In 2009, Dr. Jill Biden made history when she became the first Second Lady to hold a salaried job as a community college professor.
So, in the year 2021, Jill Biden plans to continue that trend when she assumes the role of First Lady, which would be the first time in 231 years that a presidential spouse will have an outside career.
Prior to receiving a Doctor of Education (Ed.D) in educational leadership from the University of Delaware in 2007, Dr. Biden held a Masters of Education and a Master of Arts in English.
She has taught in a a psychiatric hospital as well as public high schools, but has spent most of her professional life in community colleges, claiming they are “one of America’s best-kept secrets.”
She has taught English at North Virginia Community College since 2009. And while she did take a sabbatical to join President-elect Biden on the campaign trail this year, she has every intention to going back to teaching.
In an interview with CBS Sunday Morning back in August, Dr. Biden said that she was doing, was vital. “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 lift up the profession,” she shared.
This monumental shift in history not only will shift how the American public views teachers: it will also dissect what exactly the role of a First Lady is.
There has never been a great or official answer, and the title itself is a bit unofficial.
While Martha Washington, who was considered to be the first First Lady, the term was not used until about 100 years later. Different women in the role called it different things. For example, Julia Tyler coined the title “Mrs. Presidentress.”
While usually the role is filled by the president’s wife, it has also been held by presidential nieces, sisters, daughters, and daughter-in-laws. In the 20th century, First Ladies were provided an office staff to support them in their duties, despite the duties never being made quite clear. Usually, the role is up to the First Lady to interpret the unpaid but obviously influential position.
And for Dr. Biden, that means breaking the tradition (and custom) of not having a job outside of that as First Lady.
President-Elect Joe Biden not only supports but celebrates his wife and her undying passion for sharpening minds.
In his victory speech, Biden praised his wife’s commitment to education. “Teaching isn’t just what she does: it’s who she is.” he said. “For American educators, this is a great day for y’all; you’re going to have one of your own in the White House.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.