The United States’ first ladies are now getting the attention they deserve. American University announced on Monday that it will launch the nation’s first association dedicated to the study of the work and history of presidents’ spouses this month. Called the First Ladies Association for Research and Education (FLARE), the association will bring together academics, staffers of former first ladies, and journalists to explore the legacies of past and current first ladies.
While first ladies are not elected officials and don’t have any constitutional or statutory authority, their work can have a lasting impact on the lives of millions of people. For example, Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign addressed childhood obesity, and Lady Bird Johnson advocated for the Head Start program, which provides early childhood education to low-income children. “Remarkably, there are no formal professional associations that specialize in or encourage the public and scholars to learn from the leadership of our First Ladies,” said FLARE founding member Anita McBride in the press statement.
Soon after its launch, the association plans to hold national conferences, publish an online journal, produce podcasts, and host research circles and networking opportunities. “It is our goal that FLARE will spark interest in an examination of the role these women performed in the White House and in American society, and how First Ladies are not only a mirror of their times but have been leaders on issues of national importance,” McBride said.