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August 29 , 2007

First Ladies

Presidential Historians on the Lives of 45 Iconic American Women


C-SPAN's year-long history series, "First Ladies: Influence and Image," aired in 2013 and 2014 and was devoted to revealing the private lives and public actions of 43 iconic American women.
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First Ladies captures the spirit of this special series by assembling its impressive collection of contemporary first ladies historians into book form. Their original interviews, condensed into an essay about each first lady, create intimate portraits of these women, their lives, ambitions, and their unique partnerships with their presidential spouses. Susan Swain and the C-SPAN team elicit the details that made these women who they were. You’ll read how Martha Washington intentionally set the standards followed by first ladies for the next century; how Lucretia Garfield calmed the nation in the wake of her husband’s shooting just four months into his presidency; and how Mamie Eisenhower harnessed the advent of television to reinforce her and her husband’s positive public images.

First Ladies informs its readers in interesting ways about America’s most well-known first ladies, such as Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Mary Todd Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jacqueline Kennedy, Nancy Reagan, and Michelle Obama. Yet, some of its very best gems are contained in the lives of first ladies whose stories had been lost to the pages of history or overshadowed by their powerful presidential partners-Louisa Catherine Adams, Jane Pierce, Sarah Polk, Frances Cleveland, and Edith Wilson. What is ultimately unraveled in the book is the untold half of the story: how American women lived, worked, and thrived over 200+ years of history.

The role of first ladies in our political culture has long been a subject of lively debate. This book provides an intimate historical look at the interesting women who persevered in the glare that is the White House, supporting their families and famous husbands and sometimes changing history. You’ll find it illuminating, entertaining, and ultimately inspiring.

Illustrated, and including both the basic biographical information and a rich look at the public and inner lives of the first ladies, this book is a resource, a fascinating read, and a beautiful gift.
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