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15 First Ladies Who Were Even Cooler Than You Realized

“I think I was born to be outspoken." — Betty Ford

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1. Abigail Adams

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Abigail "remember the ladies" Adams left the majority of her possessions to her female relatives in her will, which was rare for a married woman whose property was controlled by her living husband. Her husband was still alive, and Abigail left him zip. She had a son who became PRESIDENT, and even he didn't get shit in her will. Damn, Abigail.

2. Dolley Madison

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Where to even begin with the OG nasty woman Mrs. Madison? Well for starters, Dolley was such a sought-after lady in early 19th-century society that people at the time speculated that Aaron Burr was waiting for his wife to die so he could marry Dolley instead.

After she avoided getting involved with that murderous creep, she did things like save a still-famous portrait of George Washington from the White House as it burned down during the War of 1812 — it hangs in the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery to this day — and get an honorary seat in Congress, which meant she could watch Congressional debates from the floor whenever she damn well pleased. Eat your heart out, Aaron Burr, sir.

3. Abigail Fillmore

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Abigail Fillmore wasn't just a teacher when she met her future husband, President Millard Fillmore: She was his teacher! She was two years older than he was, and their "shared eagerness for schooling" brought them together.

Oh yeah, and she was the first first lady to keep her job after getting married. It shouldn't be a surprise that her maiden name was Powers.

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4. Harriet Lane

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Harriet Lane served as first lady for her uncle James Buchanan, aka the only bachelor president to date, aka a man baby who basically hastened the start of the Civil War. Lane, who was known as the "Democratic queen", wore a dress to his inauguration with a neckline that was a scandalous 2 1/2 inches lower than most women wore at the time. Rather than cause an uproar, it made demand for similar dresses skyrocket.

Lane's winning streak didn't end after Buchanan's one measly term: She also helped found the first pediatric medical center in the U.S. and the Smithsonian Institution's National Gallery of Art. Lane's the name, getting shit done is her game.

5. Eliza Johnson

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Eliza Johnson helped her husband — aka the future president — learn how to write and do arithmetic because he received barely any formal education.

Eliza: B-A-D-A-S-S. What does that spell?

Andrew: Uh, badass?

Eliza: Wrong! It spells Eliza Johnson.

6. Lucy Hayes

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Every time someone calls her "Lemonade Lucy," Lucy Hayes takes a big old sip of it, because she was more than just a Temperance-loving lady who hosted the White House's first Easter egg roll. She was also the first first lady to receive a college degree, from Cincinnati Wesleyan Female College in 1850. SHE DID THAT.

7. Helen Taft

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Helen Taft is like that chill aunt that you can just tell was a total fucking badass in her younger years. She was definitely more of a badass than her husband, who got stuck in a bathtub and LITERALLY FELL ASLEEP DURING MEETINGS.

Helen encouraged William Howard Taft to run for president, was the first first lady to own and drive a car, the first to ride alongside her husband in the inaugural parade, helped found the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and started the collection of first ladies' dresses in the Smithsonian by donating hers. Fuck. Helen, if you can hear us, you married down.

8. Edith Wilson

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Honestly, we should be calling Edith Wilson "Madame President." Wanna know why? She's been called the "Secret President" and the "first woman to run the government" because she took on some presidential duties after President Wilson had a paralyzing stroke in 1919. She was the sole liaison between Wilson and his cabinet and took notes during his meetings.

She did not mess around, either. When Secretary of State Robert Lansing held a meeting without Wilson, Edith thought it was so disloyal that she successfully convinced him to resign. Edith, you literally ruled.

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9. Lou Hoover

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Lou Hoover was the first woman to graduate from Stanford University, with a degree in geology. But that pales in comparison to this: she became proficient in Chinese while living in China — during the Boxer Rebellion, no less — and would speak in Chinese to throw off eavesdroppers in the White House.

How do you say badass in Chinese?

10. Eleanor Roosevelt

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Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "Women are like teabags. You don't know how strong they are until you put them in hot water."

Eleanor spent a LOT of time in hot water — she was an orphan by the age of 10 and was humiliated by FDR's many affairs — that made her strong AF. Among many other accomplishments, she helped draft the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, campaigned tirelessly for civil rights, wrote a newspaper column called "My Day" for 27 years, and went flying with Amelia Earhart. We may never comprehend the full scope of Eleanor's awesomeness.

11. Jackie Kennedy

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If you've ever been in New York City and thought, "Wow, why is Penn Station a total fucking dump when Grand Central is actually really beautiful?" you already (perhaps indirectly) know how great Jackie Kennedy was. In 1975, she personally saved Grand Central from being knocked down and turned into a depressing gray box of hell like Penn Station. Literally. She wrote a letter to Mayor Abraham Beame begging him to reconsider, and he changed his mind within a week. Jackie!!!!

Another priceless Jackie gem? In 1975, after both JFK and her second husband Aristotle Onassis had passed away, she became a highly respected book editor at Doubleday instead of living a leisurely life of a wealthy widow, as she easily could have. Among many others books, she edited Michael Jackson's autobiography, Moonwalk, during her 19 years as an editor. Let's all take a moment to praisehands Jackie.

12. Pat Nixon

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Pat Nixon was the first first lady to wear pants in public. She became first lady in 1969. It took 180 years of first ladies before one put her (bad) ass in a goddamn pair of pants. Let that sink in.

13. Betty Ford

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Betty Ford was often described as "candid" and "forthright," which are nice euphemisms for badass. Gerald Ford had to postpone their 1948 wedding until after he won the nomination for his seat in Congress because he thought voters would be scandalized that he was marrying Betty, a divorced modern dancer.

As first lady, she campaigned for the ERA and women's rights, caused a massive spike in self breast exams and screenings called the "Betty Ford blip" after she announced that she had undergone a mastectomy for breast cancer, and was so outspoken on issues like Roe v. Wade that her husband's advisers thought it might damage his presidency. After her time in the White House, she helped found the drug and alcohol rehab center that bears her name.

“I think I was born to be outspoken,” she once said. And thank god for that, Betty.

14. Hillary Clinton

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The usual tales of Hillary Clinton's badassery are forever seared onto our hearts and minds, so here's one that's gotten a little less attention: When she was in college, she defied the formal traditions of Wellesley's school dances by designing an outfit of "floor-length culottes in a brilliant orange with feathers and bracelets".

Yas, Hills. Yas.

15. Michelle Obama

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Our resident first lady has been getting shit done since long before she set foot in the White House. Michelle couldn't find a babysitter for baby Sasha when she had an interview for an executive position at the University of Chicago Medical Center, so she brought her along in a stroller. Sasha slept through the whole interview, and Michelle got the job.

MicHELLe YES.

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