Born Claudia Alta Taylor and nicknamed Lady Bird as a baby, Lady Bird Johnson arrived in Washington as a bride 1934, 30 years before she became First Lady. She largely financed her husband’s first run for office in 1937, loving the campaign life. Despite her husband’s upward political career during those years, she never expected to live in the White House, so she felt “suddenly on stage for a part [she] never rehearsed.” Once there, though, she took little time to champion causes important to her. She championed the environmental movement, promoting “beautification” campaigns to instill people with respect for their surroundings. She also served as Honorary Chairman for Headstart, the education program for preschool children. She fashioned a new model for First Lady, engineering her own ways to help her husband. She distanced herself from her predecessors but found parallels to them in that they all tried to provide a setting in which Presidents could do a good job. But she went much farther, writing “from then on, it’s just whatever makes your heart sing. What do you know about? What do you care about? What can you do to make this a better administration?”  
Facts and quotations from First Ladies: From Martha Washington to Michelle Obama by Betty Boyd Caroli. C-SPAN is exploring the influence of First Ladies in its series.
Image credit: Lady Bird Johnson working in her White House office, June 1964. Courtesy of the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library.

Born Claudia Alta Taylor and nicknamed Lady Bird as a baby, Lady Bird Johnson arrived in Washington as a bride 1934, 30 years before she became First Lady. She largely financed her husband’s first run for office in 1937, loving the campaign life. Despite her husband’s upward political career during those years, she never expected to live in the White House, so she felt “suddenly on stage for a part [she] never rehearsed.” Once there, though, she took little time to champion causes important to her. She championed the environmental movement, promoting “beautification” campaigns to instill people with respect for their surroundings. She also served as Honorary Chairman for Headstart, the education program for preschool children. She fashioned a new model for First Lady, engineering her own ways to help her husband. She distanced herself from her predecessors but found parallels to them in that they all tried to provide a setting in which Presidents could do a good job. But she went much farther, writing “from then on, it’s just whatever makes your heart sing. What do you know about? What do you care about? What can you do to make this a better administration?”  

Facts and quotations from First Ladies: From Martha Washington to Michelle Obama by Betty Boyd Caroli. C-SPAN is exploring the influence of First Ladies in its series.

Image credit: Lady Bird Johnson working in her White House office, June 1964. Courtesy of the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library.