave the closing address of the conference
  • 2008 – September. Rochelle Martin was appointed as the New Zealand Fire Service’s first female career operational firefighter to hold the rank of Station Officer (SO)
  • 2015 – New Zealand Fire Service Women (NZFSW) was reformed as Women in Fire and Emergency New Zealand (WFENZ)

Pakistan Edit

Shazia Parveen Jamali, who hails from Vehari District in Punjab, joined the Rescue 1122 emergency services as a firefighter in 2010. [101]

Saudi Arabia Edit

In 2018, two Saudi women became the first certified female firefighters in Saudi Arabia meeting the [Saudi] National Fire Protection Association’s Professional Qualifications Standards. [102]

United Kingdom Edit

In Great Britain, Girton Ladies' College had an all-women's fire brigade from 1878 until 1932. [103] [104] [105] In 1887 it was reported that women employed in a cigar factory in Liverpool had been formed into a fire brigade, and had effectively extinguished a fire at the factory. [106] During World War I, women's brigades carried out firefighting and rescue in the South of England. [107] During the 1920s, women firefighting teams were employed by private fire brigades. [108] At the beginning of World War II, 5000 women were recruited for the Auxiliary Fire Service, rising to 7,000 women in what was then the National Fire Service. Though trained in firefighting, women were not there for that purpose, but rather for such positions as driving and firewatching. Many received awards for heroism. [109]

In the modern era, some of the first women to participate in firefighting were based at Gordonstoun School near Elgin in Scotland. The school's staff and pupils had participated in a volunteer unit of the local Grampian Region Fire Brigade (GRFB) since the school's return from Wales in 1948. [110] In 1972, the school accepted girls as pupils for the first time and from 1975 women were accepted into the voluntary firefighting unit. They were not initially allowed to be official members of the GRFB, but could operate only within the school. The turning point took place in 1976, when the scale of a forest fire on Ben Aigan near Craigellachie on Speyside led the GRFB to seek volunteers from the local community to help fight the fire. Alongside personnel from local Royal Air Force bases, a group of trained women firefighters from Gordonstoun attended. The performance and endurance of this group over seven days and nights of firefighting led the GRFB to agree to allow women to take on official front-line firefighting roles for the first time. [111] The drought of the same year led to a call for extra firefighters and prompted other brigades to allow women to join. Mary Joy Langdon joined the East Sussex Fire Brigade on August 21 as a retained firefighter [112] [113] and was described by the press as Britain's first female firefighter. [3] [114] [115] In 1978, it was announced that women would be accepted into the fire service. [115] Josephine Reynolds became the country's first female wholetime firefighter when she joined Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service in 1983, after a year of training. [116] [117] [118]

In 2002, the Equal Opportunities Commission submitted a seven-page submission to the Independent Review of the Fire Service criticizing numerous practices which contributed to the extremely low recruitment of women and racial minorities in the fire service. In particular, the Commission highlighted the system of long day and night shifts, which likely discouraged women with children from applying, and the practice of only allowing those with firefighting experience to move into the higher ranks, which meant that control staff were ineligible. [12]

In 2011, Ann Millington became the first female chief fire officer, taking charge of the Kent Fire and Rescue Service. [119] In 2016, Rebecca Bryant was appointed to lead the Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service she was the first female CFO to be a former frontline firefighter, [120] while Station Manager Sally Harper received the Queen's Fire Service Medal. [121] In 2017, Dany Cotton became Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade. [122]

In 2017, 5.2% of operational firefighters in the UK were women, [123] an increase from 3.1% in 2007. [124] There were 300 female firefighters in the London Fire Brigade, amounting to 7% of the total. [125]

United States Edit

The first known female firefighter in the United States was in the early 1800s. She was an African American slave from New York, named Molly Williams, who was said to be "as good a fire laddie as many of the boys." [103] [104] In the 1820s, Marina Betts was a volunteer firefighter in Pittsburgh. [126] Then, in 1863, Lillie Hitchcock was made an honorary member of the Knickerbocker Engine Company, No. 5., in San Francisco in 1863.

The first paid fire company was in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1853, and was all men. [127] Women remained volunteer for years after. In the 1910s, there were women's volunteer fire companies in Silver Spring, Maryland, and Los Angeles, California. [104]

During World War I, many women entered the workforce to replace the men who were fighting overseas. This resulted in thousands of women working in traditionally male-dominated professions, for example, the military hired approximately 11 000 women by 1918 for clerical work. [128]

In 1936 Emma Vernell became the first official female firefighter in New Jersey, after her husband died in the line of duty. [129]

During World War II, some women served as firefighters in the United States to replace male firefighters who joined the military and during part of the war, two fire departments in Illinois were all-female. [104] In 1942, the first all-female forest firefighting crew in California was created. [104]

In the 1960s, there were all-female fire companies in Kings County, California, and Woodbine, Texas. During the summer of 1971, an all-female Bureau of Land Management (BLM) firefighting crew fought fires in the wilds of Alaska. Furthermore, an all-female United States Forest Service firefighting crew fought fires in 1971 and 1972 in Montana. [104]

Ruth E. Capello was the first known female fire chief in the United States. She was born in 1922 and became fire chief of the Butte Falls fire department in Butte Falls, Oregon in 1973. She died at the age of 70 in 1992. [130] Over 100 years after the first paid male firefighter, Sandra Forcier became the first known paid female firefighter (excluding forest firefighting) in the United States, and began working in North Carolina in 1973 for Winston-Salem Fire Department. Forcier was a Public Safety Officer, a combination of police officer and firefighter. [131] The first woman to work solely as a paid firefighter (excluding forest firefighting) was Judith Livers, hired by the Arlington County, Virginia fire department in 1974. [104]

Brenda Berkman took legal action against a discriminating physical test of the New York City Fire Department in 1982. After winning the case, she and about 40 other women became the first female firefighters in the history of New York City. [132] Berkman was also the founder of the United Women Firefighters and the first openly gay professional firefighter in America. [133]

Chief Rosemary Bliss was the first female head of a career fire department in Tiburon, California. She became fire chief in 1993. [134] [135] [136]

In 2002, approximately 2% of all firefighters were female in the United States. [135]

Sarinya Srisakul was the first Asian-American woman to be hired by the New York City Fire Department in 2005. [137]

In 2013, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti vowed to make sure that 5% of the Los Angeles Fire Department's firefighters were women by 2020. As of 2018 3.1% of the department's firefighters are women. [138]

In 2015, the New York City Fire Department had 58 women, representing less than 0.5% of the 10,000 active operational firefighters. [137] That same year, Regina Wilson became the first woman president of the Vulcan Society (an African-American firefighting association). [137]

As of 2016, 7% of firefighters in the United States were women. [139]

South Korea Edit

In 2019, Jung Moon-ho, the commissioner of National Fire Agency, said, "We will increase the proportion of women by 10% of the prefecture as there are many demands for recruiting firefighters regardless of gender". As of the end of October 2018, the number of firefighters in South Korea was 48,146. Of these, 3,610 women (7.5 percent) were women. [140]

For much of the last century, firefighting was a male-dominated or exclusively male profession. As such, firefighters were commonly called "firemen", an informal title still used by some civilians today. The title "firefighter" has become the universally accepted terminology in NFPA training materials and is used by English speaking professionals and trained volunteers as both the basic rank and overall job title that is often paired with the addition of a firefighter's EMT certification level (e.g., "Firefighter-Paramedic Jane Doe"). [141] [142]

Since women have only begun to be widely hired or accepted as volunteer firefighters in the last 30–40 years, there have been many difficult adjustments for the fire service. In many places, the fire service is steeped in tradition and formalized, paramilitary relationships. [143] A 1998 article in Fire Engineering noted that firefighters tend to form tight-knit communities which value "strength, courage, and loyalty" but can be "resistant to change". [144] Even if women are socially accepted members of the fire service, it is on the basis of gendered assumptions that they will bring more balanced decision making and nurturing qualities to a team of firefighters. [145]

Health Edit

In 2017, a study of female firefighters' occupational stress in the U.S. found that 40% of the women had engaged in binge drinking in the previous month, and 16.5% screened positive for problem drinking. According to the study, "problem drinkers were more than 2.5 times as likely to have been diagnosed with a depressive disorder or to have symptoms of post-traumatic stress." Those with less than seven years of service were the most likely to report issues with drinking. [146]

In Canada, a lack of health coverage is often an issue for female firefighters in certain provinces. Although many cancers are covered as known occupational risks because of overexposure to fire, smoke, and toxic fumes, breast cancer is not yet covered nationwide. [147] [148]

Although women in the fire service are generally more healthy and fit than their male coworkers as well as women in the wider population, they experience higher rates of miscarriage and preterm births. [149] This may be linked to occupational hazards such as environmental toxins, [150] heavy lifting, and irregular shift work. [151] In 2012, the International Association of Firefighters in the U.S. recommended that all fire departments create policies on pregnancy and/or maternity leave, [152] but in a study in 2018 nearly a quarter of female firefighters reported that their departments had no such policies. [149]

Facilities and equipment Edit

One major hurdle to entrance into firefighting for women was the lack of facilities. The immediate problem of sleeping quarters and bathing areas had to be solved before women could participate fully in firefighting as an occupation and as a culture. Communal showers and open bunk halls were designed for men only. Today, fire stations, as public entities, must either follow gender equity law or face judicial injunctions thus, they are now designed to accommodate firefighters of both genders. However, some female firefighters still face issues related to their gender.

A pan-Canadian study found that equipment, services and resources for female firefighters are often inadequate. Gear is often not made for women and offsite there is often no proper facilities for feminine hygiene needs. [153] [154]

Discrimination Edit

Women were banned from working as firefighters in many countries at many times. For example, from 1945–1947 in Australia pre- war bans on single and married women being employed in certain industries [155] [71] including firefighting were reinstated as part of demobilisation.

As a result of the second-wave feminism movement and equal employment opportunity legislation, official obstacles to women were removed from the 1970s onwards. For example, in 1979 communications centre worker Anne Barry applied to join the New Zealand Fire Service as a career firefighter and her application was rejected on the grounds of gender, but in 1981 she won her two year battle with the Fire Service Commission and was allowed to apply to join the New Zealand Fire Service as a career firefighter. [4] However, many fire departments required recruits to pass tough fitness tests, which became an unofficial barrier to women joining. This led to court cases in a number of countries. In 1982, Brenda Berkman won a lawsuit against the New York City Fire Department over its restrictive fitness test. She and 40 others then joined as its first female firefighters. A similar lawsuit led to the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 1999 (in the case British Columbia (Public Service Employee Relations Commission) v. BCGSEU) that fire departments could not use restrictive fitness tests unless they could justify the need for them. [5] [6]

A 2015 study on women in the wildland firefighting profession in Australia found that 55% reported seeing gender discrimination of others, while 45% reported experiencing it themselves. [145]

Sexual dimorphism Edit

There have been occasional charges of some departments lowering standards so that they could hire more women. In 2005, Laura Chick (the LA City Controller) stated in a report that Fire Chief Bamattre lowered physical requirements for female recruits and ordered that women be passed even if they failed their tests. [156] However, many female firefighters reject any form of accommodation or special treatment, in part because they wish to prove themselves in the same way as their male counterparts, and in part because they fear it will make them a target for harassment. [81] [157]

Sexual harassment Edit

Studies have found that women working in male-dominated professions, such as firefighting, experience more sexual harassment that those working in traditional female professions. [158] [159] This increased rate of harassment is worsened further when women are in the minority, as they often are in the fire service, because the majority group in such circumstances tends to view those in the minority as token representatives of their group rather than individuals. [158]

In a survey conducted by Women in the Fire Service in 1995, 551 women in fire departments across the U.S. were asked about their experiences with sexual harassment and other forms of job discrimination. Eighty-eight percent of fire service women responding had experienced some form of sexual harassment at some point in their fire service careers or volunteer time. Nearly 70% of the women in the survey said that they were experiencing ongoing harassment at the time of the study. Of the 339 women who indicated that they had complained about harassment, only a third (115 women) listed positive-only outcomes: investigating/taking care of the problem and disciplining the harasser. Twenty-six percent said that they were retaliated against for having reported the incident. [160]

Many Canadian female firefighters admit to experiencing some levels of systemic gendered violence such as sexual harassment and assault, which includes groping and being solicited for sexual services. [161] [162] Female firefighters who experience harassment have been found to be more hesitant to report it because they fear negative consequences such as exclusion and the exacerbation of the harassment. [163] [164] Many female firefighters have reported avoiding feminine apparel such as high heels, dresses, and makeup when around their male coworkers, for fear of being hypersexualized and becoming the target of sexual assault or harassment. [164]

In 2016, a Canadian male firefighter was charged with two counts of sexual assault and one count of assault with a weapon in connection with his harassment of a female coworker. [162]

An American nationwide study found that the majority of female firefighters that experience sexual harassment do not report it to their superiors, in many instances because the supervisor was involved in or already knew about the behavior. When harassment was reported, no formal action was taken in the majority of cases. [165]

Sexually harassed female firefighters are significantly more likely to report experiencing job stress. [165]

First Lady Michelle Obama

First Lady Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama is a lawyer, writer, and the wife of the 44th and current President, Barack Obama. She is the first African-American First Lady of the United States. Through her four main initiatives, she has become a role model for women and an advocate for healthy families, service members and their families, higher education, and international adolescent girls education.

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When people ask First Lady Michelle Obama to describe herself, she doesn't hesitate to say that first and foremost, she is Malia and Sasha's mom.

But before she was a mother — or a wife, lawyer, or public servant — she was Fraser and Marian Robinson's daughter.

The Robinsons lived in a brick bungalow on the South Side of Chicago. Fraser was a pump operator for the Chicago Water Department, and despite being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at a young age, he hardly ever missed a day of work. Marian stayed home to raise Michelle and her older brother Craig, skillfully managing a busy household filled with love, laughter, and important life lessons.

A product of Chicago public schools, Michelle Robinson studied sociology and African-American studies at Princeton University. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1988, she joined the Chicago law firm Sidley & Austin, where she later met Barack Obama, the man who would become the love of her life.

After a few years, Mrs. Obama decided her true calling was working with people to serve their communities and their neighbors. She served as assistant commissioner of planning and development in Chicago's City Hall before becoming the founding executive director of the Chicago chapter of Public Allies, an AmeriCorps program that prepares youth for public service.

In 1996, Mrs. Obama joined the University of Chicago with a vision of bringing campus and community together. As Associate Dean of Student Services, she developed the university's first community service program, and under her leadership as Vice President of Community and External Affairs for the University of Chicago Medical Center, volunteerism skyrocketed.

Mrs. Obama has continued her efforts to support and inspire young people during her time as First Lady.

In 2010, she launched Let’s Move!, bringing together community leaders, educators, medical professionals, parents, and others in a nationwide effort to address the challenge of childhood obesity. Let’s Move! has an ambitious goal: to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation. Whether it's providing healthier food in our schools, helping kids be more physically active, or urging companies to market healthier foods to our children, Let’s Move! is focused on giving parents the support they need to make healthier choices for their kids.

In 2011, Mrs. Obama and Dr. Jill Biden came together to launch Joining Forces, a nationwide initiative calling all Americans to rally around service members, veterans, and their families and support them through wellness, education, and employment opportunities. Joining Forces works hand in hand with the public and private sector to ensure that service members, veterans, and their families have the tools they need to succeed throughout their lives.

In 2014, Mrs. Obama launched the Reach Higher Initiative, an effort to inspire young people across America to take charge of their future by completing their education past high school, whether at a professional training program, a community college, or a four-year college or university. Reach Higher aims to ensure that all students understand what they need to complete their education by working to expose students to college and career opportunities helping them understand financial aid eligibility encouraging academic planning and summer learning opportunities and supporting high school counselors who do essential work to help students get into college.

In 2015, Mrs. Obama joined President Obama to launch Let Girls Learn, a U.S. government-wide initiative to help girls around the world go to school and stay in school. As part of this effort, Mrs. Obama is calling on countries across the globe to help educate and empower young women, and she is sharing the stories and struggles of these young women with young people here at home to inspire them to commit to their own education.

As First Lady, Mrs. Obama looks forward to continuing her work on the issues close to her heart — supporting military families, helping children lead healthier lives, and encouraging all our young people to fulfill their boundless promise.


This small rural hospital, which was open from 1860 to 1890 in the small village of Siddi (in the heart of the Marmilla area, Sardinia) admitted 463 patients, the subject of our recent research. 122 were women (mainly peasants, maids and housewives), and of these, 10 were suffering from hysteria (sometimes the diagnosis was simple hysteria, on other occasions they were suffering from convulsions, constipation, intermittent fever. ) [56]. In analyzing the simplest cases, where the hysteria was not combined with other diseases, we found the constant use of antispasmodics, sedatives and refreshing concoctions in the form of decoctions, infusions, creams, ointments and poultices. First of all, a decoction of tamarind and barley, extract of belladonna, valerian and liquid laudanum. Following this, infusions of fennel, mint and orange flowers, chamomile flowers and lime, cassia pulp and elder-tree ointment [57]. Only in one case (1868) was additional treatment prescribed in the form of polenta poultices, sulphates of potassium iodide, leeches, rubbery emulsions with iron carbonate and gentian extracts, and in another (1871) morphine acetate, infusions of senna leaves, citric acid and ammonium acetate ethers [57].

Treatment varied when the hysteria was associated with other symptoms such as, for example, epileptic convulsions: in the first phase the patient was administered zinc oxide, valerian extract, enemas with an emulsion of asafoetida and an egg yolk (to be repeated every 4 days) and then baking soda, water, fennel, turpentine and rosewater for rubs. Finally electuaries and polenta poultices [57].

The case of a young female patient at Managu is similar to the previous ones. Hospitalized for less than 54 days, the young woman was subjected to treatment based on emulsions of chloral hydrate, Burgundy pitch plasters, lemonade, water mint and lemon balm [57].

Michelle Obama left her head uncovered in Saudi Arabia

The first lady has a lot on her plate, including balancing the complexities of official State appearances in other countries. That might be her toughest job, because each individual country Michelle Obama visited when she was the first lady had its own set of rules, customs, and preferences. And sometimes, the country's official rules differed from their citizen's preferences, like when the Obamas visited Saudi Arabia in January of 2015. As per a report from Time, Obama drew heat from Saudi Arabians because she didn't wear a headscarf. People took to Twitter, posting angry comments like "Michelle Obama should've stayed in Air Force One as a sign of boycott rather than flouting rules of another country" with the hashtag "#Michelle_Obama_NotVeiled".

Even though people were mad, Obama hadn't actually broken any rules. Time also reported that though women from foreign countries are required to wear demure, loose-fitting clothing while visiting Saudi Arabia, they're not required to wear a headscarf. Poor Obama. She even got in trouble when she was following the rules!