Real ‘White House’ Wives: First Ladies Put Planet First

Sow Victory!
While the “Real Housewives of DC” occupy their days with dry cleaning, diamonds, and drinking, our nation’s First Ladies have more significant items on their daily to-do lists.

On the day that honors our nation’s first men, let’s acknowledge a few of the leading ladies behind America’s Commanders-in-Chief who’ve made sure environmental issues are on the White House table.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Facing the Great Depression and WWII head-on, FDR’s right-hand woman exemplified American self-reliance and sustainability by planting a victory garden at the White House – inspiring millions of families to do likewise.

Already concerned about the strip mining that, to this day, continues to devastate the mountains of West Virginia, Eleanor also had faith in the cultivation of domestic clean energy:

I have been wondering for a long time why some of our own defense officials do not put more emphasis on finding a good substitute for oil and worry less about where more oil is to come from.  New discoveries are all around us, and when we have to make them, we nearly always do.

Lady Bird Johnson, credit: Frank Wolfe, MacNeil/Lehrer Productions

Lady Bird Johnson

Time magazine’s “First Green First Lady” once said, “The environment is where we all meet; where all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share. It is not only a mirror of ourselves, but a focusing lens on what we can become.”

Mrs. LBJ worked tirelessly for over 40 years living by those beliefs. A strong advocate for protecting American natural resources, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center stands as a tribute to her work conserving native wildflowers and landscapes.

Where flowers bloom, so does hope.

Pat Nixon

In addition to being the first First Lady to wear pants, Mrs. Nixon sponsored the Legacy of Parks – a program resulting in the development of more than 640 parks from unused federal land.

Laura Bush

Laura Bush, who is an honorary chair of the National Park Foundation, has spent much of her time since the White House in efforts to protect the Texan coast and Gulf of Mexico. Standing up to the Vice President, she was a strong voice for President Bush’s end-of-term decision to designate almost 200,000 square miles of Pacific Ocean as conservation areas.

No matter where we live, in the city or the country, our lives depend on the quality of our native lands.

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama's organic vegetable garden, via The White House/Flickr
Mrs. Obama followed up Eleanor’s victory garden with an organic vegetable garden at the White House, educating children and families about healthy diet and self-reliance. Receiving NWF’s 75th Anniversary Conservation Award, Michelle created the Let’s Move! initiative to get children healthy, active, and outside.

She has also been instrumental in “greening” the White House – growing the recycling program and incorporating environmentally-friendly products and materials into the household.