Legacy of Rosalynn Carter: Influential First Lady and Global Activist


The former First Lady of the United States from 1977 to 1981, Rosalynn Carter, known as the closest advisor to her husband Jimmy Carter during his presidency and for four decades afterward as a global humanitarian and mental health activist, passed away at the age of 96 on Sunday (11/19/2023).

The Carter Center disclosed that Rosalynn peacefully closed her eyes forever after living with dementia and experiencing declining health for several months.

“Rosalynn Carter passed away peacefully, surrounded by family on Sunday (11/19/2023) at 2:10 PM at their rural home in Plains, Georgia,” stated the announcement released by The Carter Center.

Jimmy Carter, who married Rosalynn in 1946, declared that his beloved wife was an equal partner in everything they achieved.

“She provided me with wise guidance and encouragement when I needed it. As long as Rosalynn was in the world, I always knew there was someone loving and supporting me,” said Jimmy Carter in his statement.

Jimmy Carter and Eleanor Rosalynn Smith, married for over 77 years, were described as a couple with a complete partnership. Unlike many previous first ladies, Rosalynn sat in cabinet meetings, spoke extensively on controversial issues, and often represented her husband on foreign trips.

On a personal level, Carter’s aides even referred to her as a co-president. “Rosalynn is my friend… an extension of myself, perhaps the most influential person in my life,” Jimmy Carter told his aides during his years in the White House (1977-1981).

Rosalynn, a typical woman known for her loyalty, compassion, and political astuteness, proudly positioned herself as an activist first lady. There was no doubt about her influence behind the scenes.

The AP noted that when her role in cabinet reshuffles surfaced, Rosalynn was forced to openly state that she was not running the government. Many presidential aides believed Rosalynn had better political instincts than her husband, often seeking her support for a project before discussing it with the president.

Rosalynn’s resilient desires sharply contrasted with her outwardly shy demeanor and gentle Southern accent. Hence, Washington journalists nicknamed her the “Steel Magnolia.”

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