MRS. IKE: Memories and Reflections on the Life of Mamie Eisenhower by Susan Eisenhower

MRS. IKE: Memories and Reflections on the Life of Mamie Eisenhower

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A sentimental biography of a First Lady best remembered--perhaps unjustly--for her hairstyle. As Hillary Clinton's constantly changing hairstyles may reflect a search to define herself in her White House role, Mamie Eisenhower's stubborn loyalty to the famous Mamie bangs may reflect the loyalty to friends and family that was her outstanding characteristic. That, at least, is how granddaughter Eisenhower (Breaking Free, 1995) sees her. As the author describes Mamie, she was a wife and mother who ""was right for the 1950s . . . an era when the postwar nation was busily engaged in raising its children and rebuilding."" Lively, charming, and ""rotten spoiled,"" Mamie Doud was one of four daughters in a very comfortable, if not wealthy, Denver family. Married at 19, she began a successful 50-year career as Dwight Eisenhower's wife. She learned discipline and self-control and made homes for him in two barren rooms in Texas, in a vermin-infested house in Panama, and, of course, in the White House. She was a skilled hostess and a tactful helpmate, enhancing the very important social side of her husband's army career but never interfering in his professional duties. Enduring the death of their three-year-old son, her own sometimes problematic health, plus prolonged separations when Ike was assigned overseas, Mamie behaved with dignity and discretion, even when rumors of an Eisenhower romance with his driver, Kay Summersby, flew across the Atlantic. There was no such romance, says the author, who also scotches rumors that Mamie was an alcoholic. Much information for this biography comes from family papers and letters, but even with these privileged documents, the Mamie who inspired a half-century of devotion from her famous husband never comes to life. For readers who are Eisenhower buffs and can fill in the great historical and personal gaps that mar this I-remember-Grandma chronicle.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1996
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: "Farrar, Straus & Giroux"