First Ladies of the United States: A Biographical Dictionary

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Editorial Reviews

Fascinating reading, this work presents in chronological order surprisingly thorough sketches of every first lady from Martha Dandridge Custis Washington through Laura Welch Bush. Each entry begins with a picture, birth and death dates, presidential husband and his term of office, marriages, and children. Family background and early years are discussed, followed by courtship and marriage. The greater part of each entry covers the first lady's experiences during her husband's presidency, both in politics and family life, ending with her particular legacy to her time and to America's national history. Unbiased and sympathetic, author Watson emphasizes the important but unrecognized role of the first lady. As the United States's official hostess and keeper of the treasured White House, supporter of and strong influence upon her husband, and in recent times, campaign manager and political activist, the first lady has the second toughest job in the country—unelected, unappointed, and unpaid. To what extent first ladies have guided the nations' history from behind the scenes, one only can speculate. As one of the most recognizable figures in the world, the first lady must endure public scrutiny and suffer the vicissitude of the public opinion that defines her office and passes judgment upon her. A welcome reference tool in a neglected area, this book also offers current material in women's history. Simply a good read, it will be a valuable addition to any high school collection. Index. Illus. Photos. Biblio. 200l, Lynne Rienner Publishers, 327 p, $49.95. Ages 12 to 18. Reviewer: Lucy Schall
Library Journal
Watson (political science, Univ. of Hawai'i, Hilo; The Presidents' Wives, 1999) has compiled a literate and concise collection of brief biographical sketches of the first ladies, introduced by an eight-page reflection on the job. The book is current an entry on Laura Bush is included but the biographies are short: Eleanor Roosevelt gets seven pages of text; Abigail Adams, six. Watson also sketches the four wives who did not live to join their husbands in the White House and, cursorily, the women who served in their place. Each entry begins with a listing of vital statistics (e.g., other marriages, number of children), then goes on to describe in a couple of paragraphs "early years," "marriage," "family life," "presidency," and "legacy," followed by a short bibliography. Helpful appendixes, each a single page, list each woman's formal education, birthplace, age on becoming first lady, age at marriage, and length of marriage. This compact dictionary serves its purpose. Cynthia Harrison, George Washington Univ., Washington, DC Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Watson (political science, U. of Hawai'i-Hilo) profiles each first lady from Martha Washington to the current first lady, Laura Welch Bush. Each entry discusses the first lady's early years and education, her family life, her presidential years, and her achievements in her role as first lady. Appendices list statistics, such as the first ladies' formal education, birthplaces, ages on marrying and becoming first lady, and biographies of five women who died before their husbands became president. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555879075
  • Publisher: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/1/2001
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 327
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: Powers Behind the Presidency 1
1 Martha Dandridge Custis Washington 9
2 Abigail Smith Adams 19
3 Martha "Patsy" Jefferson Mann and Mary "Polly" Jefferson Eppes 26
4 Dolley Payne Todd Madison 29
5 Elizabeth Kortright Monroe 36
6 Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams 42
7 Emily Tennessee Donelson and Sarah Yorke Jackson 50
8 Angelica Singleton Van Buren 52
9 Anna Tuthill Symmes Harrison 54
10 Letitia Christian Tyler 61
11 Julia Gardiner Tyler 66
12 Sarah Childress Polk 74
13 Margaret Mackall Smith Taylor 80
14 Abigail Powers Fillmore 87
15 Jane Means Appleton Pierce 95
16 Harriet Rebecca Lane Johnston 101
17 Mary Ann Todd Lincoln 107
18 Eliza McCardle Johnson 116
19 Julia Dent Grant 122
20 Lucy Ware Webb Hayes 129
21 Lucretia Rudolph Garfield 136
22 Mary Arthur McElroy 142
23 Frances Clara Folsom Cleveland 144
24 Caroline Lavinia Scott Harrison 151
25 Ida Saxton McKinley 158
26 Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt 164
27 Helen Herron Taft 173
28 Ellen Louise Axson Wilson 183
29 Edith Bolling Galt Wilson 190
30 Florence Kling Harding 196
31 Grace Anna Goodhue Coolidge 204
32 Lou Henry Hoover 212
33 Anna Eleanor Roosevelt 218
34 Elizabeth "Bess" Virginia Wallace Truman 226
35 Mary Geneva "Mamie" Doud Eisenhower 231
36 Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis 237
37 Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Taylor Johnson 244
38 Thelma Catherine "Pat" Ryan Nixon 250
39 Elizabeth "Betty" Bloomer Ford 256
40 Eleanor Rosalynn Smith Carter 262
41 Anne Frances "Nancy" Robbins Davis Reagan 268
42 Barbara Pierce Bush 273
43 Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton 278
44 Laura Welch Bush 284
App. 1 Formal Education of the First Ladies 289
App. 2 First Ladies' Birthplaces 290
App. 3 Ages on Becoming First Lady 291
App. 4 First Ladies' Presidential Marriages 292
App. 5 Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson 293
App. 6 Rachel Donelson Jackson 297
App. 7 Hannah Hoes Van Buren 303
App. 8 Ellen Lewis Herndon Arthur 307
Selected Bibliography 312
Index of First Ladies and Presidents 313
Subject Index 317
About the Book 327
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