The Presidents' First Ladies

Overview

Meet our nation's First Ladies in the only book that profiles every mistress of the White House from Martha Washington to Laura Bush. In The Presidents' First Ladies, Rae Lindsay reports behind-the-scenes details about the lives of these forty-plus un-elected, unpaid women who filled what many call "the world's hardest job." They range from the famous to the obscure, from the beloved to the unpopular, from the well-educated to those who could barely read. American First Ladies have run the gamut from elegant ...
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Overview

Meet our nation's First Ladies in the only book that profiles every mistress of the White House from Martha Washington to Laura Bush. In The Presidents' First Ladies, Rae Lindsay reports behind-the-scenes details about the lives of these forty-plus un-elected, unpaid women who filled what many call "the world's hardest job." They range from the famous to the obscure, from the beloved to the unpopular, from the well-educated to those who could barely read. American First Ladies have run the gamut from elegant entertainers to women who endured grief and pain, to spouses who served as their husbands' eyes, ears and voices. Some bloomed, while others wilted under the light of public scrutiny. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "Any woman who goes into public life has to have a hide like a rhinoceros."

In The Presidents' First Ladies, Rae Lindsay relates the major roles played by our Presidents' wives or surrogates, as well as the "first lady" foibles that impacted on presidential families and our country.
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  • Martha Washington was such a poor speller that often George wrote her letters for her. She also recycled muslin grain sacks as morning dresses.
  • Abigail Adams often wrote three love letters a day to her husband; in one she urged him to "remember the ladies," one of the first feminist statements.
  • Dolley Madison and Nancy Reagan fudged their true birth dates
  • Eliza Johnson and Abigail Fillmore taught their husbands, Andrew Johnson and Millard Fillmore, to read.
  • Mamie Eisenhower transformed much of the White House into "Mamie Pink" and often greeted her staff, in bed, wearing a Mamie Pink bedjacket.
  • Julia Grant wanted an operation to fix her cross-eyes and wanted to live "off campus" in Georgetown; Ulysses S. Grant denied both these goals.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt absentmindedly served sweetbreads to FDR six days in a row, and gave away silver teaspoons to visitors as White House souvenirs.
  • Mary Lincoln ordered $1,000 in mourning clothes over a year before Lincoln was assassinated; a shopaholic, during one spree she bought over 100 pairs of gloves.
  • Jacqueline Kennedy was criticized for reportedly spending $60,000 on clothes, while Pat Nixon wore a "respectable Republican cloth coat"
  • Jane Pierce stayed upstairs at the White House writing letters to her dead sons during Franklin Pierce's term in office.
  • Pat Nixon urged her husband to destroy all his tapes; his refusal led to Watergate and his resignation.
  • Sarah Polk, Helen Taft, and Rosalynn Carter attended their husband's cabinet meetings.
  • Betty Ford and Nancy Reagan relied on astrologers for clues about their husbands' futures.


In The Presidents' First Ladies, Lindsay tells you about parties and problems, weddings and funerals…cows on the White House lawn and rats in the White House walls…and about the women who cared deeply about what was happening in their country, as well as those who couldn't care less. Was Edith Wilson trying to take over the reins of power…or was she just trying to maintain her husband's position as President? Was Frances Cleveland simply a great entertainer or should she be recognized as a woman who helped hide her husband's horrific cancer of the jaw from the public? Would Mary Lincoln have had a stronger place in American history if she had been treated for her apparent bi-polar disorder?

And what about the peaks and valleys in public opinion? Americans loved Jackie but thought her frivolous until JFK was assassinated. Nancy Reagan went up and down in the public's view until her Ronnie was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Everyone always loved Mamie and the outspoken Bess. Few loved Mary Lincoln or Florence Harding or the elitist Eliza Monroe. Eleanor was "everybody's aunt," and millions adored her, while just as many deplored her. Hillary, writes Lindsay, is like spinach or liver: "you either hate it or love it."


About the Author

Rae Lindsay has written, ghost-written or edited 21 non-fiction books including Left is Right: The Survival Guide for Living Lefty in a Right-Handed World, Alone and Surviving: A Guide for Today's Widow, Sleep and Dreams, The Pursuit of Youth, How to Look as Young as you Feel, Job Discrimination (and Job Discrimination II) and an earlier edition of The Presidents' First Ladies, published in 1989.

For ten years, Ms. Lindsay wrote the syndicated column "First Person Singular" for Associated Press Newsfeatures, and during her career has contributed dozens of articles to national magazines. She has also taught English and Journalism courses at Seton Hall University, St. John's University, and William Paterson University.

Ms. Lindsay is a graduate of Wellesley College and currently serves as vice-president of her class; she is also a member of the National Press Club.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
"This charming, anecdotal account relates the arduous tasks, personal details, and historical facts about the presidents' ladies. In an unusual twist, Lindsay has categorized each of the 40-plus first ladies according to the major role she has played - such as pioneer, entertainer, stand-in, and spokeswoman - rather than chronologically…An interesting look at the demanding, un-elected, unpaid, highly visible job and the women who have undertaken it."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780965375337
  • Publisher: R & R Writers/Agents, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/1/2001
  • Edition description: Revised, Expanded, Illustrated
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
The Pioneers 5
Martha Dandridge Custis Washington 11
Abigail Smith Adams 17
Martha "Patsy" Jefferson Randolph 25
Dolley Payne Todd Madison 29
Elizabeth Kortright Monroe 37
Louisa Johnson Adams 41
Private Lives 47
Anna Symmes Harrison 53
Lucy Webb Hayes 55
Caroline Scott Harrison 59
Elizabeth Virginia "Bess" Wallace Truman 63
Private Pain 71
Margaret Smith Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor Bliss 77
Abigail Powers Fillmore 79
Jane Means Appleton Pierce 81
Mary Todd Lincoln 83
Eliza McCardle Johnson 89
Lucretia Rudolph Garfield 93
Ida Saxton McKinley 97
Grace Goodhue Coolidge 101
The Elegant Enter Tainers 105
Letitia Christian Tyler and Julia Gardiner Tyler 111
Julia Dent Grant 113
Rose Elizabeth Cleveland and Frances Folsom Cleveland 117
Edith Carow Roosevelt 121
Lou Henry Hoover 125
Mamie Doud Eisenhower 127
The Supportive Stand-Ins 131
Emily Donelson and Sarah Jackson (for Andrew Jackson) 137
Angelica Singleton Van Buren (for Martin Van Buren) 141
Harriet Lane (for James Buchanan) 145
Mary Arthur McElroy (for Chester Alan Arthur) 147
The Spokeswomen 149
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy 155
Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Taylor Johnson 163
Elizabeth Anne "Betty" Bloomer Ford 167
Barbara Pierce Bush 171
Laura Welch Bush 175
Eyes, Ears, Voices 183
Sarah Childress Polk 191
Helen "Nellie" Herron Taft 195
Ellen Axson Wilson and Edith Bolling Galt Wilson 199
Florence Kling Harding 205
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt 209
Thelma Catherine "Pat" Ryan Nixon 217
Rosalynn Smith Carter 227
Nancy Davis Reagan 233
Hillary Rodham Clinton 243
Defining the Role 263
The Presidents and Their First Ladies 271
Notes 275
Bibliography 285
Index 288
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