First Ladies: Presidential Historians on the Lives of 45 Iconic American Women

First Ladies: Presidential Historians on the Lives of 45 Iconic American Women

Susan Swain

Language: English

Pages: 496

ISBN: 1610397177

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A look inside the personal life of every first lady in American history, based on original interviews with major historians

C-SPAN’s yearlong history series, First Ladies: Influence and Image, featured interviews with more than fifty preeminent historians and biographers. In this informative book, these experts paint intimate portraits of all forty-five first ladies—their lives, ambitions, and unique partnerships with their presidential spouses. Susan Swain and the C-SPAN team elicit the details that made these women who they were: how Martha Washington intentionally set the standards followed by first ladies for the next century; how Edith Wilson was complicit in the cover-up when President Wilson became incapacitated after a stroke; and how Mamie Eisenhower used the new medium of television to reinforce her, and her husband’s, positive public images.

This book provides an up-close historical look at these fascinating women who survived the scrutiny of the White House, sometimes at great personal cost, while supporting their families and famous husbands—and sometimes changing history. Complete with illustrations and essential biographical details, it is an illuminating, entertaining, and ultimately inspiring read.

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were only four states that still needed to ratify [the Equal Rights Amendment], and Rosalynn really got out there and campaigned, and it really looked like it would make it. But [at the National] Women’s Conference in Houston, in 1977, that was really a moment when the organization of the fight against the ERA really became public. Conservative women across the country had organized to get themselves elected as delegates to that women’s conference. They really began fighting back against what

Benjamin Adams, and publisher Clive Priddle. The First Ladies writing and editing team: Like the television series, this book has been a collaborative project. Major thanks to Molly Murchie, who was an editorial partner for initial drafts of this book, along with Peggy Keegan, Zelda Wallace, Laura Stassi, and our intern Emma Lingan. And a big cheer for project editor Marco Pavia. Finally, with great appreciation to my longtime C-SPAN executive colleagues and friends, founder Brian Lamb, co-CEO

their forty-four year marriage. Congressman Samuel Mitchell from New York…wrote to his wife that he had been at a dinner at the president’s house when Jefferson was president. It was right before Monroe left to go to France to negotiate what became the Louisiana Purchase. Mitchell wrote, saying, “Monroe has a fine conjugal feeling. He can’t stand to be separated from his wife so he’s taking her with him to go to Europe.” That was pretty much their attitude. Monroe was devoted to family as well.…

when there was a small circle of friends together, or a small group of visitors. Everyone praised her charm, her affability, her conversation and said she sparkled. She was just a very different type of person than Dolley Madison. …Elizabeth Monroe was an almost invisible first lady during a lot of those eight years. She had serious health problems. She had excruciating headaches. It was thought she suffered from rheumatism, arthritis, and there are a number of people who believe that she may

would have been defeated. He was not very well-liked when he left office. It is true that he started a war which was successfully won, but when it was over, he didn’t want to have peace.… Polk was forced to bring a treaty to Congress that he did not actually want to sign or have Congress ratify. HUNT: James K. Polk might not have been able to achieve his ambitious one-term agenda without Sarah’s help. She certainly kept the White House running because he literally worked himself to death. She

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