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Carter, Rosalynn (1927–)

Carter, Rosalynn (1927–)

American first lady. Born Eleanor Rosalynn Smith, Aug 18, 1927, in Plains, Georgia; dau. of Wilburn Edgar (auto mechanic) and Frances Alletta "Allie" (Murray) Smith (seamstress); attended Georgia Southwestern College; m. Jimmy Carter (president of US, 1977–81), July 7, 1946; children: John (b. 1947); James Earl III, known as Chip (b. 1950); Donnel Jeffrey (b. 1952); Amy Carter (b. 1967).

At 18, became a navy wife (1946); with husband, returned home to run the family peanut business (1951); ran the warehouse and campaigned when husband ran successfully for a Georgia state senate seat (1962), as well as when he ran successfully for governor of Georgia (1970); while in the governor's mansion, was appointed to Governor's Commission to Improve Services for the Mentally and Emotionally Handicapped and worked with Lady Bird Johnson to start the Georgia Highway Wildflower Program; also pushed for passage of Equal Rights Amendment in Georgia and for judicial reforms for women prisoners; as husband's advisor in his run for the presidency, wrote and delivered speeches, helped make staff decisions, and traveled independently in 40 states (1975–76); as first lady (1977–81), continued to function as a full partner with husband, acting as his emissary on an unprecedented trip to Latin America and envoy to Cambodian refugee camps; toured Central and South America and attended the inauguration of President Jose Lopez Portillo of Mexico; like Eleanor Roosevelt before her, was often considered too influential and powerful, and her attendance at Cabinet meetings, though at husband's invitation, drew criticism; became honorary chair of President's Commission on Mental Health, resulting in the 1st major reform of federal publicly funded mental-health programs since the Community Mental Health Centers Act of 1963; with husband, became active in the Habitat for Humanity housing campaign and the Friendship Force; created the Carter Center's Mental Health Task Force, which she chairs; published a book on care giving, Helping Yourself Help Others (1995).

See also memoir, First Lady from Plains (Houghton, 1984); and Women in World History.

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