Blog | 24 Fun Facts about First Lady Rosalynn Carter

By Susan Hunsinger, program associate, and Katie Conner, former senior program associate, mental health program.

Former U.S. First Lady Rosalynn Carter, who turns 94 on Aug. 18, has been in the public eye since her husband Jimmy ran for Georgia governor 50 years ago.

She is best known for her advocacy for mental health issues, caregiver issues, as co-founder of The Carter Center and founder of the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism.

But there’s more to this “steel magnolia.”

How many of these facts do you know?

1. Rosalynn Smith Carter’s first name is Eleanor.

2. Mrs. Carter turns 94 on Aug. 18. She was born on the 7th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote.

3. Mrs. Carter was the first First Lady to establish an office in the east wing of the White House and have a projects staff.

4. The press dubbed Mrs. Carter the “steel magnolia” for her “sweetness and drive.”

5. Mrs. Carter loved the gown she wore for the Georgia Governor’s inaugural ball so much that she wore it again at Presidential inaugural ball—and was criticized for wearing it twice.

Photo of Rosalynn Carter wearing a light blue ball gown with gold trim and bodice.

(Photo: Jimmy Carter Presidential Library)

6. Mrs. Carter is a seamstress and used to make her daughter Amy’s clothes. She stopped sewing once she moved into the Governor’s Mansion because there was no time.

7. Fly fishing in a remote stream anywhere in the world is Mrs. Carter’s favorite thing to do.

8. Mrs. Carter has a rosean orchida camellia, and an azalea named for her.

9. Rosalynn Carter is an advocate for monarch butterfly conservation and inspired the establishment of the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail, a network of monarch-friendly public and private gardens across the United States and beyond.

Close-up photo of a monarch butterfly.

The Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail helps preserve monarch butterflies’ habitats. (Photo:

10. Mrs. Carter was valedictorian of her Plains High School graduating class.

11. Mrs. Carter enjoys listening for turkeys calling in the Plains woods with President Carter when he goes hunting.

12. Rosalynn Carter learned how to hula in Hawaii during President Carter’s time in the U.S. Navy.

13. Mrs. Carter supports the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) that constitutionally protected women’s rights in the late 1970s.

14. Rosalynn Carter was never a Girl Scout because there were no troop in Plains, Georgia. As First Lady, she was named an honorary scout, a custom extended to first ladies.

Black and white photo of Rosalynn Carter with uniformed members of the Girl Scouts of America.

Rosalynn Carter (center of room, middle back) poses with representatives from the Girl Scouts of America, March 11, 1977. (Photo: Jimmy Carter Presidential Library)

15. Lillian Gordy Carter, President Jimmy Carter’s mother, helped to deliver Rosalynn Carter in the house next door to his home.

16. President Jimmy Carter first “met” Rosalynn when he was three years old.

17. Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter is the sponsor of the last Seawolf submarine, the USS Jimmy Carter.

18. President and Mrs. Carter are both the eldest of four children.

19. Rosalynn Carter’s first book, First Lady from Plains, topped The New York Times non-fiction bestseller list.

Portrait of Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter sitting outside on a wooden bench.

(Photo: The Carter Center)

20. Mrs. Carter was the lead envoy on a U.S. delegation to seven Latin American and Caribbean countries in 1977.

21. Rosalynn Carter’s mother, Allie Murray Smith, graduated from Georgia State College for Women in Milledgeville, now Georgia College & State University.

22. As honorary chair of the Last Acts Campaign to improve end of life care, Mrs. Carter was an early advocate for the hospice movement and palliative care.

23. Mrs. Carter was a key advocate for passage of legislation during the Carter administration requiring vaccinations for school children.

24. Rosalynn Carter is opposed to the death penalty.

Related Resources

Read Honoring 50 Years of Mental Health Leadership »

This blog was written by Susan Hunsinger, program associate, and Katie Conner, former senior program associate, Carter Center Mental Health Program. It originally appeared here on, the official website of the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism.

Melissa Montgomery, special assistant to Rosalynn Carter; Curtis Kohlhaas, Carter Center chief development officer; Kathy Cade, vice chair of the Carter Center’s Board of Trustees; and Steven Hochman, director of research and faculty assistant to President Jimmy Carter, contributed to this article.

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