The Smithsonian Book of the First Ladies: Their Lives, Times, and Issues

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America's first ladies are forty-three remarkable women whose individual stories and causes reflect the history of all American women.

This is the first comprehensive biography of the first ladies for young readers. Edited by Edith P. Mayo, curator of the First Ladies exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution, this essential volume not only documents the lives of the ...
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Overview

America's first ladies are forty-three remarkable women whose individual stories and causes reflect the history of all American women.

This is the first comprehensive biography of the first ladies for young readers. Edited by Edith P. Mayo, curator of the First Ladies exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution, this essential volume not only documents the lives of the presidents' wives (or official hostesses), it explores the achievements of these significant women in the White House and beyond.

Young readrs will be especially drawn by the book's eleven highlighted entries about issues important to American women, and by one hundred twenty-seven pieces of art and their captions, which tell a visual history of their own.

The Smithsonian Book of the First Ladies draws heavily on original source material. It includes images from the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, and a host of other diverse collections; four general introductions give an overview of the major events of each historical period.

Part women's history, social history, and American history, this accessible reference book is important reading not just for young women, but for anyone interested in the story of our country.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With a foreword by Hillary Rodham Clinton, The Smithsonian Book of the First Ladies: Their Lives, Times, and Issues, edited by Edith P. Mayo, presents highlights from the lives of all 43 First Ladies, including the strict Sarah Polk, who allowed no dancing in the White House, to Lucy Hays, who held firm in her belief that even Presidential wives should not try to influence their husbands' politics. This handsome, well-researched volume includes 127 photographs and paintings, as well as 11 entries on such related subjects as "Where Does the Term `First Lady' Come From?" and "How Have First Ladies Contributed to Campaigning?" (Holt, $24.95 ISBN 0-8050-1751-8, Mar.)
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
This book recalls the wives of all the presidents from Martha Washington to Hilary Rodham Clinton. We meet women like Abigail Adams who exhorted her husband, at the first Continental Congress, to "Remember the Ladies...and be more generous to them than your ancestors." He didn't listen! Dolley Madison was cool under fire when she managed to save the famed portrait of Washington during the War of 1812. With 43 First Ladies covered in 280 pages, the articles are brief but vivid enough to be read aloud. These intelligent and often remarkable women have been neglected too long. It's time to make amends!
Children's Literature - Beverly Kobrin
A foreword by Hillary Clinton launches an absolutely first-class look at our 43 First Ladies "their lives, times and issues." The text, edited by Smithsonian curator Edith P. Mayo, intersperses easy-to-read and genuinely interesting profiles with two- to four-page commentaries on such subjects as the American Revolution's impact on women and First Ladies' contributions to campaigning. The portrayals, peppered with anecdotes, include both the good and the bad, the joys and the pains: Betty Ford, for example kept count and learned that when Gerald Ford became a congressional leader, "he didn't have dinner at home on 258 evenings...Congress got a new minority leader and I lost a husband." A splendid selection of black-and-white and color paintings and photographs grace the book and the bibliography and meticulous index reflect the Smithsonian's expected thoroughness.
School Library Journal
Gr 6 UpFirst ladies from Martha Washington through Hillary Rodham Clinton are presented chronologically in biographical sketches ranging from 2 to 10 pages. Short profiles (sometimes only a paragraph) of several presidential wives who did not serve as first ladies are also included. Although the standard details are included, there is much surprising information, as the editor did not sugarcoat the difficulties some of these women endured. Not without errors (Mary Todd Lincoln was not born in the capital of Kentucky), this book is still exceptional for its scope. Interspersed with the biographical profiles are questions that address such topics such as why so many children had such short lives, the role women played in the temperance movement, why it was difficult for women to get an education, etc. The answers are superb. Reconstruction, the plight of Native Americans, and the struggle of immigrants are also explained. Mayo's remarkable achievement is explaining in a most understandable way how the social structures of the time affected the first ladies and how the most determined and gifted women challenged and changed them. Nicely illustrated with full-color and black-and-white photos, indexed, and possessing an extensive bibliography, this is the definitive choice for young readers or even adults who want a quick, lively, unique study. An essential update for all collections.Cindy Darling Codell, Clark Middle School, Winchester, KY
Frances Bradburn
From Martha Washington to Hillary Rodham Clinton, with a foreword by Clinton herself, "The Smithsonian Book of the First Ladies" briefly examines the lives of each woman who has occupied the White House by the side of the president. Three-to four-page biographies, with accompanying photos or illustrations, focus on each woman's significant life events, particularly as they related to the presidency. Although these biographies are fairly traditional in nature, Mayo, curator of the Smithsonian First Ladies exhibit, does not shirk mention of controversies, such as FDR's love affairs or Betty Ford's alcoholism. Interspersed within the biographies are brief vignettes on such topics as temperance, suffrage, campaigning, and education, all as they relate to women. Complete with bibliography and index, this collective biography will support initial, cursory research into the women of the White House.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805017519
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • Publication date: 4/1/1996
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 302
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.36 (w) x 10.34 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

Edith P. Mayo is curator in the Division of Political History, National Museum of American History, at the Smithsonian Institution.

In addition to curating many major exhibitions on political history, Ms. Mayo was responsible for reconceptualizing the Smithsonian's permanent first ladies exhibition. Entitled "First Ladies: Political Role and Public Image," the new show is one of the Smithsonian's most popular exhibitions.

Ms. Mayo lives in Alexandria, Virginia.
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