First Ladies

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Nearly forty presidents of the United States have thrust their wives into what has come to be called the position of First Lady. Each wife of a president has found herself confronted with maintaining her marriage and family while also managing an official residence, organizing complex social events, engaging in philanthropic activities, and supporting her husband’s political career. No training is provided, so each First Lady is left to find her own direction and balance. More often than not, her relative successes and failures, are weighed on the scales of public opinion.

Margaret Truman has taken a look at all the presidential wives, rating the effectiveness of many. For example, two died “in office” while another left the presidential quarters only once in four years. Several restored the White House. Some were political activists. Two were “glamour girls,” while others were emotionally destroyed. Most were competent hostesses. Some First Ladies were marvelously successful at all facets of the job. A few were dismal failures.

The daughter of a president herself, Margaret Truman is in a unique position to observe and comment on the members of a very exclusive sorority. She has known many First Ladies personally and interviewed several specifically for this book. She has taken pains to point out some highly underrated First Ladies, but does not mince words about those who failed to live up to the task. FIRST LADIES is an informative and chatty book which provides some delightful insights into many truly remarkable women and burdens of this indispensable office.