Not for nothing was Barbara Bush known as 'The Enforcer'
Barbara Bush, tougher than her husband and known to her family as 'The Enforcer', is probably the most popular of all ex-US first ladies of recent times. Jackie Kennedy is remembered across the globe for elegance and tragedy, but she was not loved. Rosalynn Carter worked hard and was a noted campaigner on issues of mental health, but she has suffered in retrospect because of her bitterness at his defeat by Ronald Reagan, who is widely perceived to have been as great a success as Carter was a failure. The brittle Nancy Reagan was an essential support to her husband, but was thought to care little for anyone else. Hillary Clinton was loathed by those who thought her a careerist. The likeable Laura Bush did a lot of useful work but lacked her mother-in-law's commanding personality. And although Michelle Obama had rock-star status, that has diminished as she and her husband embrace luxury and celebrity. Betty Ford is probably the closest rival, having been far more effective and formidable than her husband Gerald, the 38th president, and still having a posthumous reputation for her prowess as a campaigner on addiction, not least because so many of the famous troop to the Betty Ford Clinic.