I live near U.S. Grant’s home and finally made a point to visit the landmark.  I did not learn that much new about the General, but I did learn about his wife.

Julia Grant was the first presidential spouse to be called the First Lady.  She played an active role in Ulysses’ presidency: reading his mail, attending Senate hearings and meeting with presidential staff.  Julia was the first spouse to have her own press secretary (this was 1868!) and to send out releases for her own causes, including women’s suffrage. She also was the first to write her own memoir.

The statue of Julia Grant is one of only three former First Ladies memorialized in statues. Less than 5% of the statues in the country depict any woman (a fact Jed Bartlett learned the hard way in an episode of the West Wing.)

In 1868, women were incredibly strong, but it was not common to share that strength publicly.  Julia carved out a role for herself and helped shape her husband’s presidency and the path of the country.

What role can you create for yourself today?

— beth triplett

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