FIRST LADIES by Carl Sferrazza Anthony


The Saga of the Presidents' Wives and Their Power,1961-1990
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 Following up his 1990 history of First Ladies prior to 1961, Anthony now tracks the Presidents' wives as they flexed their political muscle more openly and encountered more controversy in the age of mass media. Anthony draws on previously unpublished letters, private papers, and interviews with the women themselves. Yet this proliferation of source material makes this volume less revealing of the more recent First Ladies. Possibly because other books and articles about First Ladies from Jacqueline Kennedy to Barbara Bush ``have overemphasized the speculative and invested or exaggerated material on some of the living and former First Ladies,'' Anthony treads lightly on rumored strains in the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon marriages. Moreover, perhaps understandably for this former Nancy Reagan speechwriter, he devotes a great deal of space to his old boss while disclosing little. He does, however, provide a wealth of detail on the strategies the First Ladies have pursued for their causes and desires: homework (Mrs. Kennedy for the arts), quiet advocacy (Pat Nixon and Betty Ford in unsuccessful bids to have their husbands appoint a female Supreme Court Justice), open political partnership with the President (Rosalynn Carter), and observer and manipulator of all the President's men (Nancy Reagan). He is also unique in discussing the workings of ``the sorority'': past and present First Ladies who have forged surprisingly friendly ties despite their husbands' political differences. No deep analysis here of a changing institution and less spicy that its companion volume, but still a richly anecdotal popular history of ``potentially the most powerful `appointed' post in the federal government.'' (Fifty b&w photographs.)

Pub Date: May 20th, 1991
ISBN: 0-688-10562-9
Page count: 608pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1991


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