Rosalynn Smith Carter
Born: August 18, 1927 at Plains, Georgia
Spouse: Jimmy Carter (m. 1946 – present)
Children: Jack Carter, James Carter, Donnel Carter, Amy Carter
Facts about Rosalynn Smith Carter
As a girl she was diagnosed with a developmental disability. “”She’s the girl I want to marry,“” Jimmy Carter told his mother after his first date with 17-year-old Rosalynn Smith, who had grown up as a friend and neighbor of the Carter family in Plains, Georgia.
Rosalynn Carter created and serves as the chair of The Carter Center Mental Health Task Force, an advisory board of experts, consumers, and advocates promoting positive change in the mental health field. She hosts the annual Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy, bringing together nationwide leaders in the mental health field. Her name is on the Rosalynn Carter Institute for caregiving. Rosalynn was also known as the Steel Magnolia.
Rosalynn Carter has written five books:
- First Lady from Plains (autobiography), 1984
Everything to Gain: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life (with Jimmy Carter), 1987
Helping Yourself Help Others: A Book for Caregivers (with Susan K. Golant), 1994
Helping Someone with Mental Illness: A Compassionate Guide for Family, Friends, and Caregivers (with Susan K. Golant), 1998
Within Our Reach: Ending the Mental Health Crisis (with Susan K. Golant and Kathryn E. Cade)
Rosalynn Smith Carter Childhood
Eleanor Rosalynn Smith was born on August 18, 1927 in Plains, Georgia, the eldest of four children of Wilburn Edgar Smith (1896 – 1940), an automobile mechanic and farmer, and Allethea “”Allie”” Murray Smith (1905-2000), a dressmaker. Her brothers were William Jerrold “”Jerry”” Smith (May 5, 1929 – November 20, 2003), an engineer, and Murray Lee Smith (January 19, 1932 – January 26, 2003), a teacher and minister. Her sister, Lillian Allethea Wall, formerly Smith (born November 10, 1936), is a real estate broker. Rosalynn was named after Rosa, her mother’s mother.
Carter claimed that she and her siblings were unaware that they were in poverty, since even though their family “”didn’t have money,”” neither did “”anyone else, so as far as we knew, we were well off.”” At the center of her family’s community were churches and schools, and the people of Plains had familiarity with each other. Carter played with boys during her early childhood since no girls on her street were the same age as she. She believed that she would become an architect, since she drew buildings and was interested in airplanes.
Rosalynn’s father died of leukemia when she was 13. She called the loss of her father the conclusion of her childhood. Thereafter, she helped her mother raise her younger siblings, as well as assisting in the dressmaking business in order to meet the family’s financial obligations. At Plains High School, Rosalynn worked hard to achieve her father’s dream of her going to college.
Rosalynn graduated as salutatorian of Plains High School. Soon after, she attended Georgia Southwestern College. Though having aspirations to go beyond Plains, she was forced to attend the college due to lack of money and her obligations to her mother and siblings.
It was during high school that she met Jimmy Carter, her best friend’s older brother, and a cadet at the Annapolis Naval Academy. The two began to date, and in December 1945, Carter proposed to Rosalynn, who refused his proposal because she thought it too early in their courtship. Undeterred, Carter proposed again two months later, and Rosalynn accepted. They were married on July 7, 1946, at Plains Methodist Church.