Eleanor Rosalynn Smith Carter

Eleanor Rosalynn Smith Carter, First Lady of the United States from 1977-1981, significantly raised public awareness of mental health issues by serving as honorary chair of the Presidential Commission on Mental Health. The work of the Commission led to the passage of the Mental Health System Act of 1980.

Her founding and work on the “Every Child by Two” initiative saved thousands of children’s lives through immunization and spearheaded further public health immunization initiatives worldwide.

Carter demonstrated a life-long dedication to the concerns of women and children, the poor, and the mentally ill. Her active presence and policy expertise contributed to the Policy Advisory Board of the Atlanta Project, the Last Acts coalition to improve end-of-life care, Habitat for Humanity, Project Interconnections (which provides housing for the homeless and mentally ill), and the Friendship Force.

Her books have aided thousands of people seeking assistance and guidance regarding mental health issues, caregiving, and creating new paths in life. She is the recipient of numerous honors including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Rosalynn Carter in her own words:  2001 inductee, former first lady, and lifelong advocate of women and children, Rosalynn Carter took part in an oral history project coordinated by the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Interviewer Michael Schulder featured part of their conversation in an episode of his Wavemaker podcast. Here, Rosalynn Carter shares stories from her active role in the women’s rights movement, the resistance she encountered advocating for the Equal Rights Amendment, the backstory of the first federally funded National Women’s Conference, the personal encounters that triggered her early advocacy of mental health coverage, and her days growing up in Plains, Georgia. As you’ll hear, Mrs. Carter’s full immersion in the issues she cares most about continues well into the present:

The Equal Rights Amendment

Equal Rights Amendment 2

Mental Health

Ms. Julia & Thelma McArthur

Unfinished Business for Women

Political Partner

Growing up in Georgia

National Women’s Conference

Getting Involved in Legislation

Fly fishing

Constraints Placed on Women

Advice for young boys and girls

Learn more: The Carter Center was founded by Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter (in partnership with Emory University) on a fundamental commitment to human rights and the alleviation of human suffering. The Center seeks to prevent and resolve conflicts, enhance freedom and democracy, and improve health. Visit the Carter Center’s webpage for more information.

Year Honored: 2001
Birth: 1926 - 2023
Born In: Georgia
Achievements: Humanities
Worked In: District of Columbia, Georgia, Brazil, Cambodia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Jamaica, Peru, Thailand, United States of America, Venezuela
Educated In: Georgia, United States of America
Schools Attended: Georgia Southwestern College, Plains High School