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First Mothers: The Women Who Shaped the Presidents
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First Mothers: The Women Who Shaped the Presidents

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  384 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
Bonnie Angelo, a veteran reporter and writer for Time, has captured the daily lives, thoughts, and feelings of the remarkable women who played such a large role in developing the characters of the modern American presidents. From formidably aristocratic Sara Delano Roosevelt to diehard Democrat Martha Truman, champion athlete Dorothy Bush, and hard-living Virginia Clinton ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published October 6th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2000)
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Dec 22, 2007 Karene rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was very surprised by how interesting this book is. It is my book club's reading for January and because the book is a little hefty we decided to break it up and have each member take just one president and then come to discuss what we learned. I quickly read my chapter and went on to read several others. It was extremely well written and very intriguing to learn about the mothers that shaped the presidents. I recommend it!
Doris Jean
I enjoyed "First Mothers", it was a happy book. It was a pleasant, engaging and entertaining book, a very good read and cleverly written. Each of the mothers had her own chapter so, in a way, it was like reading several different books. I put the book down after each chapter and contemplated that specific mother before continuing to the next. All of the chapters had very lively, insightful episodes which left me thinking it would be nice to read this book again, if only life lasted longer. Aside ...more
Oct 26, 2010 Kyra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is about the 11 women who gave birth to America's 20th century presidents, from Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton. I learned a lot about these Precedents, by learning about their history. Each chapter is the life story of the mother and the son that would become the Presidents. The book is fascinating, well written and very interesting to read.

Also as a mother, helped me think about the impact I will have on my children.
May 10, 2014 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fave quote so far:
"Without the gift of time and elbow grease provided by the unpaid, hardworking "just a wife" woman, the Girl Scouts, the YWCA, the local Red Cross-every social and cultural organization in a small city- could not have functioned; fund-raising church bazaars and school festivals could not have been organized. Put down by the cynics as "do-gooders," which is precisely what they were, in the best sense, these women were a special outwardly mobile American breed who did much to rai
Row Dela Rosa Yoon
Dec 28, 2012 Row Dela Rosa Yoon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: america
Sara Delano Roosevelt stands out among the First Mothers. Strong-willed, dominating, independent, opinionated, manipulative, she raised and groomed her son to become a president. No first mother has ever manipulated her son the way Sara did without personal boundaries. If only she could have chosen a girl whom her son would marry, she could have done it. Franklin fell in love with Eleanor and the two got married, but Sara intruded into every aspect of their lives.

Having a dominating and oppress
Kimberly Fields
This book gives a wonderful glimpse into the lives of the mothers of the modern presidents (FDR-Clinton). These women are not well known, but they contributed tremendously to our country over the years. Angelo writes in a captivating, enjoyable style. I never knew that FDR's mother was a tyrant or that Clinton's mother was a total party girl. It was interesting stuff. I did think that Angelo gave an overly rosy picture of the mothers, glossing over their faults for the most part (with the except ...more
Jan 12, 2013 Celeste rated it liked it
Even though this book took me forever to read. One I'm not a fast reader, and two it's nonfiction, not my favorite genre. I did really enjoy it. The information it contains is very interesting. I would recommend it was a between book; you know one you pick up between other books and read a little and than put back down. It's easy to read this way. Learn what a fun mother Lillian Carter was and what a hard time Gerald Ford's mother had. It's jam packed with tidbits. It really was fun.
Dee spilleth
Mar 04, 2008 Dee spilleth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: persons interested in US history, female readers
Recommended to Dee by: guide at the LBJ Ranch
This book shows the significance of how much this country has been influenced by women. There truly exists a "woman behind the throne" of powerful men.
The book explains the "why" of how things were/are in the White House. This is especially relevent with the upcoming election.
It also caused me to rethink some of the generalizations I had of modern American presidents.
It would be a good suppliment to a US History course.
Apr 17, 2008 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've actually read this book twice over the past 5 years and found it very interesting both times. Although I realize it's just one viewpoint of these women, I thought it was written in a fair and candid way. I'd love to see the documentary I've heard about that is based on the book.
Courtney Mroch
Mar 03, 2016 Courtney Mroch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Phenomenal book. A friend, who ironically had no children like me, recommended it. She was enthralled, enchanted, and astonished at just how big a roll the mothers to some of our nation's presidents played. It started with Franklin Roosevelt's mother and ended with Bill Clinton's mom. My favorite mother was hands down Lillian Carter. I had no idea what a remarkable woman she was, and it gave me a whole new respect for Jimmy Carter.

I have to admit it did start out a little slow for me though. I
I decided to read this book in honor of Women's History Month. I loved this book! It told the story of the strong women who supported their son's from birth and throughout their presidency. It doesn't tell the story of every presidential mother, just the mother's of significant presidents from the 20th Century such as: Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and Bill Clinton. My favorite storie ...more
Aug 26, 2010 Lyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love reading about real people and real history. These were people that changed the face of America and consequently influenced my life. They lived flawed lives but tried to be true to guiding principles. With the exception of one mother they motivated me to try harder and be better. They helped me see that some of their strengths lie in their differences and that there is no "one true way", that each one of us must use our unique gifts to bless those around us.

It is long and I found that I n
Sep 30, 2013 Marsha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book about presidents' mothers from Sara Roosevelt to Barbara Bush very interesting and insightful. These mothers had much in common: strong resourceful women who formed a strong bond with their sons and instilled in them the confidence to lead. The fathers were, for the most part, weak or absent. Often religious, these mothers valued education and reading and demonstrated optimism in facing hardships and tragedies. The presidents in turn credited their mothers with being a dominant ...more
I found this book very slow and boring at times. I enjoy learning about history and even the presidents. This book was very long winded and I felt somethings were repeated over and over again.

The book starts out reading about Franklin Roosevelt and goes to George W. Bush. It seemed like all these presidents had very similar lives and yet different at the same time. Either they were poor or their mother was poor.

I probably wouldn't have read this book if it wasn't for my book club.
Jul 13, 2010 Tracie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
As a lover of First Lady biographies, I thought that "FIrst Mothers" would be an interesting read...and it was. The commonalities of the mother/son relationships of our Presidents, the ways in which they raised their sons, and the personalities behind the Commander-in-Chief are intriguing. Frankly, in some cases, it explained a great deal about the man and his actions.

For me, as the mother of two young sons, it reiterated the significant role that I play in the lives of my children.
Marianne Mynatt
Mar 09, 2014 Marianne Mynatt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
This book was an inspiring history of mothers who raised Presidents. I looked for commonalities between the mothers and found a priority for education and reading. They valued music and self improvement. It helped me to realize that as a mother it is important not to set aside your own interests for your children. I don't expect to raise a president, but I do want my children to value learning and music, not to give up on their dreams.
Aug 13, 2012 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book about the presidents and their mothers to be fascinating. The author examines a number of mother/son relationships and finds a number of common denominators in those relationships. It's a good piece of nonfiction to read for someone who is interested in history but doesn't perhaps want to read an entire biography about one president; each chapter is about a different president and his mother. My book club read this one a few years ago and really enjoyed it.
Sarah Allen
I gave this book to my dad for Christmas because he and I both liked reading American history and because he idolized his own mother. After he died in February, the book was returned to me. In it, Ms. Angelo strongly advances the theory that American presidence from Franklin Roosevelt through Bush 2 were almost totally shaped by their strong, independent, capable mothers while their fathers were background only. (With the exception of Gerald Ford's step-father).
Dec 06, 2009 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little slow getting started. I don't have the background knowledge for Sara Roosevelt. Each president got a little easier as the history became newer. I really like examing patterns among these mothers of presidents, and the last chapter helped to clarify and sum up my thinking. Makes me want to read more about the presidents.
Feb 01, 2011 Sue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A friend loaned me her kindle for the long flight to Holland--this is the book I bought. Absolutely loved it. Mothers are in the unique position to play a role in shaping their children's lives. Of course, I was more interested in some other than others. I love Rose Kennedy's philosophy on motherhood. Since I am not a Clinton fan--she was a little nutty!! Anyway, a very good read.
Jan Stanton
Apr 22, 2011 Jan Stanton rated it really liked it
I am about three-fourths through the book and I am finding the book fascinating. There are 11 mothers discussed in the book from FDR through Bill Clinton. I am particularly interested in the mothers' similarities in raising the children while there are big family differences economically and socially.
This was a long and repetitive read interspersed with interesting stories about how some of our presidents were raised. (from FDR to George W.) Strong inspiring mothers, obviously, due to the title of the book, was the common theme. It could have been much shorter, but there were some good anecdotes that made it worthy.
Krista Ashe
Jul 04, 2012 Krista Ashe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-112-of-2012
Loved the sections on Sarah Roosevelt, Rose Kennedy, and I had no idea Gerald Ford's mom went through so much(an abusive husband, him being adopted by his step dad, etc.).

Very detailed looks into the lives of the First Mothers and how their lives influenced the men and presidents their sons became.
Rose Anderson
Jan 15, 2016 Rose Anderson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A thorough analysis of the mothers of the Presidents beginning with FDR and going through G.W. Bush. Author does not sugar-coat the more negative areas like problems between FDR's mother and Eleanor, how Nixon's upbringing contributed to his problems and the forerunners of Clinton's issues.
May 13, 2008 Heidi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
This book was facinating. I really couldn't put it down. For me it was a chance to live through specific times in history and be inspired by outstanding women. It just proves mothers do make a difference.
Jan 12, 2012 Rachel rated it really liked it
This book highlighted all the mothers from FDR through Bill Clinton. It was absolutley fascinating. I was inspired that most of the modern presidents (but not all) came from very humble beginnings and mothers that taught their boys to serve God and to love to read!
Jim Nolt
Bonnie Angelo provides a look at the relationships between several Presidents and their mothers. I especially enjoyed reading about Sara and Franklin Roosevelt, Ellen and Harry Truman, and Rose and John Kennedy.
Nov 06, 2014 Rosebud rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rosebud by: Choice of neighborhood book club
A lot of detail and background, but it was interesting to read about how many presidents were so greatly influenced by the mothers much more than their fathers. Some of the information was quite surprising!
Mar 31, 2014 Anna rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, mh-bc, bio-memoir
Sort of gossipy biographies from Franklin Roosevelt's mother through Bill Clinton's mother. Somewhat interesting but mostly drivel. Thought the Ford family seemed the nicest.

Rating 1.5 out of 5 stars.

Think I borrowed from library.
Jul 25, 2010 Diana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was interesting to read about a mother's influence on our presidents and it helped me to understand where they came from and why they are the way they are, for good or bad. Too bad Obama isn't included. Maybe he'd make more sense to me.
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