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What Will We Call the Spouse of a Woman President?

Updated on August 21, 2017
Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran is a writer & former newspaper reporter/editor who traveled the world as a soldier's better half. Her works are on Amazon.

We may have to sift through history for an idea.

The day may arrive - eventually - when America boasts a female President. (Possibly not before we elect men representing every minority in the country instead of someone representing the majority of Americans - women - but eventually.) When that day finally comes, several questions will have to be answered. Primary among them: what to call the President's spouse, and what role will he or should he play in American life?


Close only counts in hand grenades and horse shoes:

Former New York Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has come closest to occupying the Oval Office. She won the popular vote for the office by three million votes in 2016 but lost the Electoral College by a small margin. "The Bill Factor" has always been a concern within her camp. To some, he was a shrewd politician, a president who presided over two administrations marked by relative peace and unquestioned prosperity. To others, he was "Slick Willie," a known womanizer even as a former governor and presidential candidate, whose personal life marred much of his second term. Flashes of temper when his wife was the topic of negative questioning during her campaign reduced his influence as a former president. At other times, her influence was reduced as he appeared to be self-promoting at her expense. A recent example would be his impromptu visit with Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the Arizona airport.

"My guess is that Clinton doesn't truly get it yet—that he really will have to take a back seat," says a Bush family friend who asked to remain anonymous. "That happened to the Bushes ... It was hard for the father to recede completely to make way for the son. Bush Senior thinks Clinton had better be careful what he wishes for; her winning will be harder for him than he can imagine.”

The woman who came second-closest to being the nominee of her party for President was North Carolina Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole. She was married to both a presidential and vice presidential candidate, the well known Senator Bob Dole of Kansas. His television commercials during her campaign, one for the erectile dysfunction medication, Viagra, and one with the teen star Britney Spears for Pepsi-Cola, brought on many questions about not only his judgment but also his commitment to his wife's run for the presidency. He also did her no favors by reminding voters he could “impart valuable advice to his wife about the inner workings of the Senate.” He once even commented he was considering making a donation to another candidate, John McCain. Both Doles later downplayed the statement as a joke.

Hillary and Elizabeth each suffered from the past financial scandals involving themselves and their husbands. The late Geraldine Ferraro, the only woman ever on the Democratic ticket as vice president, also felt the impact of negative press as her husband's financial dealings were vetted during her unsuccessful campaign.


British History might offer the US some lessons:

America's first First Gentleman, First Spouse, First Consort, First Hubby, or whatever he eventually is called, might wish he could call-up spirits from the past to seek advice from, such as Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. He became the husband of Queen Victoria of England only after, by law, she proposed to him. He was known as the Prince Consort and fathered their nine children, including the future King of England, Edward VII. Albert began his marriage with no official title or duties but made himself useful by economizing the Queen's household, to include her estates, turning them into profitable enterprises. He eventually was a champion of educational reform and, though slavery was already outlawed in England, lent his voice to a worldwide abolition of slavery. Some would say modern Britain's constitutional monarchy owes this mere husband a debt of gratitude for persuading his wife to show less partisanship in her dealings with Parliament. World renown Royal Albert Hall is a lasting monument to a man who started his marriage with nothing to do officially other than procreating.

Among the living, the U.S. First Whatever would be wise interview Prince Phillip, husband to the reigning British monarch, Elizabeth II. After renouncing his birthright to Greek royalty, Phillip's father in law, King George VI, bestowed him with the title of Philip Duke of Edinburgh on the day before the wedding. This gesture opened the door for him to become the patron of organizations such as The Duke of Edinburgh's Award and the World Wide Fund for Nature. He is currently the Chancellor of both the University of Cambridge (as was Prince Albert) and the University of Edinburgh

Elizabeth was a princess (though heir apparent) when she married Phillip. He reportedly proposed to her. He was not under law to wait for her to offer marriage as Albert was in the case of Queen Victoria, both Elizabeth and Phillip's great grandparents. But in order to position himself for marriage to his second cousin, he became a naturalized British subject and converted from Greek Orthodox to the Anglican religion. Upon renouncing his ties to Greek royalty, Phillip took the surname of Mountbatten, the anglicized version of his mother's name, Battenberg.

Elizabeth came to the throne upon her father's death in 1952 because of her Uncle Edward's abdication in December 1936. As the King's only grandchild, she was born third in line to the throne. Edward's abdication without a child of his own changed the course of her life. It was reminiscent of Victoria who became Queen because of her uncles, ahead of her in lineage, produced no legitimate heirs. As fate would have it, Edward went on to marry the woman he gave up the throne for, but still had no children. So Elizabeth would have become Queen eventually even if Edward had not abdicated. It just would have happened twenty years later.

(Apologies. I really chased that rabbit down a hole, which is easy to do when you attempt to write about the British monarchy)

Nevertheless, she persisted:

Maybe someday:

When the day eventually does arrive and the United States has a female President, the role of her spouse will need to be defined. It is fair to speculate the woman who attains that position will certainly have the ability to choose as her mate a person equal to the task of defining the role for himself. We've come a long way from the days when the First Lady redecorated the White House and selected a new china pattern. A First Gentleman, the first of possibly many, will no doubt chart his own course within whatever limits the American people - and his wife - set. And, based on the experience of the women who have made the attempt in the past, in order to make it all the way to the White House, future female contenders might find it helpful to choose a husband who was not previously in politics himself.

But first, a woman has to get herself elected. Many a politician has either praised his spouse for her role in his success or paid tribute to her support in spite of his loss. The two women who have launched the most credible campaigns for the highest office in the land might not be quite so quick to praise the contributions their husbands made to their unsuccessful campaigns.


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    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      You know, that really is the obvious answer. I could have saved myself the trouble of writing this hub:) I think there is going to be plenty of fun for the press whatever happens! You have an interesting name. I'll have to read some of your work. And welcome to my hubs!

    • KeithTax profile image

      Keith Schroeder 3 years ago from Wisconsin

      In the case of Hilary Clinton we will call her husband, Mr. President because that is the proper way to address a former President of The United States. When someone calls "Mister President" and both answer "yes" I think we will have some fun in the press.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Perspycacious: Thanks for the corrections. Everybody needs an editor. I appreciate your comments and for taking the time to read this and join in the conversation.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 3 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      "coarse" and "chose" in your last paragraph could stand a fix, though any reader will forgive you, including me. How about "First Gent" in keeping with American informality? Or, "First Grandfather" to get us elders more attention (only if he is one, of course)?

      By the way, if Hillary is elected will she wear dresses most of the time, or slacks?

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Pollyannalana, rebeccamealey, and Arachnea: Thanks for playing! I enjoyed your comments and I'm glad you found this hub. I guess we'll eventually answer this question - anything is possible.

    • Arachnea profile image

      Tanya Jones 3 years ago from Texas USA

      We could also just call him the First Man. Hee, hee. This is a good thread and it amused me to no end to think about the topic. The First Sir (Sire)? The FIrst Dude? Okay, in all seriousness. I don't want to be on the protocol rule-making board that has to determine this.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      This was a good concept for you to write about. I would not be surprised if Hillary is our next, and first female president, and it will surely be interesting.

    • Pollyannalana profile image

      Pollyannalana 3 years ago from US

      Might as well call him Mr President because she is too old (put a current photo of her up there!) and has no memory (but what difference does it make?) so he would be running the show...if he can get away from his desk.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Wise or not, it doesn't look like that advice is going to be put to use by the first female president! Thanks for your suggestions. We may just have to end up stealing from the Navy!

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Though I was but a very young child, I recall overhearing the grownups speak of the Prince Edward/Grace Kelley affair; it was quite the scandal of the day.

      It is quite the conundrum of what a male spouse of a female president would be called. "The First Man?" No, that's been taken... LOL How about "The First Mate?" Nope--already taken by the Navy... umm...yes, quite the puzzler indeed.

      Very interesting, and I believe your final sentence contains a world of wisdom!

      Voted up, interesting and useful.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Annabelle Bryn, but we have always called her "Bella" (no Twilight connection!!!). I think My Jam means my favorite song of the moment, but someone younger than me will need to confirm this info!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 3 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Kathleen.....I LOVE the name, "Bella." So, you're telling us "My Jam," is the term of the day with our young ones? Interesting. Thanks so much for that info! I like being able to sound 'cool" or "with it" where my grandkids are concerned...........what does it mean, Kathleen? LOL

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I have a five-year-old grandchild as well. They are great resources! My Bella has taught me what it means for a song to be "My Jam!" Otherwise I would never have known.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 3 years ago from New York

      My pleasure Kathleen as this is could be a very imminent conundrum. BTW, I've started using conundrum since my five year old grandson seems to think it is an appropriate word.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      tilsontitan: My serious vote is the same as yours for the same reason. Already, I'm not happy with Secretary Clinton (whether she wins or loses eventually) being referred to as "Hilary" but that is obviously the basis of her marketing plan. We've had more than 200 years of "First Ladies" and anything other than "First Gentleman" is inappropriate. Thanks for adding to the discussion.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 3 years ago from New York

      I love going into the rabbit hole, even wrote a hub about it ;) As all your hubs are, this was interesting and thought provoking. Loved the lesson in English Royal history.

      I don't think I stopped to wonder about naming a First Gentleman....First Lady, First Gentleman. Why should he get better billing than the women have? It will be interesting for sure.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      travmaj: I vote for "The First Bloke" of the US. I think it would sum up the situation beautifully! Thanks for the comments as well, fpherj48 and Jaye!

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      When Julia Gillard was Prime Minister in Australia, her partner Tim Mathieson was known as the First Bloke.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 3 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Kathleen....Very interesting question. I often wondered that myself. I remember a short-lived TV series about a female POTUS, (Geena Davis) but I cannot recall if she was even married, much less what they may have called her husband. (Don't thank me, I'm always a lot of help like this) the case of Hilary....I want to thank YOU for giving us all an opportunity for some pretty hilarious answers.....

      Unfortunately, my mind is sick and twisted.....and I get into enough trouble around here. I plead the 5th....LOL Up++++

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 3 years ago from Deep South, USA

      How did I miss this before? Great hub, and certainly relevant. I actually wrote a flash fiction short story about this issue. I can't recall whether or not I published it on HP because I entered it in a FF contest. I've since removed all of my fiction from the site because my non-fiction is being plagiarized so much.

      At any rate, it was fun speculating about what the spouse of a female POTUS will be called by the White House and the media.

      Voted Up+++


    • Vista15 profile image

      Tiana Dreymor 4 years ago from Columbus, OH

      Haha... a novel from real life. I actually have a novel based on my 'First Man' in process... plus another 30 or so unfinished. I do have a non-fiction book done, but not published.

      Oh, and did I mention I'm the Queen of Hearts?

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I certainly will. Sounds like you have the makings of a great novel from real life! Thanks for visiting Vista15. I think this is your first time.

    • Vista15 profile image

      Tiana Dreymor 4 years ago from Columbus, OH

      Well! First, I think Hilary already did her stint as Prez... Next, I am running for Prez in 2016... and I have a Hub page, 2016 Prez Campaign.

      And, I am not married, but I have a Significant Other who will accompany or follow me to the White House, if I have to get him out of prison first. I call him my First Man. I have a Hub page on why he is still in prison, Victim of the Times. Look me over...

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Interesting point of view. Thanks for the read and for the comments. Hope you enjoy more of my hubs.

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 5 years ago from Southern California

      In the case of Bill Clinton he was never in charge once Hillary became the first lady. He got more distant when she became Senator, and now Hillary and Bill are continents apart now that she is Secretary of State.

      Bill will continue in Hillary's pursuit of the presidency, but only because he will take any opportunity to be in the spotlight. That was proven when he spoke for Obama to be reelected president.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I don't like calling these women by their first names either. In both cases, where I do it, it is to differentiate them from their husbands.

      Glad you liked the hub. I have one on Britian's historic search for "A Male Heir" you might like too. Thanks for your interest.

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 5 years ago from Northern California

      I liked reading about the British royalty :) Thanks for writing this Hub. I was hoping we could learn the answer to the question posed by this Hub earlier, as I had voted for Hillary Clinton (careful to not just say "Hillary" - since all of the male politicians aren't just called by their first names).

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Oh, this is going to be fun! FitnezzJim, First Hatter is as good as all the Edwards and Henrys as far as I'm concerned. Thanks for the read!

    • FitnezzJim profile image

      FitnezzJim 6 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      All right, I have to admit to being thouroughly sidetracked by the rabbit and royalty comment towards the end of the article. It made me wonder why British royalty (with their British sense of humor) have not chosen to give all their female heir apparents the name Alice, who could then possibly grow up to marry men with the name Hatter.

      Let's see, to get us back on topic, If Alice then became Queen, would her husband be the First Hatter?

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      By default and asap - you and me both!

    • Green Lotus profile image

      Hillary 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      In my opinion, he can call himself whatever he likes as long as he's elected by default to his position asap. Rated up and awesome.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Frankracetteconsu: Good to meet you. I have some marketing in my background also, and it will be interesting following you. Thanks for the read and the comment.

    • Frankracetteconsu profile image

      Frankracetteconsu 6 years ago from Montreal

      Billary . love it !

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      That works, Frog!

    • The Frog Prince profile image

      The Frog Prince 6 years ago from Arlington, TX


    • j80caldwell profile image

      j80caldwell 6 years ago

      Cool Kathleen, I'm honored to have been welcomed!

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thanks for the interest folks. J80caldwell, I had to read your profile because I have an ex-son-in-law Jcaldwell. You, I welcome to my world!

    • j80caldwell profile image

      j80caldwell 6 years ago

      lol, cool Hub,, I'm a real big fan of both Elizabeth and Hillary.. If either of them are on the ballot I wouldn't hestitate to vote for them--as I think they both make two fine state women. Oh and I'm voting for 'The First Dude' as well. lol

    • cebutouristspot profile image

      cebutouristspot 6 years ago from Cebu

      Well here in our country we had a female president and we called her hubby as the First Gentlemen. :D

      On a side note he was not a gentlemen hahahah

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      It would be an interesting dilemma to resolve. Let's hpe we face it soon. Great Hub.

    • profile image

      34th Bomb Group 6 years ago

      Dennis Thatcher

    • Steve Orion profile image

      Steve Orion 6 years ago from Tampa, Florida

      While it may be a while before we do have a female President, I wonder, as well, what her spouse will be called. First Gentlemen does seem probable. In spite of some digression, good Hub =)

    • michiganman567 profile image

      michiganman567 6 years ago from Michigan

      It's already been decided. The first dude!


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