Eleanor Rosalynn Carter (born Eleanor Rosalynn Smith) was married to Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States, and served as First Lady in the period 1977-1981. She was born in 1927, on August 18th, in Plains, Georgia, and married Jimmy Carter in 1946, at age 18. Rosalynn was continuously at Jimmy’s side during the 1090’s and 1970’s when Jimmy became president in 1977.
Rosalynn is famed for work for the President’s Commission on Mental Health. She went to high school in Plains, and that’s also when she met Jimmy Carter, a Naval Academy cadet. The two were married at Plains Methodist Church, on July 7th, 1946.
The Carters moved to Norfolk, VA, and over the course of the following years, Jimmy’s naval assignments were taking the couple to several bases around the country. They had four children, three sons, and one daughter, and Rosalynn was dividing her time between raising her children and studying art and literature via self-study programs.
After Jimmy Carter’s father died, the couple went back to Georgia to run the peanut business of the family. When Jimmy was elected to the Georgia Senate in 1961, Rosalynn had to mend the business while Jimmy often was away for legislative matters, and she also dealt with all of Jimmy’s political correspondence.
When Jimmy was elected governor in 1970, Rosalynn not only performed her traditional responsibilities as First Lady of Georgia, she also did the financial affairs, took on the landscaping, wrote a book on the mansion, and started to work hard to overhaul Georgia’s mental health system.
She performed several important roles to improve services to the mentally handicapped, chaired the Georgia Special Olympics committee, and volunteered at a hospital in Atlanta. All this gave her an impressive knowledge of the world of mental health.
When her husband announced his presidential aspirations for the 1976 presidential election, Rosalynn started to campaign right away for Jimmy and she did a lot of traveling on the campaign trail which took her to 42 states, and she was the first wife of a presidential candidate to promise her own pledge that as American First Lady, she would make a priority of the welfare of America’s mentally ill.
In 1977, Jimmy became the 39th President of the United States, and Rosalynn gave him counsel on foreign and domestic affairs at an unprecedented level. Rosalynn’s work for the President’s Commission on Mental Health resulted in the Mental Health Systems Bill which passed in September 1980. She also devoted much of her time to the welfare of senior citizens and made sure the Age Discrimination Act passed.
As America’s First Lady, Rosalynn stood out for the way she was running the White House. She refused that hard alcohol was served, dinners were quite inexpensive, chose to be wearing relatively simple clothing, and organized a jazz and a poetry festival.
In 1980, Jimmy Carter ran for re-election but lost the election to Ronald Reagan. After her White House period, Rosalynn wrote several books, such as her autobiography ‘First Lady from Plains’ in 1984 that reveals much about Carter’s administration, and she continued to address issues related to mental health.
Rosalynn Carter received several honors for her efforts, such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom and many mental health awards, and she was inducted into America’s National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2001.