11 Famous First Lady Quotes, Side-By-Side With Melania Trump's
Each First Lady of the United States has been slightly different from her predecessors. Each has historically taken up their own social cause, typically a seemingly bipartisan issue for which she champions during her tenure in the White House. Michelle Obama made nutrition and wellness her priority, for example, and Nancy Reagan famously took on drug use. Melania Trump has announced her mission as First Lady will be the eradication of cyberbullying, and in that regard, has fallen into First Lady tradition. In fact, on the surface, Melania often compares easily with other famous First Ladies.
She supports her husband, she mimics his syntax, and she reiterates that she is, above all, devoted to her children. In this way, she is not dissimilar to those that came before her. But not all First Ladies were entirely similar. Some, like Nancy Raegan or Laura Bush, were decidedly traditional, occupying a strictly defined "feminine" role. Others have been more candid with the press, like Betty Ford, who spoke openly about, among other things, her struggle with alcoholism.
It's impossible to know how Melania will be represented by historians when her husband is no longer president, but these quotes illustrate some uncanny similarities — and occasional stark differences — between Melania and First-Ladies-past.
On Putting Yourself First
Both first ladies agree that self-care is an important part of being happy in other areas of life. And while they hail from wildly different backgrounds, both are familiar with the trials of being both a wife and mother in the White House.
A Mother First
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis:
Along with self-care, Melania also prioritizes her role as mother to son Barron. Similarly, Jackie Kennedy also agreed that child-rearing was one of the most important responsibilities a person can take one.
On Being Independent
Sometimes it's easy to accidentally lump first ladies in with their husbands. They often campaign together, echoing the same opinions and political perspectives. But both Melania and Betty Ford agree that, at least when it comes to their relationships, it's important to separate yourself as an individual entity.
On The Media
Both Melania and Laura Bush had harsh words for the news cycle that they have often been part of. Though Donald Trump is particularly antagonistic toward reporters, Melania's opinion that journalists neglect facts is similar to Laura's.
On How Their Husbands Treat Women
Since the election, Melania has been frequently been asked to vouch for her husband's treatment of women, as she does in the above quote from an interview with Anderson Cooper. Melania expressed optimism about her husband's inner thoughts about treating women with dignity, as equals — Abigail Adams was less hopeful.
On Political Opinions Within Their Marriage
It may be unrealistic to expect first ladies to publicly disagree with their husbands because it could be perceived as a lack of faith or organization. However, Melania has made clear that while she supports President Trump, they do not agree on everything. Laura Bush, meanwhile, explicitly said she would only seek to protect her husband's opinions.
On "Illegal" Immigrants
It's important to note that Hillary Clinton's views on immigration have become more nuanced over the years. As a presidential campaign she promoted, among other things, a path to citizenship, as well as DACA. Whether Melania's views are more complicated is unclear.
"He cares about women."
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis:
Melania's husband was recorded saying he would physically grab a woman he found attractive. Jacqueline's husband, similarly, has a lengthy record of alleged affairs. However, when asked to comment about Trump's statements, Melania seems to prefer optimism to Jacqueline's more cynical pragmatism.
When Women Are Diminished
It would be impossible to quantify the number of times that Hillary Clinton has explicitly championed women's rights, but in March 2017, Melania echoed one of Clinton's most famous quotes. Strikingly similar in sentiment, she spoke of the impossibility of extricating women's issues from human issues at large.
"Like Betty Ford"
Melania referenced iconic First Ladies Betty Ford and Jackie Kennedy when she predicted how she would fill the role. However, Betty Ford wrote in her memoirs that she didn't want her husband to be president, and expressed insecurity about becoming First Lady. But instead of bowing to the traditional expectations associated with the position, she attempted to maintain a level of individuality.
Melania, who is known to be fluent in at least five languages, said that English is what people speak in America. Her husband only speaks English, which she has described as "okay" because she wouldn't tell him what to learn. Michelle Obama, meanwhile, in her last commencement speech as First Lady, urged graduates to embrace diversity instead of shying away from it, according to The Root.
Melania has not given many one-on-one interviews, and in interviews conducted with her husband, she rarely says anything that wasn't previously said in a public speech. Because of this, her personal views by and large remain a mystery to the public. But regardless of what her tenure becomes, or who she becomes as First Lady, scholars will undoubtedly study and scrutinize her words and actions for years to come.