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First Ladies: From Martha Washington to Michelle Obamaby Betty Boyd Caroli
Synopses & Reviews
Betty Boyd Caroli's engrossing and informative First Ladies is both a captivating read and an essential resource for anyone interested in the role of America's First Ladies. This expanded and updated fourth edition includes Laura Bush's tenure, Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential bid, and an in-depth look at Michelle Obama, one of the most charismatic and appealing First Ladies in recent history.
Covering all forty-one women from Martha Washington to Michelle Obama and including the daughters, daughters-in-law, and sisters of presidents who sometimes served as First Ladies, Caroli explores each woman's background, marriage, and accomplishments and failures in office. This remarkably diverse lot included Abigail Adams, whose "remember the ladies" became a twentieth-century feminist refrain; Jane Pierce, who prayed her husband would lose the election; Helen Taft, who insisted on living in the White House, although her husband would have preferred a judgeship; Eleanor Roosevelt, who epitomized the politically involved First Lady; and Pat Nixon, who perfected what some have called "the robot image." They ranged in age from early 20s to late 60s; some received superb educations for their time, while others had little or no schooling. Including the courageous and adventurous, the emotionally unstable, the ambitious, and the reserved, these women often did not fit the traditional expectations of a presidential helpmate.
Here then is an engaging portrait of how each First Lady changed the role and how the role changed in response to American culture. These women left remarkably complete records, and their stories offer us a window through which to view not only this particular sorority of women, but also American women in general.
"Impressive...Caroli's profiles and observations of American first ladies and their relationship to the media are intelligent and perceptive." --Philadelphia Inquirer
First Ladies tells the story of one of our nation's most curious institutions, watching the role as it has evolved from ceremonial backdrop to its current place as substantive world figure. This expanded and updated edition brings us up to the present, examining the lives and roles of our most recent First Ladies: Hillary Rodham Clinton and Laura Bush. Reaching back to our first, Martha Washington, Betty Boyd Caroli explores the background, marriage, accomplishments and failures in office of every woman who has served as First Lady--which in some cases included the daughters, daughters-in-law, and sisters of presidents.
In new and expanded entries, Caroli focuses her keen critical eye on investigate the acts, advocacies, successes, shortcomings, and legacies of Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush. Following all of her trials and triumphs, from unwelcome White House upstart to praiseworthy U.S. Senator, Caroli captures the essence of Hillary Clinton. She awards Clinton due credit for the influence she added to the position of First Lady, explores with an unflinching eye the suffering Clinton endured, and praises her as stalwart role model to women around the globe. In an entirely new entry, Caroli introduces Laura Bush as a woman of independent thought and action, a former teacher who earned a master's of library science. She shows that Bush is one who eschews political action but is nonetheless passionately committed to enriching education and boosting literacy through reading programs and literacy campaigns.
Depicting how each of the remarkable women who have served alongside our presidents have employed the "magic wand" given to them, Caroli reveals not only how each First Lady changed the role, but also how the role changed in response to American culture. In publicizing their accounts and stories, Caroli grants an insider's view on their lives, and also on the history of American women at large.
About the Author
Betty Boyd Caroli is former Professor of History at City University of New York and the author of The Roosevelt Women, among other books.
Table of Contents
1. Setting Precendents: The First President's Wives
2. Young Substitutes for First Ladies
3. Three Exceptions: Sarah Childress Polk, Mary Todd Lincoln, and Julia Dent Grant
4. The Limited Promise of the "New Woman"
5. The Office of the First Lady: A Twentieth Century Development
6. The Paradoxical 1920s
7. Breaking Precedents and Reaffirming Old Ones
8. The Turbulent Sixties
9. New Dimensions to the Job of First Lady
10. A New Generation in the White House
11. Presidential Wives and the Press
12. "The Women They Married..."
13. (TKTK) Hilary Runs for President
14. (TKTK) The Obamas
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