AMERICA'S FIRST LADIES: Private Lives of the Presidential Wives by Diana Dixon Healy

AMERICA'S FIRST LADIES: Private Lives of the Presidential Wives

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As America gears up to select a new President and First Lady, along come two books that offer capsule biographies of the women who have stood next to the President. Both Boiler (Presidential Anecdotes, 1981; Presidential Campaigns, 1984) and Healy (America's Vice-Presidents, 1984) include 41 life-histories, but their roll-call differs slightly--with Boiler covering strictly Presidential wives (whether they lived in the White House or not; hence his chapter on Rachel Donelson Robards Jackson, who died a few months before Andrew Jackson's inauguration), and Healy limning First Ladies by both marriage and blood (thus her chapter on Emily Donelson Donelson, Rachel's daughter who took up her deceased mother's duties). Both authors deserve pats on the back for digging out solid material on such misty figures as Anna Harrison and Abigail Fillmore; of their books, however, Boiler's is the sharper and more thorough, and has the added attraction of the piquant anecdotes that he clusters after each biography; for example; ""One day Jackie's secretary Mary Gallagher found the First Lady busily perusing a picture catalogue for trading stamps. 'Oh, Mary,' cried Jackie, 'do you know what I've just learned from Ann Lincoln? You know, all the food we buy here at the White House? Well, she told me that with the stamps the stores give us, we can trade them in for these marvelous gifts.'

Pub Date: May 1st, 1988
Publisher: Atheneum