Women & Presidential Inaugurations

Although a woman has never—yet—taken the Presidential Oath of Office, the only woman to administer the oath was Sarah T. Hughes, a U.S. district judge who swore Lyndon Johnson into office on Air Force One after the death of President John F. Kennedy.


How have women been involved in inaugural ceremonies?

  • 1909: Helen Herron Taft became the first First Lady to accompany her husband, William H. Taft, on the return ride from the U.S. Capitol to the White House following his inauguration.
  • 1917: Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated, marking the first time that women participated in the Inaugural parade. Edith Bolling Galt Wilson was the first First Lady to accompany the President both to and from the Capitol. Read her diary entry.
  • 2009: President Barack Obama’s first inaugural included the first time a woman, Senator Dianne Feinstein, emceed the ceremony.

Aretha Franklin singing at President Obama’s 2009 inauguration

Women musicians have often been asked to perform at inaugural events. Some fun facts about a few recent inaugural performers:

  • 1981: Amateur singer Juanita Booker of Los Angeles was asked by President Ronald Reagan to perform at his first inauguration.
  • 1985: Opera singer Jessye Norman performed for President Reagan’s second inauguration. She would return to the inaugural stage in 1997 to sing a medley of songs for President Bill Clinton’s second inauguration.
  • 1993: President Clinton used Fleetwood Mac’s song “Don’t Stop” for his campaign, and it was performed by the band (with headliner Stevie Nicks) at the 42nd Presidential Inaugural Gala.
  • 1968, 2009, 2011: Aretha Franklin has an extensive political-performance history. In 1968, the Queen of Soul sang the National Anthem at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and sang “Precious Lord” at the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the same year. She later sang “Precious Lord” at the dedication of King’s memorial in Washington in 2011. Franklin received the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush. Most recently, she famously sang “My Country, ’Tis of Thee” at President Obama’s first inauguration in 2009.

This year, Beyoncé will sing the National Anthem, James Taylor will sing “America the Beautiful,” and Kelly Clarkson will sing “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.”  Katy Perry and Alicia Keys will also be part of the festivities. Who can guess what 2017 will bring?