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In the early decades of the republic a president's wife, like other wives, seldom displayed her private life to the eyes of the public. Few images of first ladies in recreational roles appeared until the early twentieth century, when American women gained new status and freedom in a fast-changing society.

Today along with the title first lady, the president's wife inherits a host of public duties and a mountain of responsibilities that never seem to crest. She has the most demanding, the most complex volunteer assignment in our country. Time spent in leisure activities provides an opportunity to relax away from the demands of public duties and to enjoy a private life out of the public eye.

Jacqueline Kennedy rides with John Jr. and Caroline on their farm in Middleburg, Virginia, on November 19, 1962.

John F. Kennedy Library

Patricia Nixon takes a ride around the South grounds of the White House in a Park Drag, a four-in-hand coach, driven by its owner George Weymouth. Members of the board of directors of the Washington International Horse Show arrived at the White House in the vintage coach to invite Mrs. Nixon to their charity event, October 27, 1970.

Lucy Breathitt

Lady Bird Johnson astride Silver Jay with Senator Lyndon B. Johnson at the family ranch in Texas, 1959.

Photo by Frank Muto, Lyndon B. Johnson Library

Nancy Reagan often rode with President Reagan at Rancho Del Cielo in the mountains above Santa Barbara, California.

Ronald Reagan Library