First Ladies

First Ladies

by Betty Boyd Caroli
     
 

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As we move toward the year 2000, Americans continue to debate the job of First Lady. How much power does the position actually hold? How publicly should that power be wielded? First Ladies tells the story of this curious institution and the evolution of these women's role from ceremonial backdrop to substantive world figure. This expanded edition brings us up to

Overview

As we move toward the year 2000, Americans continue to debate the job of First Lady. How much power does the position actually hold? How publicly should that power be wielded? First Ladies tells the story of this curious institution and the evolution of these women's role from ceremonial backdrop to substantive world figure. This expanded edition brings us up to the present, examining the legacies of our three most recent First Ladies: Nancy Reagan, credited with raising the job to that of "Associate President"; Barbara Bush, who took a more traditional approach); and Hillary Rodham Clinton, widely billed as the person responsible for changing the job completely. Covering all thirty-nine women from Martha Washington to our current First Lady and including the daughters, daughters-in-law, and sisters of presidents who sometimes served as First Ladies, Betty Boyd Caroli explores the background, marriage, and accomplishments and failures in office of each woman. This remarkably diverse lot included Abigail Adams, whose "remember the ladies" became a twentieth-century feminist refrain; Edith Wilson, who alone controlled access to the President when he suffered a stroke; 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; and Pat Nixon, who perfected what some have called "the robot image." They ranged in age from early 20's to late 60's; 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.
Depicting how these women used 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. Because of their position, these women left remarkably complete records, and their stories offer us an insider's view not only of their lives but also of the history of American women in general.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Impressive....Caroli's profiles and observations of American first ladies and their relationship to the media, are intelligent and perceptive."—The Philadelphia Inquirer

"An interesting and thoughtful overview that will appeal to a variety of readers."—Library Journal

"The first comprehensive study of the changes in the nature of the position of first lady from 1789 to 1987....Splendid in every way: thoroughly researched, illuminatingly written."—Paul F. Boller, Jr., Fort Worth Star-Telegram

"The book introduces a remarkable cast of characters....Their stories offer us a window through which to view not only this particular sorority of women—holders of what sociologists now call 'derivative power'—but also American women in general."—The Baldwin Times

"Many fascinating sidelights on history....The succession of First Ladies makes on the whole a dignified parade in her account."—Newsday

"The best book so far on the subject....It is sheer delight to read this book."—The Ellsworth American (Maine)

"A treasure trove of collected socio-historic information reflecting the changing status of American women from the Martha Washington to Nancy Reagan eras....It's for feminists, historians, and the curious, especially those pondering the role of future 'First Men.'"—Minnesota Women's Press

"Anyone curious about the politics of the changing roles of women in our social history will find much to ponder here."—The Washington Monthly

"This intriguing, in-depth study moves from an examination of the term first lady...to the current controversy regarding Nancy Reagan's 'elevating the job of first lady to a kind of Associate Presidency.'"—Booklist

"An insightful collective portrait of the women who have filled 'the most demanding, unpaid, unelected job in America.'"—American History Illustrated

Library Journal
Being First Lady is probably the hardest unpaid job in the United States. The thirty-six First Ladies (some of them daughters or other relatives) have been a highly varied group. Three have married an incumbent President; three have died in office. Caroli takes a look at each of them and their effect on the job, and also examines the ways the role of First Lady has changed over the years as American society and public expectations have changed. A ranking of the First Ladies by historians is included. Though not intended to be an in-depth study of either the First Ladies or the institution, this is an interesting and thoughtful overview that will appeal to a variety of readers. Nancy C. Cridland, Indiana Univ. Libs., Bloomington

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195092288
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
07/28/1995
Edition description:
Older Edition
Pages:
496
Product dimensions:
5.38(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.97(d)
Lexile:
1580L (what's this?)

Meet the Author

Betty Boyd Caroli holds a Ph.D. in American Civilization from New York University. She is the author of Inside the White House and co-author of Today's Immigrants: Their Stories.

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