- Rosalynn Carter

Rosalynn Carter: First Partner

The First Ladies at the Smithsonian

In the weeks before the inauguration, newspaper and magazine stories discussed the possible political role of the woman Jimmy Carter called his “best friend and chief advisor.” Papers reported her plans to be an active first lady who would hold frequent press conferences. Her press secretary said Mrs. Carter would play a role as a policy advisor, advocate for programs for mental health and older Americans, and work for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. The incoming first lady’s December trip to Mexico for the inauguration of President José López Portillo received coverage even though she was not part of the official American delegation. In an interview about her new role, Mrs. Carter acknowledged her partnership with her husband but described herself as someone to “bounce ideas off,” rather than an advisor.

 “Rosalynn Carter may well turn out to be an active presidential wife in the mold of Eleanor Roosevelt, her heroine.”
Time magazine, December 13, 1976

Gift of Rosalynn Carter

Rosalynn Carter’s Inaugural Gown, 1977

Rosalynn Carter wore this gold-embroidered sleeveless coat over a gold-trimmed blue chiffon gown to the 1977 inaugural balls. It was designed by Mary Matise for Jimmae and purchased through Jason’s in Americus, Georgia. Mrs. Carter’s decision to wear the same dress that she had worn to the 1971 ball celebrating her husband’s inauguration as governor of Georgia raised questions. News stories discussed the first lady’s responsibility to the American fashion industry, the symbolism of the inaugural gown, and Americans’ desire for glamour in the White House.

Gift of Rosalynn Carter

Rosalynn Carter’s Inaugural Gown, 1977 (detail)

Courtesy of Jimmy Carter Library

Rosalynn Carter in her inaugural gown, 1977

Gift of Rosalynn Carter

Rosalynn Carter's purse

Rosalynn Carter carried a purse by After Five to the inaugural balls.
Courtesy of Jimmy Carter Library
Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter walking in the inaugural parade, 1977