C-SPAN's yearlong history series, First Ladies: Influence and Image , featured interviews with more than fifty preeminent historians and biographers. Read more...
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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.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-02-23
- Reviewer: Staff
Stories of Martha Washington knitting socks at the front, Elizabeth Monroe saving Lafayette’s wife from the guillotine, and Grace Coolidge’s soap-throwing raccoon offer an unusual perspective on the women who helped strengthen the country through social and diplomatic networking, personal projects, and other forms of support. Taken from a 2013–14 C-Span series, this chronological account engages pairs of historians—including the exceptional Carl Sferrazza Anthony—in discussing the personality, marriage, passions, and legacy of each first lady, resulting in a fluid, conversational style. These changing voices add depth and expertise, though they also have the occasional habit of refuting elements of previous chapters, especially in instances regarding symbolic “firsts,” a term often shown to be subjective. While the public only paid attention to cyclical White House restoration projects and glamorous social events, the first ladies’ sisterhood frequently included mourning deceased children and mentoring or otherwise supporting one another. This accessible account replaces stodgy depictions of stuffy, untouchable first ladies with the relatable, often tragic stories of the determined women who made it up as they went along, to the benefit of their husbands and country. (Apr.)