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Jill Biden Makes History As First 'First Lady' To Have A Full-Time Job

. 4 min read . Written by Sanjana Bhagwat
Jill Biden Makes History As First 'First Lady' To Have A Full-Time Job

As Joe Biden makes American history with more votes than any other presidential candidate has received in the US, his wife is making history for working women everywhere. As First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS), Dr. Jill Biden is set to be the only woman in the 231-year-old history of that role, to keep her full-time job while serving in office.

Jill Biden is a university professor with four degrees, including two masters and a doctorate.

Jill Biden Has Done It Before, And She’s Determined To Do It Again

Even in all the 8 years she served as second lady during the Obama administration, Jill Biden had continued to teach at Northern Virginia Community College.

In August, ahead of Joe Biden’s victory, Jill had established her commitment to continue teaching if she became first lady in a CBS interview. “If we get to the White House, I’m going to continue to teach. I want people to value teachers and know their contributions and to lift up the profession,” she said.

Jill Biden continuing to keep her day-job while at the White House, is a stark departure from how her predecessors have approached the role. Many have called her decision to continue to pursue her professional full-time career insane.

Connie Esparza Cruz, a retired paralegal in California, expressed her concern to The Lily saying, “I think that Dr. Biden should take a sabbatical while in the White House because it’s going to take a lot to clean up the mess our country is in. To be effective, my feeling is that she needs to give 100 percent of her attention to this. She is going to have a lot of work to do.”

Biden, however, who has successfully balanced her career and role at the White House before, is determined she can do it again.

“I like working,” she told Vogue. “Like so many of your readers, I’m a working woman. [Teaching is] my passion. That’s what I love doing. That has been my career and really a major focus in my life, so I feel like I could handle it and do everything else that first ladies want to do.

What It Means To Be First Lady

The role of first lady is undoubtedly a demanding one – only getting more and more demanding through the years. In the earliest presidential administrations, the first ladies’ primary tasks were to host White house events. In later years, the first ladies, like Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosalynn Carter, and Michelle Obama, have often taken an active part in their husband’s campaigning, policy decisions, charity and activism.

A lot of them also had full-time careers that they gave up once their husbands were elected as president. Grace Coolidge worked as a teacher for deaf students. Lou Hoover had a degree in geology from Stanford University and was an aspiring geologist. Betty Ford had a career in dance; Nancy Reagan a career in acting.

However, they all put their careers on hold to serve as First Lady.

Myra Gutin, a first lady historian, says that there is no official job description for the FLOTUS. She says that each woman brings her own unique approach and definition to the role.

Objectively, the position of a first lady (or first gentleman, if the US ever has one) is not a job in the technical sense. She isn’t hired or elected into the role. She comes into the position through her association with the president. Her duties as first lady stem from her being a wife. The ceremonial, advocative, and political activities she engages in as first lady are objectively, wifely duties.

“Americans have historically wanted their first ladies to be in the White House and at the president’s side whenever possible,” says Katherine Jellison, another first-lady historian.

She says that the FLOTUS previously has not been “allowed” to be like most other modern women, with the choice to have a work life and a family life. “Maybe the time has come when Americans will be more accepting of the idea that a president’s wife can simultaneously be a first lady and a working professional.”

Jill Biden Deciding To Work Shows Women Everywhere That, Career Or Family – They Can Do Both

The point right now isn’t whether Biden will be able to juggle between her career and her role as First Lady, but that the choice exists. Her insisting on exerting her right to not have to choose between her “work” and her “family”, is ground-breaking for someone in her position, with her reach.

As Jellison says, “She will really be bringing the role of first lady into the 21st century.”

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