A first lady is more than a wife to the President of the United States — she often takes on political roles herself (like Eleanor Roosevelt) and sometimes, becomes an icon herself (Like Jackie Kennedy). She is essentially the mother of the nation. Get to know the first ladies of the U.S. by reading below:

Abigail Adams, a president’s wife and mother

Abigail Adams was the wife of the second president of the U.S. John Adams and was the mother of the sixth president, John Quincy Adams. While first ladies were often referred to as “Lady”, Abigail was called “Mrs. President” during her husband’s tenure because of her deep political knowledge and sharp tongue. She was the first First Lady to live in the White House.

Dolley Madison, a First Lady hero

The wife of President James Madison was the only First Lady to have been given an honorary seat on the floor of Congress. She was also the first woman to witness her husband’s swearing-in as president. Dolley was considered a hero for saving a rare portrait of George Washington and important presidential documents when the British burned the White House in 1814.

Edith Wilson, the acting president

Edith Wilson had always been an independent woman even before marrying President Woodrow Wilson. When President Wilson suffered a stroke in 1919, Edith practically took over and many believed she was acting as president considering that she decided who would be allowed to see him and what affairs of the state would be presented to the President. Senator Albert Fall once referred to her as the head of a “Petticoat Government”.

Florence Harding, the First Lady of many firsts

The wife of President Warren Harding was an accomplished woman. She was the first First Lady to vote, to fly an airplane, own a radio, operate a movie camera, and was the first to take advantage of the influence of the media. She openly campaigned for her husband and regularly invited Hollywood stars in the White House.

Louise (Lou) Hoover, the smart one

First Lady Lou Hoover was the first woman in the United States to earn a degree in Geology. She graduated from Stanford University and was known to speak five languages.