Former US First Lady Rosalynn Carter, often referred to as the ‘Steel Magnolia,’ passed away on Sunday at the age of 96. She was the wife of President Jimmy Carter, who described her as ‘an extension of myself,’ highlighting her influential role during his presidency and beyond.
Early Years and the Longest-Married Presidential Couple
- Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter made history as the longest-married U.S. presidential couple. Their union began in 1946 when he was 21 and she was 18.
- Beyond their time in the White House, their partnership extended for decades, making them a symbol of enduring love and collaboration.
Post-White House Years: A Lasting Impact
- While Jimmy Carter served as president from 1977 to 1981, the couple’s impact continued well into their post-White House years.
- They co-founded the Carter Center and actively participated in Habitat for Humanity, embodying a commitment to humanitarian causes.
Advocacy for Mental Health
- Rosalynn Carter’s legacy is perhaps most prominently defined by her advocacy for mental health. Her passion for the well-being of the mentally ill persisted long after her time in the White House.
- Even before the public eye, she was seen as unassuming, evolving into an eloquent speaker, activist, and campaigner. Her efforts aimed to destigmatize mental health issues and promote understanding and support for those affected.
Partner in Leadership
- In Washington, the Carters were a dynamic team, with President Jimmy Carter often referring to Rosalynn as his “equal partner” and “closest adviser.”
- Her presence at cabinet meetings and political discussions underscored the significance of her role.
Equal Rights Advocacy
- Rosalynn Carter was also a fervent supporter of equal rights, actively participating in the campaign to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.
- Her dedication to ensuring equal treatment for women under the law showcased her commitment to social justice and equality.
Tributes from Across the Political Spectrum
- Presidents Joe Biden, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump all acknowledged Rosalynn Carter’s contributions.
- The Bidens specifically praised her as a champion for equal rights, mental health, and the caregivers of vulnerable populations.
Rosalynn Carter’s Illustrious Recognition
- In 2001, Rosalynn Carter received the distinction of being enshrined in the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York.
- This honor marked her as the third First Lady to join the esteemed ranks of the Hall of Fame, alongside Abigail Adams and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Among the numerous accolades recognizing Rosalynn’s dedicated service are:
|1||Dorothea Dix Award from the Mental Illness Foundation||–|
|2||Jefferson Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged (1996)||1996|
|3||Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat International Prize in Mental Health from the Institute of Medicine (2000)||2000|
|4||American Peace Award, shared with Jimmy Carter||–|