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Covers a neglected area of American history, the coverage of the First Ladies

  • May 6, 2010
When she was First Lady, Hillary Clinton was pilloried and ridiculed by politicians and certain segments of the news media. Although her entry into the political arena did make her political fair game, a great deal of the criticism was personal, very mean and as is demonstrated in this book not without precedent.
In the early years of the republic, the role of the President's spouse was uncertain. In the first case, the general idea of a republic was new, so there was no tradition to rely on. To that point, the wife of a male leader was the Queen and the people of the United States had no desire for royalty, either in position or in manner. In the second case, women had no rights and they were expected to have children and defer to their husbands on everything. Women were almost totally uneducated and could not personally own or control their own property. Yet, the American people did have high expectations of the wife of the President, she was expected to be the charming and efficient hostess for all White House functions, both personal and governmental. That was a difficult task and in several cases it proved to be beyond the capability of the spouse of the President. Washington society was very snobbish and demanding, a perceived slight, no matter how minor, could be socially devastating.
This book chronicles the lives of the primary women of the White House from George Washington through Grover Cleveland. In several cases, the President had no spouse during his tenure in the White House; so another woman was pressed into service as the official hostess. Each woman that occupied the position brought a different style, some were completely unsuited, both intellectually and temperamentally, yet others were dazzling in the role.
As time moved on, so did the role of women in society, and associated with that, the role of the First Lady changed. In the nineteenth century, it became proper for the First Lady to champion causes, as long as they were in the area of charity and non-political. The most fascinating point of the book is how brutal the treatment of First Ladies has been over time. While some were treated well, the political opponents of their husbands heavily criticized many First Ladies. Many of the women would have preferred to be somewhere other than the White House, yet had very little choice in the matter.
This book covers a neglected aspect of American history, the role and treatment of the spouse of the President. As you can see from this book, heavy and often unjustified criticism of the First Lady in an old political game, it began with the founding of the republic and continues to this day.

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Charles Ashbacher ()
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Charlie Ashbacher is a compulsive reader and writer about many subjects. His prime areas of expertise are in mathematics and computers where he has taught every course in the mathematics and computer … more
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During the period of the 2008 American presidential election, when the whole world was held spellbound, I overheard a group of British college students discussing their latest study project. They were required to write an essay comparing any modern American First Lady with one who had served within the first century of the presidency. They quickly discovered that the early First Ladies lived in a complex world and that their role in that era was difficult. Pulling the overwhelming jigsaw of facts together from internet research was proving to be laborious and wearisome. The students would have preferred one compilation of First Ladies stories from the 19th century, which could be discussed with each other and /or their tutor at anytime, anywhere. Enthusiasm for the project was dampened by an apparent dearth of such volumes and by the lack of time available to study long individual biographies. The idea for this compendium was born!


In this 21st century, America's First Lady is as well known as her husband due to world-wide modern technology. In the 19th century, however, it was difficult for the public to even know who the president's wife was. Even today it is not easy to call to mind those pioneering First Ladies, many of whom were burdened with more than their fair share of misfortune and some almost forgotten

This book provides an insight into the lives of the 19th century First Ladies, in...
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ISBN-10: 1432754025
ISBN-13: 978-1432754020
Author: Ann Covell
Publisher: Outskirts Press

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