A gathering of spirited, intelligent women who accompanied—and, sometimes, shepherded—our country’s presidents into the White House.
A former staffer in the first lady’s office at the White House, Shamir takes a thematic approach, adding specific anecdotes and instances to general observations. She adopts a question-and-answer format to show how “first ladies”—mostly wives but in at least 13 cases a daughter, niece, or other relative—defined their roles as both White House hostesses and presidential advisers while coping with new responsibilities, often leveraging their positions to promote women’s rights or other causes. Answering the question “Do first ladies really make a difference,” Shamir explores Martha Washington’s efforts with veterans and Eleanor Roosevelt’s outreach during the Great Depression and World War II, for instance. In Faulkner’s collective portraits, many of these women, all recognizably depicted, gaze straight out at viewers with public smiles or private expressions of exasperation or amusement as they pose with spouses, politicians, animals, and children. Following notes about post–White House endeavors (“Hillary Clinton was the first first lady to be elected to the U.S. Senate”), review copies leave a blank page for a one-page post-election update.
A breezy way to, as Abigail Adams urged, “remember the ladies.” (list of presidents and first ladies, source notes) (Picture book/biography. 7-9)