First Ladies in a Knife Fight

A while back on Reddit, someone posed the question “Out of all the American presidents, who would win in a knife fight to the death?” And an amazing human being created this masterpiece. So I, as a true feminist, created a rebuttal… In a mass knife fight to the death between all the First Ladies of the United States, who would win?

The Rules

  • There were some daughters and other female family members who acted as First Lady for various reasons, but for the purposes of this thought experiment, I am only going to talk about the wives of the presidents.
  • Every first lady is in the best physical and mental condition they were ever in throughout the course of their husband’s presidency. Fatal maladies have been cured, but any lifelong conditions or chronic illnesses remain.
  • The first ladies are fighting in an ovular arena 287 feet long and 180 feet wide (the dimensions of the Roman Colosseum). The floor is concrete. Assume that weather is not a factor.
  • Each first lady has been given one standard-issue Gerber LHR Combat Knife , the knife presented to each graduate of the United States Army Special Forces Qualification Course. Assume the first ladies have no training outside any combat experiences they may have had in their own lives.
  • There is no penalty for avoiding combat for an extended period of time. Hiding and/or playing dead could be valid strategies, but there can be only one winner. The melee will go on as long as it needs to.
  • Each first lady will be deposited in the arena regardless of their own will to fight, however, personal ethics, leadership ability, tactical expertise etc., should all be taken into account. Alliances are allowed.

Let’s cut to the chase… Here’s my Top 10:

10. Lou Hoover
9. Nancy Reagan
8. Edith Roosevelt
7. Anna Harrison
6. Dolley Madison
5. Mary Todd Lincoln
“The Ball Busters
4. Edith Wilson
“The Worst Ladies”
3. Michelle Obama
2. Eleanor Roosevelt
1. Hillary Clinton

But let’s go through each of them…

The Founding Mothers

Martha Washington will take one look at the arena, roll her eyes at the other so-called “First Ladies,” and stab herself. Her last words will be, “I would much rather be at home.”

Abigail Adams – Part of America’s first power couple, Abigail Adams could be a strong contender. She was the first First Lady to live in the White House when D.C. was still wilderness but if her letters are any indication, she will spend most of the fight wishing that her husband John was there. She gets taken down by…

Martha Jefferson – Described as slender and beautiful, Mrs. Jefferson was so weak and constantly ill that her husband had to turn down an appointment by the Continental Congress as commissioner to France to stay near her. She didn’t even make it past the Revolutionary War; she won’t last ten minutes in the arena. She will, however, take down Abigail on a surprise attack, muttering “You’ve got a midnight appointment with death” before slitting her throat. 

Dolley Madison – Dolley Madison will be the key alliance builder. She was a staple in all political social circles for half a century and will last for a long time because of her popularity. Her popularity and brazenness (she ran into a burning White House for crying out loud) will get her to the Top 10 without having to make a single kill but eventually her Quaker upbringing will make it impossible to defend herself in the Final Showdown.

Elizabeth Monroe – Elizabeth Monroe had a murky upbringing under a father who earned a fortune privateering during the French and Indian War and then lost said fortune during the Revolutionary War. This sounds suspicious to me and I can only hope that he was a scoundrel who taught his daughter his warmongering pirate ways. She saved the Marquis de Lafayette’s wife from the guillotine during the French Revolution but we can’t expect her to be so considerate of her fellow First Ladies. I put her in the middle of the pack.

19th Century Ladies

Louisa Adams – Born in London, Louisa Adams will be a foreign outcast among the Ladies. Her two years of experience surviving the Russian winter will give her a false sense of confidence and, without the help of her mother-in-law Abigail she will be murdered early on by a vindictive Rachel Jackson. 

Rachel Jackson –Rachel Jackson will be the rogue of the group and I consider her a dark horse. As a suspected adulterer and divorcee she was the topic of scandal during Jackson’s presidential campaign. She spent much of the campaign depressed and died before her husband could take office. All of this pent-up shame would explode in the arena in a burst of vengefulness. Her first victim? Louisa Adams, wife of the man who drug her personal life into his campaign against her husband Andrew. The hordes following Dolley Madison will eventually take her down just before the Top 10.

Hannah Van Buren – Hannah Van Buren was described as having a “loving, gentle disposition” and a “modest, even timid manner.” She died of tuberculosis decades before her husband became president. She will not stand a chance.

Anna Harrison – Anna Harrison was one tough mother. She had 10 children and most of her life was spent on the frontier where her husband was an Indian fighter. She never even got to go to the White House because her stubborn husband died one month into his presidency after catching a cold during his inauguration. I think Anna will want to change her legacy from the First Lady with the shortest term to the First Lady with the most kills. She makes it to the top 10 until she meets Lou Hoover’s rock formations.

Letitia Tyler and Julia Tyler, the first and second wives of John Tyler, will team up, with Julia taking the helm and protecting the weak and crippled Letitia. Embittered over her impoverishment after her husband’s death and the loss of the Confederacy that she so strongly supported, Julia Tyler would use Letitia and her wheelchair as a battering ram to destroy northerners Fillmore, Pierce, and Cleveland while they complained about their nonexistent legacies. 

Sarah Polk – I think that an understanding will form between those First Ladies who took a more active role in their husband’s presidency, all agreeing that while they won’t refrain from eventually killing each other, they should make sure that at least one of them wins. They will loosely be referred to as the Ball Busters. Because of this Sarah Polk will get to benefit from early immunity from the Worst Ladies. They will go far, thanks mostly to Hillary’s mannish strength and Michelle’s arms, but Sarah will eventually be taken down as the most delicate of the alliance.  

Margaret Taylor – Margaret Taylor will make it past the first melee only because she hides. Even as First Lady she didn’t attend social events and mostly just hung out in her upstairs sitting room and went to church. The Worst Ladies will ignore her for a while, but eventually she will be taken out at the midway point.  

Abigail Fillmore, Jane Pierce, Ellen Arthur, and Frances Cleveland will get too distracted commiserating over the fact that most American students don’t believe we ever had presidents named Fillmore, Pierce, Arthur, and Cleveland and will get taken out early by the Tyler Twosome.

Mary Todd Lincoln was a piece of work and will absolutely go rogue, rage, and last far into the competition. She will be irrational, temperamental, and fueled by the deaths of her closest loved ones. She will make it to the Top 5 and then confront the Worst Ladies. At this point, Michelle Obama, caught up in a desire to get Mary the mental healthcare she so desperately needs, will get taken down in the process of signing Mary up on healthcare.gov. Eleanor and Hillary will finish her off.

Eliza Johnson will form an alliance with Pat Nixon and they will call themselves the Impeachy Keens. Hillary will refuse to join and will take both of them down for bringing up Bill’s impeachment trial. 

Julia Grant will make it far by latching onto the Ball Busters, allowing them to do the dirty work, and then later claiming to have no knowledge of their ruthless practices. Edith Wilson, a true Ball Buster, will eliminate her before the Top 10.

Lucy Hayes – Nicknamed “Mother Lucy” by Union soldiers, Lucy will tend to the wounded and dying in the arena. While the other Ladies will generally leave her alone, she will get caught up in one of Mary Todd Lincoln’s irrational rages and succumb to her injuries. 

Lucretia Garfield – Lucretia Garfield will join up with Mary Todd Lincoln and Ida McKinley and they will call themselves the Black Widows. Jackie Kennedy will be too cool to join. The Black Widows, except for Mary Todd Lincoln who will desert them at the first sign of trouble, will be taken down by Edith Roosevelt and Nancy Reagan, upset that they weren’t allowed in the alliance just because their husbands hadn’t died.

Caroline Harrison will make it to the Top 15 simply by being dragged along by her grandmother-in-law, Anna Harrison. Upon finding out from the later First Ladies that her husband married her niece after Caroline died of tuberculosis she will take her own life.

20th Century Ladies

Edith Roosevelt and Nancy Reagan, after not being allowed to join the Black Widows, will use the skills they learned from their adventuring, cowboy husbands to fight their way into the top 10. Nancy Reagan will be jumped by all three Worst Ladies and Edith will get taken out trying to defend her ally. Nancy will die a slow death as Hillary and Michele let her slowly bleed out while they whisper the words “trickle down economics.” 

Helen Taft traveled the world with her husband and had dreams of working in politics. Jealous of Hillary Clinton’s fulfillment of her lifelong ambitions, she will make an ill-advised attack on the Worst Ladies early on. Hillary will parade her head around the arena in an early show of dominance over the other women.

Ellen Wilson and Edith Wilson will face off in the first melee. Ellen will be the crowd favorite, considering that Edith married Woodrow only a year after she died, but Edith’s tenacity and thirst for power will easily dominate Woodrow’s first wife. Edith will last until the top 10, thanks to her status as a Ball Buster, until Eleanor and Hillary target her for being called “the first woman to run the government,” a title they both secretly wanted for themselves.

Florence Harding and Grace Coolidge will prefer to spend the melee drinking and dancing, ignoring the inevitable demise that is on their horizon.

Lou Hoover will use her geological background as an unlikely weapon. She will distract her enemies by commenting on the geological formations in the natural stone used to build the arena. Once her target moves closer to observe the formation, Lou will bludgeon them from behind. She will then draw upon her skills as a taxidermist to surround herself with the posed carcasses of her kills to ward off any potential threats. This tactic will get her to the top 10, until she meets Mary Todd Lincoln, who doesn’t give a shit about rock formations.   

Post-WWII Ladies

Eleanor Roosevelt will be the organizer of the Worst Ladies. Her first target will be Jackie Kennedy, whose face she will wear for the rest of the fight. She makes it to the Final Showdown. 

Bess Truman was an athlete. She will use her strength as a softball and tennis player and her speed as an ice skater to cut through the mob like an assassin. She makes it to the middle of the pack.

Mamie Eisenhower will make a fair attempt but her love of pretty dresses and her inner ear disorder will cause her to stumble around the melee in high heels. She will trip over her gown and fall on her own knife. 

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis refused to join the Black Widows and thus will have no protection in the early melee. She will be attacked early on by Eleanor Roosevelt, enraged by the level of attention Jackie received as First Lady, overshadowing Eleanor’s decades of political work in the White House. Eleanor will take her down while screaming “There’s a new queen in Camelot!” She will make appearances the rest of the fight as her disembodied face will be worn by Eleanor in a show of intimidation. 

Lady Bird Johnson will be a key member of the Ball Busters but will die early as she tries to beautify the bodies of the dead with bluebonnets. 

Pat Nixon – see “Eliza Johnson”

Betty Ford will start drinking early into the fight. She will be stabbed in the back by a maddened Mary Todd Lincoln, who mistakenly thought Betty had something to do with Abe’s assassination at the Ford Theater.

The last thing Rosalynn Carter’s victims will experience before they die is the faint smell of peanuts on the night air. As a member of the Ball Busters, she will last the night until she is taken down by Nancy Reagan who, with a penchant for theatricality, stabs her in the back, shoves jelly beans into her mouth and screams “It’s morning in America Rosie!’

Nancy Reagan – see “Edith Roosevelt”

Barbara and Laura Bush will team up, calling themselves the Bushwhackers, but they will be targeted early by Hillary and Michelle. After 2/3 of the Worst Ladies take down Barbara, they will chase after Laura screaming, “No child left behind!” Laura will be cornered and eliminated. 

Hillary Rodham Clinton is my frontrunner. She will be an assassin in a pantsuit and I think only Eleanor Roosevelt could possibly stop her with her 6’0’’ wingspan. Hillary will rack up the most kills out of any of the Worst Ladies and will be a brute force of mannish strength and sheer willpower in the arena. In the Final Showdown with Eleanor she will picture her opponent as a less attractive Bernie Sanders, and it will be this motivation that could catapult her into first place.

Michelle Obama will benefit greatly from her South Side Chicago upbringing and her incredibly toned arms. She is a key member of both the Worst Ladies and the Ball Busters but her empathy and passion for healthy living will ultimately be her downfall. (see “Mary Todd Lincoln” for more detail)

The Winner…

Hillary “God Damn” Rodham Clinton. And, mind you, I wrote this post before the 2016 election. All of that pent-up rage has to go somewhere…