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  • Lillian Gordy Carter, Mother of a President

    Raised in rural, southern Georgia, Lillian Gordy Carter was trained as a nurse and spent her life opposing the strict codes of segregation. After the death of her husband, she left a life of being a homemaker and joined the Peace Corps to support public health in rural India. Her character drove many of the values behind her son Jimmy Carter's political campaigns and policies.

    Support Materials

    Discuss

    1. Compare and contrast your grandmother or an older female family member with Lillian Gordy Carter. Focus on how they lived their lives in their later years.

    2. Explain what Jimmy Carter means when he says that "his mother's life emerged in a public way that it otherwise would not have had his father lived."

    Expansion

    1. Jimmy Carter took political office soon after segregation was ended in the South; however, racial tensions in Georgia were still everpresent. As a class or in small groups, discuss how Lillian Carter's views on race influenced her son and his political positions on segregation.

    Vocabulary

    racial segregation: the separation, either by law or by action, of people of different races in all manner of daily activities, such as education, housing, and the use of public facilities
    fraternity: an organization, a society, or a club of men associated together for common professional or social interests, typically at colleges or universities
    nursing home: a private institution providing residential health care, especially for the elderly or disabled
    Peace Corps: a volunteer program of the United States government providing technical assistance, helping people outside the United States to understand American culture and helping Americans to understand the cultures of other countries generally related to social and economic development

    For Teachers

    Discussion Guide

    1. Compare and contrast your grandmother or an older female family member with Lillian Gordy Carter. Focus on how they lived their lives in their later years. 
    Student answers will vary. 

    2. Explain what Jimmy Carter means when he says that "his mother's life emerged in a public way that it otherwise would not have had his father lived."
    When her husband died, Lillian Carter was only in her early 60s. Over the next twenty years of her life, she joined the Peace Corps in India, traveled around the country campaigning for her son's presidency, and was a huge wrestling fan and attended a lot of matches. Had her husband lived longer, she would have been confined to the home taking care of the house and her husband.

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