Welcome to Wiser Now’s weekly email blast which reflects my eclectic interests and, I hope, yours. Today is First Ladies Day. We celebrated Presidents’ Day on Monday because although it was created to honor George Washington (whose birth date was February 22, 1732) it is now generally used to honor all U.S. Presidents. Plus, we like 3-day weekends. But First Ladies have always been much more interesting than they have been given credit for, as you’ll see below. (Pictured in this historically significant, cropped 2003 Time Magazine photo are Former First Ladies Rosalynn Carter, Barbara Bush, Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Where was Laura Bush?)

I hope you are finding these offerings fun, and perhaps even useful, and I welcome your feedback. ( And if you haven’t yet pressed the subscribe button so this newsletter doesn’t go to spam, please do so now.

The Quirky Quote
Every woman over fifty should stay in bed until noon. ~​ Former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower

The Quirky Facts
In the British Isles, the honorific “Lady” is given to anyone who is countess, viscountess, or baroness, as well as the daughters of dukes, marquesses, and earls. It denotes high social class and theoretically someone who is refined, polite, well-spoken, and circumspect in her behavior. But the honorific “First Lady” (sometimes “First Lady of the Land”) we have given to the wives of U.S. Presidents did not begin with Martha Washington and is not related to the British peerage.

Zachary Taylor is often credited as the first to use the term “First Lady” in his eulogy for Dolley Madison. A decade or so later the title was sometimes used for Harriet Lane who often played the role of hostess to her uncle, the bachelor President James Buchanan. Then in 1877, an article by a journalist named Mary C. Ames about the inauguration of Rutherford B. Hayes referred to Lucy Hayes as “the new First Lady” and somehow that stuck. In practice, however, most First Ladies are simply addressed as Mrs. ___ (fill in husband’s name).

Pictured: First Ladies National Historic Site, Canton, Ohio by Encircle Photos, former home of Ida Saxton McKinley, First Lady to President William McKinley.

The Quirky Observation
The words we use to describe women can be tricky. As an honorific, “Lady” suggests deference, but “Whadya want, Lady?” is the opposite. A damsel, from the French demoiselle, suggests a sweet, young maiden of gentle birth, but is most often used in reference to someone who is helpless and needs rescuing. In the British Isles, to be a Dame is the female equivalent of being a knight, a high rank indeed. But being called a dame in the U.S. is seldom respectful. Well, maybe in the Broadway hit “South Pacific.” There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame is still a fun song.

The Question
Is there a First Lady you would like to know more about? Look up her biography and share what you learn with family and friends.

Featured Product
The Wiser Now Slide Show “Presidential Matters” has a lot to say about our First Ladies, from trivia quizzes on their accomplishments to First Lady firsts. Avoiding political statements, it introduces the U.S. Presidents and First Ladies in a lighthearted way with six trivia quizzes that cover a lot of presidential tidbits from pets to peculiar breakfast habits, plus presidential inaugurations, and what you may not know about the Lincoln bedroom. It’s fun, fascinating, and lightheartedly informative.
The Quiz
The Wiser Now Slide Show “Presidential Matters” mentioned above covers much more ground than there is room for here, but the accomplishments of the women pictured will, I hope, intrigue you enough to whet your appetite for learning more.

                    Can you match the accomplishment to the First Lady?

Pictured at left: 
Grace Coolidge ___
Abigail Fillmore ___ 
                                          Caroline Harrison ___                  

Pictured at right:
Lou Hoover ___
                     Elizabeth Johnson ___
Helen Herron Taft ___

1.    Was responsible for the famous Japanese cherry trees that encircle the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.

2.    Was a former teacher of children with hearing impairments at a School for the Deaf, and fluent in sign language which she used to respond to reporters after being told not to speak to them.

3.     As a former schoolteacher, was appalled by the lack of books in the Executive Mansion and obtained congressional funds for the first official library there

4.    Is credited with teaching her husband (and the future President) how to read

5.    Helped raise funds to open a medical school at Johns Hopkins University on the condition that it would admit women.

6.    First woman to graduate with a geology degree from Stanford University. Lived with her husband in China where they learned Mandarin Chinese and used it for private conversations in the White House.

Bonus question:

Although her first marriage to Daniel Parke Custis was apparently happy, Martha Washington abhorred her father-in-law from that marriage. When her husband died, Martha visited the Williamsburg mansion that had been her father-in-law’s main residence and auctioned off all his possessions with the following exception:

a. She had his ornately hand-carved bed chopped up and used it for firewood ___

b. She purposely smashed his priceless                                                               collection of hand-blown wine glasses to                                                             smithereens ___

Answers provided at the end of the document.

The Shameless Request
Please share Wiser Now Wednesday with anyone you think might be interested, and if you represent an organization that would like a customized version, send me a note at

The Resources

Answers to the quiz
  1. Helen Herron Taft
  2. Grace Coolidge
  3. Abigail Fillmore
  4. Elizabeth Johnson
  5. Caroline Harrison
  6. Lou Hoover
       Bonus question: b
My multiple goals are to amuse and inspire you, to share what I and people whom I admire are doing, to stimulate your curiosity and spur you to action. I hope you enjoyed this offering. You can access previous issues here. We welcome your feedback. (
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Copyright (c) 2021 Kathy Laurenhue | All rights reserved.

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