See the Cast of “The First Lady” Next to Their Real-Life Counterparts
Showtime’s “The First Lady” gives viewers a closer look at the lesser-spotlighted resident of the White House: the women. The presidents of the United States have been the ones to garner most of the attention over the years. However, “The First Lady” will shed light on how the women behind the scenes kept the house running, kept their husbands in check, and did so much work for their country without an official political role. The first ladies of the United States are arguably the backbone of the presidential families.
Viola Davis, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Gillian Anderson portray three of the most famous first ladies in American history in “The First Lady,” and they will no doubt share a (dramatised) retelling of what happened behind the closed doors of the most famous address in Washington DC. And Showtime really nails it when it comes to making these actresses look like their real-life counterparts. See them all – plus their presidential spouses – next to the real people they’re portraying.
Eleanor Roosevelt in Real Life
Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was the first lady longer than any other first lady in US history. She was born in 1884, the niece of former President Theodore Roosevelt. She married Franklin D. Roosevelt (who was her fifth cousin) in 1905, and the couple had six children. Eleanor was active in a variety of volunteer organisations, like the Red Cross and the League of Women Voters. She was also part of the Women’s Trade Union League and worked for the Women’s Division of the New York State Democratic Committee.
While in the White House, Eleanor was the first first lady to hold her own press conference. Even better: she only allowed women reporters to come to the event in an effort to put women first at a time when inequality ran rampant.
She was also incredibly active in her husband’s presidency, travelling around the country to identify concerns that needed their help. She also penned a newspaper column called “My Day” from the time she entered the White House until the time she died that was nationally syndicated in over 90 newspapers exploring important issues affecting the country. She was appointed to the United Nations General Assembly by former President Harry Truman after her husband died and continued her tireless work for the country.
She died in 1962 and is buried next to her husband in New York.
Franklin D. Roosevelt in Real Life
Franklin D. Roosevelt was born in 1882. He studied at Harvard and Columbia before going into politics and getting elected to Senate. After marrying Eleanor Roosevelt in 1905, he continued his political career by taking the post of Assistant Secretary of the Navy. His first go at the White House was as the vice-presidential candidate alongside James M. Cox, however, they lost to Warren Harding.
In 1921, Franklin contracted polio, which he never recovered from. He took this opportunity to raise awareness about polio and the search for a cure, which included his creation of the non-profit organisation March of Dimes, which aims to improve the health of mothers and babies.
Franklin was elected governor of New York in 1928 and 1930 before running for president of the United States. He was elected in 1932 and held the office for four terms – longer than any other president.
Coming into office during the Great Depression made it difficult for Franklin, and he created his New Deal initiative to try to restore growth and success in the country. It wasn’t easy, though, especially when the US found itself in the middle of World War II at the same time. He dove head-first into leading the country through the war, creating allies, and navigating military procedures. However, the stress of the war was physically taxing, and he suffered a stroke in 1945, dying just a few hours later. He’s buried in New York, where his wife, Eleanor, was laid to rest 20 years later when she died.
Betty Ford in Real Life
Betty Ford was born Elizabeth Anne Bloomer in 1918. As a child, she had a passion for dance, which stayed with her for years. She joined a dance troupe as a young woman but eventually gave it up in favour of teaching kids to dance instead. She married William C. Warren, a travelling businessman, and together they lived an on-the-road lifestyle, which she didn’t love. They divorced, after which she met Gerald Ford, and they wed in 1948.
As her husband’s political career grew, Betty took on the role of not only his wife and parent of their children, but his counsellor when he needed it. In 1974, Betty became the first lady when Gerald was promoted from vice president to president following Richard Nixon’s resignation amid fallout over the Watergate scandal. She was quite the modern voice as a first lady, speaking out in support of women’s rights issues like divorce and abortion. Though she ruffled some feathers, she was overall well-liked.
Throughout much of her adult life, Betty struggled with opioid addiction, which got worse after she left the White House. After going to rehab and working on herself, she dug into figuring out how she could help others struggling with substance abuse disorder. She created the Betty Ford Center to help those struggling with addiction, most especially women.
Betty died in 2011 and was buried alongside her husband, who died five years prior.
Gerald Ford in Real Life
Gerald Ford was born Leslie Lynch King Jr. in 1913. When he was a baby, his mom remarried a man named Gerald Ford Sr., and he renamed the child. Before getting his law degree from Yale, he was a star football player, and he eventually joined the Navy to fight in World War II.
He married Betty Ford in 1948, and together the two of them had four children. Gerald served as a member of Congress for 25 years before moving on in politics. While Richard Nixon was in office, he had Spiro Agnew as his vice president. However, Agnew was forced to resign in 1973, and Nixon put Gerald into office in his place. But when Nixon was also forced to resign in 1974 amid the Watergate scandal, Gerald Ford became president of the United States.
Gerald served as president for just one term. One of his most memorable acts was pardoning Nixon for Watergate, which didn’t go over well with the general public. Ford struggled to help the economy while in office, which resulted in a scary 9% unemployment rate. All of this combined led to him not winning reelection in 1976.
After leaving the White House, Gerald lived a pretty quiet life in retirement with his wife. He died in 2006 and was buried in Grand Rapids, MI.
Michelle Obama in Real Life
Michelle Obama was born Michelle LaVaughn Robinson in 1964. She studied at Princeton and Harvard, earning her law degree from the latter. She met Barack Obama while at her first law job. Barack joined the firm as an intern and she was his adviser. The two married in 1992 and later welcomed two daughters.
She worked a number of prestigious jobs in a variety of sectors, including as an assistant to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, for the Chicago office of Public Allies helping young people prepare for their careers, at the University of Chicago as associate dean of student services, and for the University of Chicago Hospitals as executive director of community relations and external affairs.
When Barack started campaigning for presidential office, Michelle shifted her focus to help with the campaign. She played a large role in helping him get elected in 2008 and his reelection in 2012. She was a fixture in the White House and at political events, speaking on powerful topics like the American dream and bettering our communities.
Since Barack left office, Michelle has released her memoir called “Becoming” and created a production company with her husband and Netflix called Higher Ground Productions. She remains active in her causes, including children’s health and women’s rights.
Barack Obama in Real Life
Barack Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, met his father, Barack Obama Sr. – a Kenyan international student – while they were both studying at the University of Hawaii. The pair married and had Barack in 1961. His parents split up when he was young, and Dunham remarried an Indonesian man also studying at the University of Hawaii. The family spent time living in Indonesia while Barack was a child, and he attended school there before eventually moving back to Hawaii. He studied at Occidental College before transferring to Columbia University, majoring in political science. Barack got his law degree from Harvard before moving to Chicago for an internship. It was there that he met his future wife, Michelle.
He quickly got into politics in Chicago before being elected to the state Senate in 1996. He was elected to the US Senate in 2004 before making a run for president, going up against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, and pulling out a win. In the general election that year, he defeated John McCain to become the 44th president of the United States and the first Black man to hold the position.
Though Barack was well-liked when he took office, he had his fair share of challenges that come with leading the US. He was criticised for the struggling economy and how he handled international relations in the Middle East. But he also created Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) to make health care more accessible for Americans and the DACA program to help and protect children who were brought into the US unlawfully but wanted to stay and build a life.
He won reelection for a second term in 2012, continuing his work on the economy, the war overseas, and a whole host of worldwide issues. Through it all, Michelle was by his side, creating a united front for the political work he was doing and the social work she was doing. He passed the baton when he left office in early 2017 but has still remained active in politics and in the public eye.