This new fourth edition of American First Ladies presents essays on the increasingly visible role that First Ladies have played in U.S. government, as well as the expanding interest in women’s achievements from the birth of the United States to the present time. American First Ladies presents clear discussions of individuals and topics, explaining any contemporary issues or historical references that may be unclear. The book is designed to meet the needs of college and high school students and of general readers seeking information about both U.S. history and women’s history. A companion to Salem Press’ American Presidents, this title provides detailed biographical essays on each of the First Ladies, arranged chronologically, from Martha Washington to Jill Biden.
American First Ladies opens with an informative Introduction by Consulting Editor, Robert P. Watson, and updated by Editor Michael J. O’Neal. An “Alphabetical List of First Ladies” follows, which helps readers find a particular entry. The biographical essays on the First Ladies, including family members who acted in that role for bachelor or widowed presidents, are organized in order by administration.
New additions to this title include:
- Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michele Obama essays, written for earlier editions, updated
- New essays for Melania Trump and Jill Biden added
- Every essay reread for accuracy and currency
- Bibliography brought up-to-date with the latest scholarship
- All appendices and the introduction checked and updated
The biographical chapters are formatted to help readers find specific information. Birth and death dates and locations appear at the beginning of each essay. The main text is further divided into sections: “Early Life” which deals with family and educational background; “Marriage and Family” discusses the First Lady’s relationship with the president; “Presidency and First Ladyship” covers the First Lady’s years in the White House; and “Legacy” which provides additional insights into those activities and accomplishments for which the First Lady became known, both during and after her time in the White House.
A key feature of the volume is the one hundred boxed sidebars. Each biographical chapter features two such sidebars: One discusses the president, assisting the reader in placing the First Lady’s biography into historical context, while the other focuses on a fascinating episode or anecdote about the First Lady herself, highlighting an event or quality for which she is known or with which she is associated.
The sidebars in American First Ladies offer engaging stories that make history and politics more accessible to readers and help bring these women to life. Dolley Madison saved a portrait of George Washington when British soldiers burned down the White House during the War of 1812. Elizabeth Monroe braved French mobs during the Reign of Terror to save the life of Madame Lafayette. Helen Taft broke tradition by insisting that she accompany her husband during the ride to the inaugural ceremony. Edith Wilson tricked members of Congress into believing that her husband had already recovered from his stroke. Lady Bird Johnson endured hostile crowds and threats to campaign in the South following the president’s support for civil rights.
Distributed throughout the book are more than one hundred photographs and drawings that complement the profiles of the First Ladies, their lives, and times. A section of nine overview essays examining the historical and changing roles of First Ladies concludes the main text: Presidential Partners; White House Manager; Nation’s Social Hostess; First Ladies and Social Causes; First Ladies and Presidential Campaigns; First Ladies and Policy Issues; First Ladies and Legislative Activism; Family Life in the White House; and Other White House Hostesses. These overviews also include sidebars, describing topics such as White House renovation attempts.
American First Ladies contains a number of valuable research tools. The “Chronological List of First Ladies” summarizes vital information on each First Lady from 1789 to the twenty-first century and is followed by a “Chronological List of Presidents”. The appendix “Libraries, Museums, Historic Sites, and Web Sites” provides visitor information for places that are on display or open to the public and includes Web sites of interest to presidential scholars and the general public alike. Finally, the annotated “Bibliography” lists more than a hundred sources for further study. A comprehensive “Subject Index” rounds out the volume.
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