American University announced the country’s first association to study the work and history of first ladies, called the First Ladies Association for Research and Education (FLARE).
One founder of FLARE, Anita McBride, pointed out the lack of professional associations that encourage academics and the public to learn from the leadership of first ladies.
“It is our goal that FLARE will spark interest in an examination of the role these women performed in the White House, and in American society, and how first ladies are not only a mirror of their times but have been leaders on issues of national importance,” McBride said.
FLARE plans to hold national conferences, publish an online journal, produce podcasts, host research circles, and create networking opportunities. Founding president Myra Gutin described the association as “a long-overdue dream come true.”
“This determined group will expand our understanding of the president’s spouse. We are grateful to American University’s School of Public Affairs for joining us in this endeavor and look forward to highlighting the accomplishments of the women who have stood beside the president and have served our country so well,” Gutin said.
First Ladies’ Advocacy
Although first ladies do not hold a position in government and have no constitutional or statutory authority, they have worked on projects that made a massive impact on millions of Americans.
For example, Jacqueline Kennedy spearheaded the restoration of the White House, driven by her belief that the building should reflect the country’s artistic history. She also played a part in preserving the surrounding neighborhood.
Eleanor Roosevelt proved to be a monumental first lady, advocating policies that benefited women and working-class Americans during the Great Depression and post-war years. Scholars from the University of Miami pointed out that this gave rise to several new programs that offered job security to working Americans and alleviated economic suffering.