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First Lady is an unofficial title used for the wife of a head of state. Collectively, the president and spouse are known as the First Couple. If they have a family, they are usually referred to as the First Family.
The term is sometimes used, particularly in the U.S., to refer to the spouse of other heads of state, even if they do not have that style in their own country. Some other countries have a title, formal or informal, that is or can be translated as first lady. The title is not normally used for the wife of a prime minister or other head of government who is not also head of state.
Should a woman be elected to the US Presidency, her spouse would presumably be known as "The First Gentleman". Such usage was made in various literary works describing the term of a fictional woman President, such as The Coming of the Quantum Cats.
The term lady originates in Anglo-Saxon or Old English. The designation First Lady seems to have originated in the United States, where one of the earliest references was applied to Martha Washington. In an 1843 newspaper article that appeared in the Boston Courier, the author, "Mrs. Sigourney", discussing how Martha Washington had not changed, even after her husband George became president, wrote that "The first lady of the nation still preserved the habits of early life. Indulging in no indolence, she left the pillow at dawn, and after breakfast, retired to her chamber for an hour for the study of the scriptures and devotion". Some sources say that, in 1849, President Zachary Taylor called Dolley Madison "first lady" at her state funeral, while reciting a eulogy written by himself. But, no copy of that eulogy has been found to corroborate the quote.
In the early days of the United States, there was no generally accepted title for the wife of the president. Many early first ladies expressed their own preference for how they were addressed, including the use of such titles as Lady, Mrs. President, or Mrs. Presidentress (in the case of Julia Tyler).
Harriet Lane, niece of bachelor President James Buchanan, was the first woman to be called first lady while actually serving in that position. The phrase appeared in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Monthly in 1860, when he wrote, "The Lady of the White House, and by courtesy, the First Lady of the Land." Once Harriet Lane was called first lady, the term was applied retrospectively to her predecessors.
The title first gained nationwide recognition in 1877, when Mary C. Ames wrote an article in the New York City newspaper The Independent describing the inauguration of President Rutherford B. Hayes. She used the term to describe his wife, Lucy Webb Hayes.
While historically the term has generally been used to refer to the wife of a president, there were occasions when another woman, such as the President's daughter, has filled the duties of First Lady as hostess in the White House, if the President's wife was unwilling, unable, or if the President was a widower or bachelor.
The entire family of the head of state may be known familiarly as the "First Family". The spouse of the second-in-command (such as a Vice President) may be known as the "Second Lady", or Vice-First Lady. Less frequently, the family would be known as the "Second Family". The spouse of the governor of a U.S. state is commonly referred to as the First Lady or First Gentleman of that state, for example "First Lady Jessica Doyle of Wisconsin". The practice is less common for spouses of mayors but is nevertheless used for some, particularly in large cities; example: "First Lady Amy Rule of Chicago" or "First Lady Kris Barrett of Milwaukee." Mike Gregoire, husband of former Washington state governor Chris Gregoire, preferred to use his name instead of a common noun, calling himself "First Mike".
|The examples and perspective in this section may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (May 2013)|
Since 1789, first ladies have been more influential and active both politically and in terms of social hostess. They are in the tendency of becoming highly ambitious, determined, liberated and intelligent. As supportive wives, first ladies influence the presidents in not only personal and public life, but also in political career and social attitude. Political influences include presidents’ speech writing and editing, policy advising and advocating, electing presidential appointment and campaigning. First ladies also have so called “Pillow” influences. For example, their family life, social interests and moral beliefs affect the presidents. What’s more, first ladies bring about impacts on the social attitude toward women. Since first ladies play an important role in presidential spouse, they have some political activism such as pet projects, substantive policy issues, public support, ceremonial and social functions.
In American media the term First Lady is often applied to the wife of a head of state in another country, irrespective of whether a different appellation (or none) is used in that country.
In 1902, the American Munsey's Magazine said of the wife of Canadian Governor General the Earl of Minto: "As the first lady in the land, she has done much to weld together the heterogeneous components of a colonial society which includes peoples of different races and of antagonistic religions."  The term was also used by Munsey's to refer to the wife of Mexico's leader, President Porfirio Díaz. In an 1896 piece about "The Daughters of Mexico", author Jeannie Marshall said of Carmen Romero Rubio de Diaz: "She is still a young woman, though she has filled the position of 'first lady of the land' for many years, with marked success."  American Spanish-language newspaper La Prensa (of San Antonio TX) also called her "primera dama" when writing about her activities; referring to her as "La primera dama de Mexico, Doña Carmen Romero Rubio de Diaz".
The wife of the current president uses the term "Birinci xanım".
The term "Lok Chumteav" is used.
The term "Primera Dama" is used.
The term "First Lady" is used.
During the administration of President Kamuzu Banda, Malawi had an "Official Hostess" who served in the same capacity as "First Lady" because the President was unmarried. Banda was never married and therefore Cecilia Kadzamira served in this capacity for the nation.
The term "first lady" has been used intermittently for the wife of the President of Nigeria. The wife of the President has no official title, but receives the same style as her husband: His/Her Excellency.
The wife of the current president uses the term "Primera dama".
The term "Pierwsza Dama" is used by the wife of the current president.
The wife of the current president uses the term "first lady".
In some situations, the title is bestowed upon a non-spouse. This includes terms like "First Family", "First Daughter", and "First Son".
In the past, occasionally another woman, such as the President's daughter, has filled the duties of First Lady as hostess in the White House, if the President's wife was unwilling, unable, or if the President was a widower or bachelor. Harriet Lane, niece of bachelor President James Buchanan was the first non-spouse to be called First Lady.
After taking office as Puerto Rico's first female governor, Governor Sila Maria Calderón appointed her two daughters, Sila María González Calderón and María Elena González Calderón, to serve as First Ladies.
Following the leadership spill which installed Julia Gillard as the first female Prime Minister of Australia on 24 June 2010, some news media referred to her de facto partner, Tim Mathieson, as the "First Bloke".
It has become commonplace in the United States for the title of "First Lady" to be bestowed on women, as a term of endearment, who have proven themselves to be of exceptional talent or unique notoriety in non-political areas. The phrase is often, but not always, used when the person in question is either the wife or "female equivalent" of a well-known man (or men) in a similar field. For example, the term has been applied in the entertainment field to denote the "First Lady of Television" (Lucille Ball), the "First Lady of Song" (Ella Fitzgerald), the "First Lady of Country Music" (Tammy Wynette, although Loretta Lynn was also known by the title), the "First Lady of Star Trek" (Majel Barrett), the "First Lady of American Soul" (Aretha Franklin), the "First Lady of the Grand Ole Opry" (Loretta Lynn), and the "First Lady of the American Stage" (Helen Hayes) .
The term "first lady" is also used to denote a woman who occupies the foremost social position within a particular locality, in this sense being particularly popular in Africa, where the pre-eminent female noble in some chieftaincy hierarchies, such as those of the Yoruba people, is often referred to by the title.
In recent years, the term has also been used to refer to the wife of the pastor of a church, especially in predominantly black churches.