Prather’s Pick: Lives of the first ladies |

Prather’s Pick: Lives of the first ladies

Diane Prather

I’ve always been intrigued with the White House — I even visited it one year. Of particular interest to me are the first ladies. So I’ve enjoyed reading “First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies.” It’s this week’s featured book.

This new (2016) nonfiction book was written by Kate Andersen Brower who also wrote The New York Times bestseller “The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House.”

“First Women” is a look at the lives of ten of the first ladies from the years 1961 through present. Included in the book are Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama.

In “Sources and Notes”, at the end of the book, Brower writes that her research for the book included “more than two hundred people” who were “residence staffers, high-level political aides, close friends, and family members.” She even had conversations with Rosalynn Carter and Barbara and Laura Bush. Rosalynn Carter twice.

Also used in writing the book was research from presidential libraries, oral histories, exit interviews and memoirs from the first ladies, presidents, and White House staffers.

The reader will find extensive notes on all of the research in the “Sources and Notes” section, plus a bibliography. A wealth of information went into the writing of this book!

There are nine chapters in “First Women” and an Epilogue, plus photo inserts. The chapters deal with being a political wife, motherhood, courage, the East Wing vs. the West Wing, and a whole lot more.

I was interested in the author’s research as to the relationships among the first ladies.

The author compares the “”world’s most elite sorority” to which the first ladies belong to the “world’s most selective fraternity” to which the presidents belong. Lady Bird Johnson and Betty Ford enjoyed a lifetime friendship. So have Laura Bush and Michelle Obama, while there was an apparent rivalry between Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush. Some of the information about the relationships came from never-before-published letters written by the first ladies. It is very interesting reading.

The book begins with the memories of a cruise hosted by former first lady Jacqueline

Kennedy Onassis when she was 64 years old. The guests were Bill and Hillary Clinton who had been living in the White House for seven months. Jackie wanted to give Hillary advice on how to survive life in the White House, especially where raising Chelsea was concerned. According to the author, Jackie and Hillary shared a “profound bond.” It’s another example of relationships between first ladies.

This is a fascinating book! Published by HarperCollins Publishers, the hardcover book costs $28.99. Yu can also find it with new books at the Craig branch of the Moffat County Libraries.

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