Former New Jersey First Lady
Mary Jo Codey, First Lady of New Jersey from November 2004 to January 2006, is a gifted educator and a staunch advocate for individuals whose lives have been affected by mental illness or breast cancer. A lifelong resident of New Jersey, she has been married to the state’s 53rd governor, Richard J. Codey—who continues to serve as president of the New Jersey Senate—for 25 years.
Personal experiences with both clinical depression and breast cancer make Mrs. Codey uniquely qualified to speak out on both of these serious health concerns.
As New Jersey’s First Lady, she welcomed the opportunity to advocate on behalf of the Governor’s newly created Task Force on Mental Health. Having suffered from postpartum depression, Mrs. Codey helped launch a ground-breaking statewide campaign that raised awareness of PPD and offered education and resources to women, their families, and healthcare professionals. The campaign—“Recognizing Postpartum Depression: Speak Up When You’re Down”—featured the First Lady in radio and TV spots. She has been tireless in sharing her story through public appearances and interviews to continue raising public awareness of PPD and encouraging women to seek treatment.
A second focus of Mrs. Codey’s efforts as First Lady was breast cancer. A breast-cancer survivor who lost her mother to the disease, she helped launch a statewide fundraising campaign in support of breast-cancer awareness and was active in stressing the importance of early detection.
Mrs. Codey also served as ambassador to the Governor’s Book Club, which encouraged reading and literacy skills among elementary school children. It gave her an opportunity to visit schools around the state doing something she loves: reading to children.
Looking back on her 14 months as the state’s First Lady, she has said: “I wanted to take all negative things that have happened in my life and what I’ve learned from them and put that hard-won knowledge to use in helping others in similar situations. I had a limited window of opportunity to make a difference, and I tried to make the most of it!”
As a volunteer, Mrs. Codey has contributed to a wide variety of causes. She is currently a member of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) and the President’s Advisory Council of Postpartum Support International. A former member of the board of directors of the Mental Health Association of Essex County, she also pioneered a PPD support group that began at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in 1994 and continues to help women and their families today.
Mrs. Codey received a master’s degree in elementary education—with certification as a learning disabilities teacher- consultant—from Seton Hall University. She currently teaches at an elementary school in West Orange.Return to List