From the President
November 29, 2023: In Memoriam: Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter
Posted on December 12, 2023 at 12:00 AM
Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter: A Portrait of Leadership and Grace
Throughout her lifetime, the late Eleanor Rosalynn Smith Carter provided quiet but formidable leadership, creating a role model for the first ladies who followed her and achieving lasting impact on national policy. Early in former President Jimmy Carter’s term, Mrs. Carter attended cabinet meetings and shared her counsel with her husband. “Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” President Carter said. “She gave me wise guidance and encouragement when I needed it.”
Mrs. Carter was an esteemed humanitarian in her own right. She was a strong advocate for mental health awareness and services, developing a passion for this issue while supporting her husband’s campaign for governor of Georgia. Later she was instrumental in securing passage of the federal Mental Health Systems Act of 1980. In 1987, she established the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers at Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, Georgia. In addition, the work that she and her husband performed over nearly 40 years with Habitat for Humanity is legendary.
One of Mrs. Carter’s famous quotes strongly resonates with many women today: “You have to have confidence in your ability, and then be tough enough to follow through.” The motto of the Woman’s National Democratic Club, “From the Right to Vote to the Power to Lead,” reflects this principle. The suffragettes who were at the forefront of starting WNDC in 1922 understood that getting the right to vote was not the endgame. Securing positions of leadership in state and federal government as well as across the pillars of the US economy were also important goals.
The Woman’s National Democratic Club is proud to have hosted Mrs. Carter as a guest speaker on several occasions. She hosted WNDC members at the White House in 1979 and received the Eleanor Roosevelt Award from the WNDC Educational Foundation in 2003. A portrait of Mrs. Carter hangs in the First Ladies Gallery of the Club’s headquarters. “Of all the wonderful luminaries I met during my tenure, she is at the top of my list,” said former WNDC President Sandra Bieri. “May she rest in peace. She deserves it.”
Rosalyn L. Coates