Warm welcome to the people's house

The First Lady, Michelle Obama, laid on the warmth and affection she is famous for when she invited Sarah Brown into the residential quarters of the White House yesterday afternoon.

They spent more than an hour in the unusually intimate setting and held what was later described as "a substantial discussion" on the issue of maternal health.

Mrs Brown is a patron of charities supporting women's rights and safer childbirth and is keen to seek support for projects to improve care for women, especially in parts of Africa, where up to one in seven dies giving birth. Both women are 45, have sharp political instincts, and have abandoned impressive careers to support their husbands. Mrs Obama, pictured, who comes from the gritty South Side of Chicago, is often hailed as the most glamorous First Lady since Jacqueline Kennedy. She is also known as the consummate mother, as evidenced by the Obamas' poised and smiling children. She will be making her first trip abroad as First Lady to the G20 summit in London next month.

Mrs Obama has blown away the stuffy atmosphere of the White House by opening "the people's house" to the public and letting fresh spring breezes through its windows.

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