Antedating of "First Lady"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jul 19 12:47:33 UTC 2013

The "first," i.e., pre-eminent, lady of the nation.

Not "the first lady" as a lexicalized title.

I wrote on this for the Atlantic many years ago

The originally journalistic title did not become a cliche' until well into
the 20th C.  And IIRC, Eleanor Roosevelt was the first to be routinely
designated as "the first lady." Same goes for "First Lady X."

States got "first ladies" even later than that.


On Thu, Jul 18, 2013 at 9:38 PM, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at>wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Shapiro, Fred" <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Antedating of "First Lady"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> first lady (OED 1853)
> According to Wikipedia, the Boston Courier, June 12, 1843, p. 4, wrote
> abou=
> t Martha Washington that "The first lady of the nation still preserved the
> =
> habits of early life. Indulging in no indolence, she left the pillow at
> daw=
> n, and after breakfast, retired to her chamber for an hour for the study
> of=
>  the scriptures and devotion".
> Fred Shapiro
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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