Monday, July 6, 2015

Presidential Wives: An Anecdotal History by Paul F. Boller, Jr. (1988)

Far more interesting than Boller's Presidential Campaigns; I've always had a penchant for First Lady trivia and knowledge, finding them more interesting usually than their husbands.  I can recall loving this book about First Ladies that I would check out from our little public library when I was a kid; I don't recall why I loved it though. I  remember thinking Edith Roosevelt (Teddy's wife) and Mamie Eisenhower looked ugly and I felt sorry for them; they aren't any uglier than any other First Lady, and I'm not sure why my ten year old self thought that.

This book stops at Nancy Reagan; in the book Jackie Kennedy, LadyBird Johnson, Pat Nixon and Betty Ford are all alive.  They still are, in my brain that sometimes reverts back to 1992.   I wonder if we'd have new anecdotes about them now, and I wonder what they will say about Barbara Bush, Hilary Clinton, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama in the future.

Carl Sferraza Anthony's book about First Ladies is  much better than this one, although Boller is enjoyable.  For example, he shies away from slavery, at least for the most part, which I think a new book about First Ladies would delver more into.  Maybe we need a new book - First Ladies and their slaves.  

My favorite first ladies - I really like Bess Truman and Mamie Eisenhower. I actually like reading ab out Jackie Kennedy as well.  Pat Nixon is enigmatic and fun to think about.  Betty Ford would have been fun to know.  Eleanor Roosevelt was a great lady, but probably not so much fun to know.  Edith Roosevelt probably was though.  I bet Grace Coolidge was a hoot; she'd have to be to be married to that man.  Laura Bush always sounds intriguing to me because she was a librarian and liked to read; pus she smoked, and I like women who smoke (they are so few and far between now, and I know it's an awful, awful habit, but I still like women who smoke; at least women who smoke elegantly).  Julia Grant was fun to read about; I bet she was a hoot too.  Mary Todd Lincoln, intriguing and interesting and really sad.  Dolley Madison, catty as all get out, and great fun; like Maggie Smith in Gosford Park , all great lines and sassiness, but always needing a loan.  The Hayes sound like a delightful family, although today they would probably be much, much too Christian-y for my taste.  The Garfields sound like they would make a good Lifetime movie.

Biggest bitch of a First Lady:  Sarah Polk probably beat her slaves.  You know she did.  She sounds like a steel woman, all bite and no fun.  Nancy Reagan, although fascinating to read about, and probably had a bunch of gay male friends.  Rosalyn Carter sounds hard and brittle.  Who knows though - they were probably all bitches and probably all lovely.

Presidential Wives: An Anecdotal HistoryPresidential Wives: An Anecdotal History by Paul F. Boller Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A friend borrowed my copy of this book about 15 years ago, and he's still borrowing it.  I found this particular copy in a Friends of the Library used book sale, and snatched it up for a buck.  I'm a sort of First Lady-aphile; I love First Lady stories and histories.  Although this one is not as good as Carl Sfrerrazza Anthony's well written and well researched books on the same subjects, this is an easy and fun place to start in boning up on First Lady histories.  Boller does a great job of bringing out something unique and interesting about each Lady, even some of the more obscure ones.  I definitely have my favorite first ladies; I hope by the time you are done with this book, you will too.


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