Betty Ford to Michelle Obama: How seven first ladies have changed the office

Since her husband's presidency, Betty Ford has passed the mantle of first lady to six other women. Here are the contributions each made:

6. Laura Bush

Andy Nelson / The Christian Science Monitor / File
Then-first lady Laura Bush discusses the importance of reading, during a visit to the National Book Festival in Washington, DC, on September 8, 2001.

As first lady, Laura Bush continued and expanded her efforts as the first lady of Texas: to promote literacy, education, and women’s rights.

The former school librarian partnered with the Library of Congress to launch an annual National Book Festival that fills the National Mall with authors, books, and readers each autumn.

Whether petitioning Congress for higher teacher salaries or fundraising for the National Book Festival, Mrs. Bush went to great lengths to improve education and literacy.

Toward the close of her husband’s second term, Mrs. Bush stepped up her efforts with both legislators and reporters as part of the administration’s push to reauthorize her husband’s prized education bill, “No Child Left Behind.”

While she was criticized by some for her infrequent public appearances, she increased her public profile over her husband’s eight years in office.

Both during and after her tenure as first lady, Gutin notes, Bush has concerned herself with the plight of Afghan women. She continues to raise money to support women there, says Gutin, recently fundraising to help young girls attend school.

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