first ladies

First Ladies

Apr 29, 2015

  C-SPAN’s yearlong history series, First Ladies: Influence and Image, featured interviews with more than fifty preeminent historians and biographers. In the resulting book, First Ladies: Presidential Historians on the Lives of 45 Iconic American Women, these experts paint intimate portraits of all forty-five first ladies—their lives, ambitions, and unique partnerships with their presidential spouses.

Susan Swain and the C-SPAN team elicit the details that made these women who they were: how Martha Washington intentionally set the standards followed by first ladies for the next century; how Edith Wilson was complicit in the cover-up when President Wilson became incapacitated after a stroke; and how Mamie Eisenhower used the new medium of television to reinforce her, and her husband’s, positive public images.

C-SPAN

The holiday might be called Presidents’ Day, but as historians and contemporary White House watchers well know, First Ladies often play a major role in any administration aside from their ceremonial duties. Some, like Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Clinton, were outsize political forces in their own rights, while the influence of others, like Edith Wilson, is only revealed years later.