Joan Mondale (née Adams; August 8, 1930 – February 3, 2014) was Second Lady of the United States from 1977 until 1981 as the wife of Walter Mondale.
She was an artist and author and served on the boards of several organizations. For her promotion of the arts, she was affectionately dubbed Joan of Art. Joan Adams was born in Eugene, Oregon, one of three daughters of the Rev. John Maxwell Adams, a Presbyterian minister, and his wife, the former Eleanor Jane Hall. She attended Media Friends School, an integrated Quaker school in Media, Pennsylvania; a public school in Columbus, Ohio; and later St. Paul Academy and Summit School in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1952, she graduated from Macalester College in St. Paul with a bachelor's degree in history, where her father was chaplain. After graduation, she worked at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. On December 27, 1955, Joan married Minneapolis lawyer Walter "Fritz" Mondale, whom she had met on a blind date. The couple had three children :
- Ted Mondale (b. October 12, 1957), Minnesota politician, former State Senator, and candidate for Governor of Minnesota
- Eleanor Jane Mondale Poling (January 19, 1960 – September 17, 2011), television and radio personality who died of brain cancer at 51
- William Hall Mondale (b. February 27, 1962), Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Minnesota Attorney General, 1990–2000
In 1964, Walter replaced Hubert Humphrey as a U.S. Senator, and held the post till 1976, when Democratic presidential candidate Jimmy Carter selected him as his running-mate in his successful bid for the Presidency. Joan then became Second Lady, in succession to Happy Rockefeller, during her husband's term as Vice President from 1977 to 1981, to be succeeded by Barbara Bush. Out of office during Reagan's first administration, Walter Mondale won the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984. As a prospective First Lady, Joan told Maureen Dowd of the New York Times that she would not talk about recipes or clothes during the campaign, but when her husband's political opponents made issue with this, costing him votes, she published The Mondale Family Cookbook, with recipes like Fettucine à la Pimento Mondale, and declared that she was a "traditional wife and mother and supporter".
Walter was not elected, and the Mondales returned to Minnesota, where they lived until his term as U.S. Ambassador to Japan (1993–96), after which he resumed his Minneapolis-based law practice. Mondale playing the drums after a press conference at the National Museum of African Art with, (l-r), Rep. Lindy Boggs, Rep. Walter E. Fauntroy, Warren M. Robbins (founder of the Museum), and Sen. Wendell Anderson, 1978. Joan was a lifelong practitioner, patron, and advocate of the arts, and her nickname 'Joan of Art' was a sincere tribute.
An accomplished potter, she studied art at college, and then worked in galleries, before moving to Washington as a Senator's wife in 1964, and led guided tours at the National Gallery of Art. In 1972, she wrote a book 'Politics in Art', examining how political commentary is reflected in artworks. Later she regularly gave tours as a guide for friend Ellen Proxmire (the then wife of Wisconsin Democratic Senator William Proxmire)'s company whirl-around. Later, as Second Lady, she turned the Vice Presidential Mansion into a showcase of American art, with works by artists including Robert Rauschenberg, Edward Hopper, Louise Nevelson, and Ansel Adams. At this time, she also served as chairperson of the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities.
As the U.S. Ambassador's wife in Japan, she enthusiastically promoted inter-cultural understanding through art, redecorating the Embassy with American paintings and organising tours with a bi-lingual guide. She studied Japanese art. and impressed the Mayor of Kyoto by presenting him with a ceramic bowl she had made herself in the traditional Mashiko style. She was the author of Letters From Japan, a collection of essays about life overseas published in 1998. Back in her home state, Mrs. Mondale continued to make her own pottery and promote the arts. She served on the boards of the Minnesota Orchestra, Walker Art Center, Macalester College and the National Portrait Gallery. In 2004, the Textile Center in Minneapolis endowed an exhibition space in her honor, the Joan Mondale Gallery, perhaps America's chief showcase for fiber art. On February 2, 2014, the Mondale family announced that she had entered hospice care. Joan Mondale died at the hospice in Minneapolis the following day, surrounded by members of her family.