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February 17th, 2014
05:51 PM ET

Which first lady ranked best in history?

Washington (CNN) – This weekend, a definitive ranking of Americans was announced to the world. The competition was fierce, with new contenders vying for spots held by longtime favorites, while one star outshone them all.

C-SPAN and Siena college released their expert survey of American first ladies Saturday.

Thirty nine first ladies were judged by historians and scholars in ten categories, including public image, value to the president, being her own woman, and of course, value to the country.

For the fifth time since the survey began in 1982, Eleanor Roosevelt clenched the top spot solo, and with husband Franklin Delano as part of the survey's top ranked couple.

Survey: The best of the first ladies

At the Roosevelt memorial in Washington, D.C., the highest ranked first lady is the first and only first lady to be included in her husband's presidential monument.

Roosevelt famously advised wives on the campaign trail to lean back in the parade car so everybody can see the president. But after 12 years in the White House, she was as much a star as her husband.

"Eleanor Rossevelt really took the first lady position, and made it politically and socially relevant in a way that no one had ever done before. And we still remember her for that reason," George Mason University professor Jeremy Mayer told CNN.

The current first lady, Michelle Obama is already ranking high on the list, placing fifth overall – not bad for her first time on the survey.

She swept the competition in her ability to manage family life while in office.

"It is not at all unusual for a current first lady to be very, very popular, and this helps explain why the role has grown so much in the 20th and 21st century," said Mayer. "Presidents are increasingly polarized, first ladies rise above politics."

Fashion's favorite first lady is, of course, Jackie O, who received top votes for public image and being a steward of the White House, whose treasured art and furniture she famously took pains to preserve.

The sixth place finisher may soon run to be in a category of her own. Former Secretary of State and U.S. senator Hillary Clinton was deemed the "easiest to imagine as president."

"She isn't benefiting from what every other first lady in this poll is benefiting from, and that is the loss of partisan polarization. She just finished up as Secretary of State in a very polarized environment," said Meyer.

The unfortunate title of last place first lady was given to Jane Means Appleton Pierce.

She was noticeably depressed from the death of her son. The author Nathaniel Hawthorne even referred to her as "that death's head" in the White House – which may have contributed to keeping her from the head of the list.

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