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First Lady or First Gentlemanis the unofficial title used in some countries for the spouse of an elected head of state. In the United States, it is also used for the spouse of the governor.


The title "First Lady" originated in the United Statesmarker in 1849, when United States President Zachary Taylor called Dolley Madison "First Lady" at her state funeral while reciting a eulogy written by himself.

In the early days of the United Statesmarker republic, there was no generally accepted title for the wife of the President. Many early first ladies expressed their own preference for how they were addressed, including the use of such titles as "Lady," "Mrs. President," "Mrs. Presidentress" (in the case of Edith Wilson) and "Queen of the White House."

Harriet Lane, niece of bachelor President James Buchanan was the first woman to be called First Lady while actually serving in that position. The phrase appeared in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Monthly in 1860, when he wrote, "The Lady of the White House, and by courtesy, the First Lady of the Land." Once Harriet Lane was called First Lady, the term was applied retrospectively to her predecessors.

The title first gained nationwide recognition in 1877, when Mary C. Ames wrote an article in the New York City newspaper The Independent describing the inauguration of President Rutherford B. Hayes. She used the term to describe his wife, Lucy Webb Hayes. Mrs. Hayes was a tremendously popular first lady, and the frequent reporting on her activities helped spread use of the term outside Washington.

In some situations, the title is bestowed upon a non-spouse. Park Geun-hye, former head of the Grand National Party of Korea, has been referred to as the First Lady to South Korean President Park Chung Hee. Although she is President Park's daughter, the title was bestowed upon her after her mother's death.

The title "First Gentleman" is used for the head of state's husband in the Philippines as well as for governors' husbands in US states. In addition, it has been theorized that it is likely that "First Gentleman" would be used for the male spouse of an American head of state.

By Country


The First Spouse of the Philippines is the spouse of the head of state of the Philippinesmarker. Jose Miguel Arroyo, the First Gentleman, is the husband of the Philippine president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.


The Première Dame de France is the spouse of the French President. Currently, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is the French First Lady, wife of Nicolas Sarkozy.

United States

In terms of the First Lady, in the past, occasionally another woman, such as the President's daughter, has filled the duties of First Lady as hostess in the White Housemarker, if the President's wife was unwilling, unable, or if the President was a widower or bachelor.

The current First Lady of the United States is Michelle Obama, wife of Barack Obama. In American English media the term First Lady is often applied to wives of heads of state of other countries, irrespective of whether or not there is such a role or whether that role is differently described.

The entire family of the head of state may be known familiarly as the "First Family." The spouse of the second in command (such as a Vice President) may be known as the "Second Lady," or Vice-First Lady. Less frequently, the family would be known as the "Second Family".

The spouse of a governor of a U.S. state is commonly referred to as the First Lady or First Gentleman of that state, for example "First Lady of Ohiomarker." The practice is less common for spouses of mayors but is nevertheless used for some, particularly large cities; example: "First Lady Maggie Daley of Chicagomarker."

Current U.S. First Gentlemen

Non-political uses

It has become commonplace for the title of "First Lady" to be bestowed on women, as a term of endearment, who have proven themselves to be of exceptional talent, even if that talent is non-political. For example, the term has been applied in the entertainment field to denote the "First Lady of Television" (Lucille Ball), the "First Lady of Song" (Ella Fitzgerald), the "First Lady of Country Music" (Tammy Wynette) the "First Lady of American Soul" (Aretha Franklin), the "First Lady of the Grand Old Oprymarker" (Loretta Lynn), and the "First Lady of the American Stage" (Helen Hayes) .

The term "first lady" is also used to denote a woman who occupies the foremost social position within a particular locality.

The spouse of the president of a university or college may also be styled its first lady. In some institutions this use is official, and in some unofficial. In many it is not used.

The term is also used often in predominantly black churches. In these churches, the wife of a senior pastor is sometimes called "first lady."

See also



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