Eleanor Rosalynn Smith Carter, known as Rosalynn, (born August 18, 1927) is the wife of former United States President Jimmy Carter and was First Lady of the United States from 1977 to 1981.
Eleanor Rosalynn Smith was born in Plains, Georgia, the eldest of the four children (two brothers, both deceased and a sister) of Frances Allethea Murray (1904–1997), a dressmaker, and Edgar Smith (1896–1940), an automobile mechanic and farmer. The first syllable of Rosalynn is pronounced to rhyme with "Rose."
Her father died of leukemia when she was thirteen, and she helped her mother raise her younger siblings as well as assist her dressmaking in order to meet the family's financial needs. She graduated as valedictorian of Plains High School and then attended Georgia Southwestern College.
Marriage and FamilyAlthough they had known each other earlier, Rosalynn Smith first dated Jimmy Carter in 1945 while he was at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. On July 7, 1946, they married in Plains.
The couple has four children: John William "Jack" (born 1947) James Earl "Chip" III (born 1950), Donnel Jeffery "Jeff" (born 1952), and Amy Lynn (born 1967). The first three were born in different parts of the country and away from Georgia, due to her husband's military duties.
In 1953, after her husband left the Navy, she helped him run the family peanut farming and warehousing business, handling the accounting responsibilities.
Since 1962, the year Jimmy Carter was elected to the Georgia State Senate, Rosalynn has been active in the political arena.
As First Lady of Georgia, Rosalynn was appointed to the Governor's Commission to Improve Services for the Mentally and Emotionally Handicapped. The Commission presented recommendations to Governor Carter, many of which were approved and then became law. Rosalynn also served as a volunteer at the Georgia Regional Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia and for five years was honorary chairperson for the Georgia Special Olympics for Mentally Challenged Children.
First Lady of the United StatesIn January 1977, she and her husband walked hand-in-hand down Pennsylvania Avenue during his inauguration. Not one for ostentation, she packed a picnic lunch for that day and wore a six-year-old dress during the ceremony.
During the Carter Administration, Rosalynn would sit in on cabinet meetings. She also worked in many charitable organizations, and met with and helped young children in impoverished third-world countries. She also would meet with world leaders and chief executives and heads of nations at Camp David when her husband was unavailable, and is today remembered as one of the most empowered First Ladies in history.
She was appointed a diplomat to Latin America during her husband's presidency. She also wrote policy and spoke before congressional committees to promote legislation.
In the time when she was not occupied with affairs of state, Rosalynn Carter enjoyed spending time with her grandchildren when they came to visit the White House.
Rosalynn Carter InstituteShe is currently a global human rights activist and co-chair of the Carter Center. An important project to Mrs. Carter personally is the Rosalynn Carter Institute (RCI) at Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, Georgia, her alma mater, of which she is Chair. The RCI was established in 1987 and works to address issues related to caregiving in America. The Institute focuses its work on both family and professional caregivers for individuals living with chronic illness and disabilities, limitations related to aging, and other health concerns. The work of the Institute is extensive both locally (in Americus), throughout Georgia and the United States. For example, the Institute provides scholarships and fellowships to students throughout Georgia, conducts needs assessments and research on caregivers, provides training and education for caregivers through its own curriculum, operates a Caregiver Resource Center for residents of southwest Georgia, offers a number of national caregiver awards including the Rosalynn Carter Caregiver Award, and partners with Johnson & Johnson to support innovative community caregiving programs throughout the United States.
Awards and HonorsSince returning to Plains, Mrs. Carter has received the Presidential Citation from the American Psychological Association, the Distinguished Service Award for Leadership Christian Social Ethics from the Christian Life Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and in August of 1983, she was elected to the board of directors of the Gannett Company, Inc. In April 1984, Carter became a member of the board of advisors of Habitat for Humanity, Inc. Her autobiography, First Lady from Plains, was published in May 1984. Both she and her husband received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1999 from President Bill Clinton.
In 2001, Carter was elected to the National Women's Hall of Fame.
Mrs. Carter is also the godmother of Royal Caribbean International's MS Sovereign of the Seas which, at the time of its launch in 1988, was the world's largest passenger ship.