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First Lady of the United States

"First Lady of the United States" is the unofficial title of the hostess of the White House. The position is traditionally filled by the wife of the President of the United States, and the title is sometimes taken to apply only to the wife of a sitting president. The current First Lady is Laura Welch Bush. Some of the more notable former First Ladies include Martha Washington, Dolley Madison, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Hillary Clinton. Several women, other than wives of presidents, have been recognized as being a "First Lady". This situation has arisen due to the President being a bachelor or widower, when the position was then filled by a female relative or friend of the President. Less commonly, the First Lady has delegated her duties to another woman when she is unable or unwilling to fulfill them herself. (The government jargon that often acronymizes the President of the United States as "POTUS" similarly applies "FLOTUS" to the First Lady.)

The title was used as early as 1849 when Dolley Madison was eulogized as "America's First Lady", but did not gain wider recognition until 1877 when newspaper journalist Mary Clemmer Ames used it while reporting on the inauguration of Rutherford B. Hayes.

The First Lady is not an elected position, carries no official duties, and brings no salary. Nonetheless, she attends many official ceremonies and functions of state either along with or in place of the President. Furthermore, many have taken an active role in campaigning for the President they are associated with. Hillary Rodham Clinton took the role one step further when she was, for a time, given a formal job in the Clinton administration to develop reforms to the health care system.

The wife of the president is referred to by her married name--the couple is formally referred to as, for example, "The President and Mrs. Washington."

The term is also used to describe the wife of other government officials, or for a woman who has acted as a leading symbol for some activity (as in "First Lady of California" or "First Lady of Jazz" respectively).

The wife of the Vice President of the United States has been referred to by the colloquial term, the Second Lady of the United States.

First Ladies of the United States

The following women have been recognized by The National First Ladies' Library as "First Lady":

The following women are known to have acted as hostess on behalf of the First Lady when she was otherwise unable or unwilling:

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