Joan Mondale: Self-described ‘traditional political wife’ who used her position of influence to promote fine art in the US

‘She relates to artists  and makes everyone feel good,’ the painter Frank Stella said of her

Joan Mondale became known as “Joan of Art” for her promotion of the fine arts during the political career of her husband, the former US Senator, Vice President and presidential candidate, Walter Mondale. A self-described “traditional political wife”, she was regarded as one of the most prominent political spouses of her era. She logged tens of thousands of miles campaigning for her husband, whom she, like many others, called Fritz.

A Minnesota Democrat, he was elected Jimmy Carter’s Vice President in 1976, and in 1984 he lost the presidential election in a landslide to Ronald Reagan. Joan, meanwhile, became known as a tireless advocate for the cultivation of the arts. During her tenure as “second lady” of the US, Carter named her honorary chairman of the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities. She travelled around the country attending exhibitions, dedicating new works of art and directing national attention to artists whom she admired. For her own part, she was an accomplished ceramicist.

She met Mondale in 1955, when she was working as a librarian. As her husband’s political interests grew, Mondale found herself, she remarked, with two choices. “I could sit at home and weep, or I could become active in our ward club and have plenty to do on those long nights.” She chose the latter.

She and her husband were the first couple to live in the vice president’s residence on the grounds of the US Naval Observatory, and she turned the home into a showcase for American art. “She is generous and straightforward,” the painter Frank Stella said. “She relates well to artists and makes everybody feel good.”

Mondale also used her prominence to push for equal pay for men and women and for the Equal Rights Amendment. In 1984, when her husband chose Geraldine Ferraro as his vice- presidential running mate, making her the first woman to become a major-party nominee on a US presidential ticket, Mondale was resolutely supportive. “She doesn’t mince words, and I like that a lot,” she said of Ferraro.

Of her role promoting the arts, she said, “I was an appreciator. I was a consumer. I’m not a critic. I’m not an art historian. But what I could do was sort of say thank you to the arts community.”

Joan Adams, Second Lady of the US and artistic patron: born Eugene, Oregon 8 August 1930; married 1955 Walter Mondale (two sons, and one daughter deceased); died 3 February 2014.

© The Washington Post

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power