A quarter of a century has passed since Nancy Reagan was First Lady of the United States. Last week, she achieved another notable benchmark. Born in the working-class neighborhood of Flushing, Queens on July 5, 1921 to eventually live in the White House, Mrs. Reagan reached the age of 93.
In three months time, she will surpass the exact age that Betty Ford lived until but Nancy Reagan was already among the longest-living of First Ladies.
And whether it is a reflection of strong genes (dying at 99 years old, Mrs. Reagan’s mother was the longest-living among the mothers of First Ladies), finding a general well of public support in times of personal crisis, unsurpassed medical care or just a general trend of American women living longer, it is remarkable to see the dramatic rise in longevity among this infinitesimal demographic in the last half century.
Among the Ten Longest-Living First Ladies, six have served in the White House since 1945, the demarcation point of the post-World War II era when advanced medical technology began to boom.
In descending order (with the postwar First Ladies’ names marked in boldface) the ten longest-living to date are:
Bess Truman, died at age 97 in 1982; Lady Bird Johnson, died at age 94 in 2007; Betty Ford, died at age 93 in 2011; Nancy Reagan, currently age 93; Barbara Bush, currently age 89; Edith Wilson, died at age 89 in 1961; Anna Harrison died at age 88 in 1864; Sarah Polk, died at age 87, 11 months in 1891; Edith Roosevelt, died at age 87, 1 month in 1948; Rosalynn Carter, currently age 86
If there is some top-secret water fountain of youth hidden in the White House, this peculiar longevity record bodes well for another one of those postwar First Ladies.
Although she has yet to announce whether she’s decided to run for President in the 2016 election, her critics claim that former First Lady (and U.S. Senator and U.S. Secretary of State) Hillary Clinton’s age will be a factor working against her.
Were she to run and win the presidency in the 2016 November election, Hillary Clinton would celebrate her 69th birthday on October 27th a week earlier.
Contrary to some press reports it would not make her the oldest person elected President.
That record is held by Ronald Reagan who was also 69 years old when he was elected President in November of 1980, but who celebrated his 70th birthday in February of 1981, less than a month after being inaugurated.
Born in 1947, Hillary Clinton’s becoming First Lady in 1993 marked the ascendance of a a new generation; she and her two successors, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama, were all born since 1945 and were already in young adulthood when a more focused national effort was made towards understanding and improving women’s health.
As First Lady she led efforts on behalf of a variety of women’s health issues, successfully lobbying to increase medical research funds on women’s heart health and extending federal coverage of early breast cancer detection.
The group of First Ladies just previous to them were all born within the seventeen year range from 1912 to to 1929, but coming into their senior years in the flush of medical breakthroughs beginning in the Clinton Administration years in 1993.
So, is there something to this idea that the water drunk at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has a magic chemical akin to human growth hormone in it?
Certainly the food served to families there is of the highest quality, but not likely the water.
In fact, there was speculation in 1989 that the water system might have been somehow tainted when President George Bush, and First Lady Barbara Bush both developed the autoimmune hyperthyroid ailment Graves Disease.
It may well be that, despite having to endure the losses and tragedies which come to all people, these women have been generally given the chance to lead fulfilling lives with the privilege of also helping others who do not.
TEN LONGEST-LIVING FIRST LADIES
Categories: First Ladies