I was just wondering if the first lady is considered a politician.

Considering that some of the FLOTUS's work involves diplomatic trips and that type of work, would she be considered a politician whether or not her work influenced the day to day operations of running the government (at least in the executive branch where her husband works)?

And what exactly makes one a politician?

2 Answers 2


Normally, no. It's a ceremonial position, with each picking a particular social cause or other activity to pursue. Jackie Kennedy redecorated the white house. Michelle Obama had school lunches. Nancy Reagan came up with 'just say no'. Betty Ford championed breast cancer, and substance abuse... starting the Betty Ford Clinic after leaving the white house.

Two recent exceptions who stepped outside of the traditional first lady role:

Eleanor Roosevelt, who was a very outspoken first lady, often disagreeing with her husband. Her conduct was considered very much out of character for what a first lady was expected to be at that time (1930's - 1940's).

Hillary Clinton, who assumed control of some white house staff (travel office) as well as heading up an aborted attempt to craft a health care law.

  • I've seen several documentaries claim that Eleanor's outspoken activism served as a convenient political tool for her husband. She could publicly engage in more radical/progressive ideas, which would reveal the country's receptiveness or lack thereof, and how plausible it would be to enact, without it actually damaging his political capital and influence. Sep 5, 2018 at 6:22
  • FLOTUS Edith Wilson was said to be the "Presidentress" and "Acting First Man" following President Woodrow Wilson's stroke in 1919. She held considerable authority in the Woodrow Administration and effectively decided who and what was important enough to bother the President. This state of affairs would continue until March 1921, when their second term in the White House concluded.
    – hszmv
    Sep 5, 2018 at 15:10

Humans are political animals. -- Aristotle

It is possible to argue that everyone is a politician. But a couple of things count against the First Lady being considered a "politician". First The position of First Lady is not mentioned in the constitution. There are no duties required of the First Lady, she receives no payment. Secondly, the First Lady is not elected. If the President isn't married to a woman, then there is no requirement for there to be a First Lady.

So insofar as a politician is one who is involved in politics, the First Lady is a politician. But if you consider a politician to be a professional position, then the First Lady isn't a politician in the same way as Senator, Representative, Governor etc.

Ultimately, does it matter?

  • If the President isn't married to a woman, then there is no First Lady. - Actually this is not true. There was talk about Ivanka actually taking the role of First Lady. But after that was brought up the clip from 5 or 10 years ago where trump said he would date his daughter. was publicized. I think that ended that idea Jun 22, 2017 at 20:27
  • @SoylentGray Good point. Clarified.
    – James K
    Jun 22, 2017 at 20:31

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