Credit: Jimmy Carter Library
Pioneering first lady and advocate Rosalynn Carter turns 95
Plains, Ga., is celebrating the birthday of one of its most famous citizens.
Former first lady Rosalynn Carter turns 95 today.
Over the weekend, Mrs. Carter and her husband, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, 97, were spotted outside, eating at a picnic table and laughing with friends as a banjo plucked the melody of "I'll Fly Away," in the background. That gospel hymn was written two years after Mrs. Carter was born in 1927.
The Carters recently celebrated their 76th wedding anniversary and spend most days at home. But this rare sighting happened at a sculpture installation as part of the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail which connects public and private gardens in the Southwest Georgia town.
Carter family friend Annette Wise leads the butterfly program and told the Associated Press that Mrs. Carter established the garden after becoming concerned about the demise of monarch butterflies, which are crucial to the pollination of flowering plants.
Mrs. Carter's care and concern have made her an incomparable advocate during her lifetime. Whether building houses for Habitat for Humanity or fighting guinea worm, she has been photographed around the world working side-by-side with her husband for more than half a century.
Yet her own efforts as first lady and at the Carter Center are often overlooked.
Here's a snapshot of some of Mrs. Carter's achievements:
Expanding the role of first lady during and after the White House
A mother of four, she was the first to establish an official 'Office of the First Lady' in the East Wing of the White House in 1977, and the first to hire a chief of staff with a rank and salary commensurate with that of other White House staff. When the Carter Center was established in 1982, she contributed to its areas of focus, including mental health, peace and democracy, women's rights and eradicating diseases.
Advocating to reduce the stigma of mental health
For over 50 years, Mrs. Carter has worked to promote the dignity and self-worth for people living with mental illnesses. She was a member of the Governor's Commission to Improve Services to the Mentally and Emotionally Handicapped when Jimmy Carter was governor of Georgia. As active honorary chair of the President's Commission on Mental Health during her time in the White House, she helped bring about passage of the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980. At The Carter Center, created the Center's Mental Health Program, established a Mental Health Task Force, and founded the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism. She also founded the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers in 1987.
Supporting women's rights
Born on the seventh anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, Mrs. Carter has always been a fervent supporter of women's rights and, along with former first lady Betty Ford, was a vocal leader in the fight to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. She has received the Award of Merit for Support of the Equal Rights Amendment from the National Organization for Women and was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame, only the third first lady ever so honored.
Supporting vaccine education and access
Mrs. Carter co-founded Every Child By Two (now Vaccinate Your Family), focusing on protecting all people in the U.S. from vaccine-preventable diseases. During the Carter administration, her advocacy resulted in increased federal support for vaccine programs nationwide and the passage of state laws requiring evidence of vaccinations for school entry.