He was one of six sons and rough around the edges. She was one of four daughters and � as she admitted � "spoiled rotten." They met in 1916, in San Antonio, Texas, where her Iowa family wintered, and he was stationed. He paid for her wedding ring with his poker earnings. Their early furniture consisted of orange crates, and she liked to claim she "could squeeze a dollar until the eagle screamed." They were married for 53 years, and weathered countless moves, years of separation, and many tragedies � including the death of their first son, at age 3, of scarlet fever. In 1942, he wrote her this: "You are a thorobred, and, merely incidentally, I love the hell out of you."
Such were Dwight David Eisenhower and his bride, Mamie Doud Eisenhower. This is a sentimental book � the author, Susan Eisenhower, is their granddaughter � but an illuminating and moving one, too. Mamie urged Ike, in 1927, to accept a job writing a military guidebook to World I battlesites. Without his consequent deep knowledge of European terrain, who knows how World II might have gone? During the war, when they were apart for three years and he faced titanic pressures every day, he listened to a recording of her voice over and over, for comfort and inspiration.
Because this book is more about her than him, it can't help but sometimes seem trivial, compared to the monumental events in her husband's life. While Ike is plotting North African campaigns, we learn about, say, Mrs. Ike's system for packing their belongings. Mamie was a wife first and foremost, very much a Victorian lady. Indeed, she once cautioned her new daughter-in-law that "tired bedroom slippers and runover heels were a sure way to lose a husband."
Although Mamie once groused that "the only way to get along with [Ike] is to give him his own way constantly," he observed that she was capable of "giving me Hail Columbia," when necessary. They shared much adventure � in their Panama years, Mamie had Ike kill bats with his ceremonial dress saber, and in Paris, the Eisenhowers threw so many parties, they dubbed a bridge near their house "Pont Mamie." Yet she never lost her no-nonsense charm. She wore her class ring and charm bracelet even at state functions. It's hard not to be fond of her. As the old slogan ran: "I Like Ike but I
Love Mamie." -- Salon
This sympathetic and competently crafted biography of President Eisenhower's first lady is written by her granddaughter, founder of the Center for Post-Soviet Studies (
Breaking Free: A Memoir of Love and Revolution). The Eisenhowers were married for 53 years and, despite the difference in their backgrounds (she was wealthy, while his family struggled financially), according to the author, they were devoted to each other. Because "Ike" had embarked on an army career, Mamie (1896-1979) had to adjust to a life of constant moves and separations. Drawing on letters and conversations with Mamie, the author chronicles her long career as an army wife and gives a brief overview of the White House years. Included is a moving account of the tragic death of Ike and Mamie's young son. A traditional wife, Mamie focused on homemaking and, although disturbed by rumors of her husband's affair during WWII, she believed his denials. The author discounts rumors of Mamie's alcoholism, blaming her supposed instability on inner-ear problems. Photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The First Lady was once seen as the ultimate social and family support for the president, but her role has grown controversial, no matter how the particular woman interprets her part. Mamie Eisenhower chose the traditional rolebeing "the best Mrs. Eisenhower" anyone could be. Her granddaughter Susan (
Breaking Free: A Memoir of Love and Revolution, LJ 5/15/95) took the more modern route of divorce, remarriage, and career but still takes a warm and sympathetic view of Mamie's life. A largely pampered child (although haunted by death in the family), Mamie followed the rugged life of a soldier's wife and endured the death of her firstborn child, long separations from a beloved but sometimes autocratic husband, and life at overseas hardship posts. Even with World War II fame, rumors, and life in the White House fishbowl, Mamie continued to deal with her fears, love her family, and remain devoted to Ike. Enhanced by unpublished letters (including many long, loving ones to Eisenhower), this work is a good attempt at exploring a woman of another time who lived in a different state of grace. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 8/96.]Katherine E. Gillen, Luke AFB Lib., Goodyear, Ariz.