The role of the First Lady of the United States has come a long way from the traditional hostess to something more influential. Throughout history, various presidents' wives ladies used the position to effect change at the White House, the country, and the world.

Two prominent first ladies, Dolley Madison and Eleanor Roosevelt, are credited for strengthening the role, according to the First Ladies Library. Madison viewed the public as her constituents, and Roosevelt asserted a stronger presence of political involvement, voicing her views on issues of social welfare and justice.

Several of these women took on the role reluctantly, and many suffered family tragedies, serious illness, death, and the burden of war during their term.

For Presidents Day, we give a nod to those women who served in this unelected and constantly evolving role in the White House, and a brief look at their causes. Most of the information is from the White House's information page on first ladies.

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To learn more about the White House, its history or about past presidents and first ladies, visit WhiteHouse.gov.