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Looking Forward While Going Backward...and In Heels

By Guest Blogger, Mary Schmidt, Marketing Troubleshooter 

Obamas Tuesday night I stuck it out, right through the very last ball.  I'm normally not into all that sort of frou-frou, but this was President and First Lady Obama.

And, being a woman, I KNOW how tiring and downright painful it is to wear heels ALL day and into the night...and keep the mascara unsmeared...and keep moving and continue smiling.  So, I figured if First Lady Obama could stand it, I could sit through it. 

As President Obama turned to his wife for the obligatory dance, he'd say, "...and now, for someone who does everything I do, except backward and in heels."  This was a reference to the famous quote about Ginger Rogers and her dancing with Fred Astaire.

Here's what often gets lost in all the talk about gowns, shoes and hair styles of First Ladies.

The First Lady is the most powerful woman on earth and not just because she's married to the "most powerful man on earth." (One well-timed elbow poke in the hubby's ribs could derail a whole country invasion...;-)  Everything she says and does is news. Everyone returns her phone calls. She can, if she chooses, do something BIG.

It's long been a semi-polite fiction that the President's wife is nothing more than a simple little helpmate, baking cookies and pouring tea.  She may well be pouring tea, but behind-the-scenes she's doing a lot.  And, I'm not talking about Hillary. Edith Wilson was the president in 1919 when Woodrow Wilson had a stroke.  Some credit Dolley Madison for putting a bit of much needed steel in the spine of James Madison, our 4th president.  (Mrs. Madison was enraged at how American soldiers fled rather than fought the oncoming British, and even slept with a sabre near her bedside should a British soldier show up in the middle of the night. So take that!) 

And, we could go on for days about Eleanor Roosevelt, who in addition to being one of FDR's most trusted ambassadors and advisors, blossomed and grew from a shy, pampered woman who referred to her servants as darkies (!) to a leader in civil rights.  Watching the festivities this week, I couldn't help but think of her.  (She spoke out loudly in support of Marian Anderson in 1939 when the black singer was denied the use of Washington's Constitution Hall and was instrumental in the subsequent concert held on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.)

But, here's the thing - women don't have to be married to a leader...or even married...or wear heels...to do something.  Nothing wrong with lookin' good, but we can also do good, particularly if we aren't willing to stand for nonsense and stupidity.  If the women of Liberia can band together to end a war, we here in the U.S. can surely step up on all kinds of issues. (When U.N. efforts proved to be ineffective, some women in Liberia went as far as taking arms directly from rebels. Wow. And we American femmes can wimp out when asking for a raise...)

Dollye Madison P.S.  Dolley Madison lived long enough (until 1849) to be photographed (at left).  Really makes all that fusty, musty American revolution stuff seem real and human.  

Read More:

Hints of Agenda and Tone By New First Lady (NYT about Michelle Obama.) 

First Ladies Gallery (whitehouse.gov)

Book recommendations from my bookshelf:

First Ladies, An Intimate Group Portrait of White House Wives, by Margaret Truman.  

No Ordinary Time, Eleanor and Franklin In The War Years, by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Happy Friday!  I'm off to take another look at my "make a difference" list.  (And I'm very grateful I seldom have to wear heels, much less dance backwards!)


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Amen! Thank so much for this terrific, inspiring post. For all the talk about Mrs. Obama's clothes, I'm thinking she should embroider them with messages about her agenda and social priorities:)

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