Best Books ABout First Ladies

Best Books about First Ladies

We’ve all heard that behind every great man is a great lady. But it’s still the men that get celebrated. I think it’s time we give these incredible First Ladies their due!

Best Books about First Ladies

Lady Bird Johnson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Kennedy, Mary Todd Lincoln– we’ve all heard these legendary ladies’ names. But, how much do we actually know about them? Who were these incredible women who stood behind our nation’s leaders? How much did they help steer the country? And more importantly, what did they give up and sacrifice to take on this role? I hope I capture some of these questions and stories here in these best books about first ladies. But I know there still are more.

To be honest, I grew very overwhelmed in the options while writing this post. There are so many incredible books out there. I obviously could only share a few, but I’d love for you to share more of your own recommendations as well! So please, feel free to add your own favorite First Lady Reads in the comments!

Loving Eleanor by Susan Wittig Albert

Eleanor Roosevelt was known for being one of the most influential, ahead of her time first ladies in history. Her quotes alone are legendary. But was there one area of her life where she couldn’t be true to herself?

Albert offers a beautiful story of the complicated relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and A.P. reporter, Lorena Hickok- Hick- as she was called.

When AP political reporter Lorena Hickok—Hick—is assigned to cover Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the wife of the 1932 Democratic presidential candidate, the two women become deeply, intimately involved. Their relationship begins with mutual romantic passion, matures through stormy periods of enforced separation and competing interests, and warms into an enduring, encompassing friendship that ends only with both women’s deaths in the 1960s—all of it documented by 3300 letters exchanged over thirty years.

Now, New York Times bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert recreates the fascinating story of Hick and Eleanor, set during the chaotic years of the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Second World War. Loving Eleanor is Hick’s personal story, revealing Eleanor as a complex, contradictory, and entirely human woman who is pulled in many directions by her obligations to her husband and family and her role as the nation’s First Lady, as well as by a compelling need to care and be cared for. For her part, Hick is revealed as an accomplished journalist, who, at the pinnacle of her career, gives it all up for the woman she loves. Then, as Eleanor is transformed into Eleanor Everywhere, First Lady of the World, Hick must create her own independent, productive life.

Drawing on extensive research in the letters that were sealed for a decade following Hick’s death, Albert creates a compelling narrative: a dramatic love story, vividly portraying two strikingly unconventional women, neither of whom is satisfied to live according to the script society has written for her. Loving Eleanor is a profoundly moving novel that illuminates a relationship we are seldom privileged to see and celebrates the depth and durability of women’s love.

Best Books about First Ladies

And They Called It Camelot by Stephanie Marie Thornton

The famous Jackie O. Many would call her the most legendary first lady of all time. Her famous style. The highly romanticized fairytale of the Kennedy’s courtship and marriage. But what was Jackie’s life really like? Thornton takes us behind the scenes to see an intimate portrait of her life.

Few of us can claim to be the authors of our fate. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy knows no other choice. With the eyes of the world watching, Jackie uses her effortless charm and keen intelligence to carve a place for herself among the men of history and weave a fairy tale for the American people, embodying a senator’s wife, a devoted mother, a First Lady—a queen in her own right.
But all reigns must come to an end. Once JFK travels to Dallas and the clock ticks down those thousand days of magic in Camelot, Jackie is forced to pick up the ruined fragments of her life and forge herself into a new identity that is all her own, that of an American legend.

Mary- Mrs. A. Lincoln by Janis Cooke Newman

Mary Todd Lincoln was one of the most controversial first ladies in history. She was the first President’s wife to earn the title First Lady. And yet, she was also committed into an insane asylum. Newman does an amazing job portraying a sympathetic and well-researched view of Mary Todd Lincoln’s life.

A fascinating and intimate novel of the life of Mary Todd Lincoln, narrated by the First Lady herself.

Mary Todd Lincoln is one of history’s most misunderstood and enigmatic women. She was a political strategist, a supporter of emancipation, and a mother who survived the loss of three children and the assassination of her beloved husband. She also ran her family into debt, held seances in the White House, and was committed to an insane asylum—which is where Janis Cooke Newman’s debut novel begins. From her room in Bellevue Place, Mary chronicles her tempestuous childhood in a slaveholding Southern family and takes readers through the years after her husband’s death, revealing the ebbs and flows of her passion and depression, her poverty and ridicule, and her ultimate redemption.

Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight by Julia Sweig

It’s recently been alluded to that Lady Bird Johnson was instrumental to LBJ’s administration and presidency. But this book really pulls back the curtain and reveals just how much she contributed.

In the spring of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson had a decision to make. Just months after moving into the White House under the worst of circumstances—following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy— he had to decide whether to run to win the presidency in his own right. He turned to his most reliable, trusted political strategist: his wife, Lady Bird Johnson. The strategy memo she produced for him, emblematic of her own political acumen and largely overlooked by biographers, is just one revealing example of how their marriage was truly a decades-long political partnership.

Perhaps the most underestimated First Lady of the twentieth century, Lady Bird Johnson was also one of the most accomplished and often her husband’s secret weapon. Managing the White House in years of national upheaval, through the civil rights movement and the escalation of the Vietnam War, Lady Bird projected a sense of calm and, following the glamorous and modern Jackie Kennedy, an old-fashioned image of a First Lady. In truth, she was anything but. As the first First Lady to run the East Wing like a professional office, she took on her own policy initiatives, including the most ambitious national environmental effort since Teddy Roosevelt. Occupying the White House during the beginning of the women’s liberation movement, she hosted professional women from all walks of life in the White House, including urban planning and environmental pioneers like Jane Jacobs and Barbara Ward, encouraging women everywhere to pursue their own careers, even if her own style of leadership and official role was to lead by supporting others.

Where no presidential biographer has understood the full impact of Lady Bird Johnson’s work in the White House, Julia Sweig is the first to draw substantially on Lady Bird’s own voice in her White House diaries to place Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Johnson center stage and to reveal a woman ahead of her time—and an accomplished politician in her own right.

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