Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Very Good Read

Since I have become a recliner dweller, I've had a lot of time to read. Happily, it's one of my very favorite occupations.

"First Ladies - An Intimate Group Portrait of White House Wives" by Margaret Truman Fawcett Books 335 pages $14.95 (paperback.)

Few could be more qualified to write about these woman. She is the only child of Bess and Harry Truman and, starting with Eleanor Roosevelt, has known every living First Lady since then.

Rather than a dreary chronicle - year by year - of what they were like, she has sorted them out into classifications. To name a few of the 25 chapters --

"Pioneer Crusaders" - Lucy ("Lemonade Lucy) Hayes, the first presidental wife to have a college degree and the first to ban serving alcoholic beverages in the White House. (Entrepreneurs would pay staff for a "real" drink behind her back.)

"The Lost Companion" - Eleanor Roosevelt. FDR cheated on her; she found the love letters from Another Woman and flatly refused ever to have anything to do with him at all. Let's say it was no accident that she spent most of the White House years on the road.

"The First Lady Who Wanted the Job" - Helen Taft who was far more ambitious than her husband by far.

"The First Lady Nobody Knew" - Pat Nixon aka "Plastic Pat" or "The Robot."

"Maternally Yours" - Edith Roosevelt who brought all six children (including teenaged Alice, daughter of his late first wife) to the White House where they terrorized the help and were not above scaring visitors.

Barbara Bush arrived with five adult children and 10 grandchildren.

"The Glamour Girls" - President Tyler's second wife Julia Gardener Tyler, Dolley Madison, Frances Folsom Cleveland.

Make no bones about it, I am shallow enough to enjoy the human side of politics and history and this book satisfied quite well.

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