As President Jimmy Carter’s wife, Eleanor Rosalynn Carter (Smith; August 18, 1927 – November 19, 2023) was an American writer and activist who led the country as its first lady from 1977 to 1981. She served in the public sector for decades, but her most notable accomplishment was perhaps becoming a trailblazer for women’s rights and mental health.
Rosalynn Carter’s Cause of Death
According to the Carter Center, Rosalynn Carter “died peacefully, with family by her side” on Nov. 19, 2023, at 2:10 p.m. at her Plains, Georgia, home. Rosalynn Carter’s official cause of death has not been disclosed to the public. The former first lady’s family disclosed in a May 2023 Carter Center announcement that she had been diagnosed with dementia prior to her passing.
History Photographed shared a post on Twitter:
Elvis and Priscilla on their wedding day, Las Vegas, 1967. pic.twitter.com/sw6g2nJBPd
— History Photographed (@HistoryInPics) June 26, 2016
On November 17, a few months later, her grandson Jason Carter revealed that she and her spouse would be receiving hospice care at their residence. Dementia has no known treatment, and it may ultimately be fatal. In 1977, Rosalynn Carter had surgery to remove a breast tumor.
In 1977, Rosalynn Carter, then 49 years old, had a nonmalignant tumor in her breast that was removed by doctors. The mother of four “was taken into surgery immediately” after the lump was found during a “gynecological checkup.”
What Did She Do?
Rosalynn Carter served as first lady of the United States during Jimmy Carter’s term, even sitting in on the president’s cabinet meetings. She was also an advocate for mental health care and treatment, helping her husband to establish a Presidential Commission on Mental Health.
Rosalynn was also a big campaigner for Jimmy’s re-election campaign, as he spent most of his time during the period focused on the Iran hostage crisis.
Following Jimmy Carter’s presidency, Rosalynn was an active humanitarian, often by her husband’s side building homes for Habitat for Humanity and working with their Carter Center organization, which promotes human rights, democracy, disease prevention, and mental healthcare worldwide.
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Rosalynn Carter’s Early Life
In Plains, Georgia, on August 18, 1927, Eleanor Rosalynn Smith was born. Wilburn Edgar Smith, an auto mechanic, bus driver, and farmer, and Frances Allethea “Allie” Murray Smith, a teacher, dressmaker, and postal worker, had four children total, of whom she was the oldest.
Her brothers were the engineer William Jerrold “Jerry” Smith (1929–2003) and the preacher and teacher Murray Lee Smith (1932–2003). Having been friends with the Smith and Carter families, her sister Lillian Allethea (Smith) Wall (born 1936), also known as Allethea, was named for both her mother and Lillian Gordy Carter.
Allethea works as a real estate broker. Rosalynn was named for her maternal grandmother, Rosa Wise Murray. Following the Civil War, many American Brazilians, known as Confederados, left the United States and moved to the Brazilian Empire, including Smith’s grand-uncle W.S. Wise.
Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn started dating in 1945 while he was a student at the USNA in Annapolis. After seeing a photo of him wearing his Annapolis uniform, she found herself drawn to him. Jimmy startled Rosalynn with a kiss while they were riding in the backseat of Ruth Carter Stapleton’s boyfriend’s automobile.
Rosalynn has never before permitted a boy to do this on their first date. When Rosalynn traveled to Annapolis with Jimmy’s parents in February 1946, she consented to marry him. The couple kept their marital arrangement a secret and set a July wedding date.
Rosalynn was reluctant to inform her mother that she had decided to get married rather than finish her schooling. In Plains, on July 7, 1946, they were wed.
Rosalynn had decided to pursue interior design at Georgia State College for Women, but she had to postpone her plans after getting married. John William “Jack” (born 1947), James Earl “Chip” III (born 1950), Donnel Jeffrey “Jeff” (born 1952), and Amy Lynn (born 1967) were the couple’s four children.