Rosalynn Carter former first lady of the United States, writer and activist for various causes, especially mental health, has died at the age of 96 peacefully at her home in Plains Georgia, surrounded by her family.
Mrs. Carter was born Eleanor Rosalynn Smith in 1927 in Plains, Georgia, in a modest family. She was the eldest of four children of Wilburn Edgar Smith, an auto mechanic, bus driver and farmer, and Frances Allethea “Allie” Murray Smith, a teacher, dressmaker and postal worker.
It was also in Plains, Georgia that she met and married Jimmy Carter, a naval officer and later a peanut farmer and politician. She helped him win the governorship of Georgia in 1970 and the presidency of the United States in 1976.
As first lady, she was politically active and involved in her husband’s administration, attending cabinet meetings, representing him in foreign and domestic trips, and advocating for human rights, women’s rights, and environmental issues. She also supported her husband’s re-election campaign in 1980, which he lost to Ronald Reagan. After she had been in the office of First Lady for two years, Time magazine called her the “second most powerful person in the United States.”
Rosalynn Carter was a trailblazer for the role of the first lady, using her influence and visibility to advance social causes and public policies that mattered to her and the nation. While in the White House, she adopted several causes that reflected her interests and values. One of her main focuses was mental health, which she had been involved in since her husband’s governorship of Georgia.
She chaired a national commission on mental health, advocated for increased funding and research, and testified before Congress on behalf of the Mental Health Systems Act. She also supported women’s rights and the Equal Rights Amendment, which aimed to constitutionally protect women from discrimination. She was an active participant in her husband’s administration, attending Cabinet meetings, briefing him on domestic and foreign issues, and traveling around the world as his representative. She also maintained a warm and casual style of entertaining at the White House, hosting family-friendly events and promoting American culture.
During her husband’s administration, Carter supported her husband’s public policies as well as his social and personal life. In order to remain fully informed, she sat in on Cabinet meetings at the invitation of the President. Carter also represented her husband in meetings with domestic and foreign leaders, including as an envoy to Latin America in 1977. He found her to be an equal partner.
After leaving the White House, she continued to work on mental health awareness, peace initiatives, and humanitarian projects with her husband through the Carter Center and Habitat for Humanity. She has written several books and received many honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1999. She was the longest-married first lady and the second-longest-lived first lady in American history.
Rosalynn Carter has written five books, four of which reflect her deep involvement in issues of mental health. : First Lady from Plains (autobiography), 1984; Everything to Gain: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life (with Jimmy Carter), 1987; Helping Yourself Help Others: A Book for Caregivers (with Susan K. Golant), 1994; Helping Someone with Mental Illness: A Compassionate Guide for Family, Friends, and Caregivers (with Susan K. Golant), 1998; Within Our Reach: Ending the Mental Health Crisis (with Susan K. Golant and Kathryn E. Cade), 2010.