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First Ladies: An Intimate Group Portrait of White House Wives
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First Ladies: An Intimate Group Portrait of White House Wives

3.8  ·  Rating details ·  451 Ratings  ·  66 Reviews
Whether they envision their role as protector, partner, advisor, or scold, First Ladies find themselves in a job that is impossible to define, and just as difficult to perform. Now Margaret Truman, daughter of President Harry Truman and an acclaimed novelist and biographer in her own right, explores the fascinating position of First Lady throughout history and up to the pr ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published August 27th 1996 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 1995)
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(showing 1-30)
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Jul 05, 2014 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Jessica by: WPL Tues Book Club
Shelves: non-fiction
This is one of the most frustrating "history" books I've ever read. It is not in chronological order (God only knows why) so if your history/dates memory is a little off (as mine is) this is going to wreak havoc on your (already questionable) timeline. The narrative is very dated in tone and quite often Truman's comments seem rather sexist.

The focus, of course, is on the the First Ladies' re-decorating of the white house and fashion sense. More than once Truman indicates that these woman must f
Mikey B.
Dec 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A well-written book on the First Ladies, and given the author, we do find many personal anecdotes on the ones of the 20th century. And many of these First Ladies have a wonderful longevity. Ms. Truman is equally funny and vibrant with the First Ladies before the 20th century.

How different they all were. One could vaguely divide them into apolitical and political. Margaret’s mother would fall into the latter category and of course Eleanor Roosevelt would be at the far end of the fully involved po
Laurie Rapp
Jun 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recently, my mom refers to this book every other time I talk to her.
She is a huge Margaret Truman fan and a history buff.

Have to say thus far my top Ladies are Dollie Madison, Lady Bird Johnson, Betty Ford and Grace Coolidge...though I did skip one Lady - Barbara (for obvious reasons - sorry mom I just couldn't do it)

Really was a fascinating read...some First Ladies were just plain crazy, while others were amazing. I highly recommend it.

Frances Johnson
Feb 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Good book by the daughter of a White House Wife. Margaret Truman has written an enjoyable book about First Ladies. Easy and enjoyable reading.
Feb 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who knew?! Truman's 'First Ladies' shows just how much the U.S. gained from the accomplishments - some noteworthy, other trivia-worthy - of every wife of the President. One First Lady's - Ellen Wilson - accomplishment stays with me after finishing Truman's book. Her "Alley Bill" demonstrates how, in 1914, a personal conviction overcame an accepted injustice of the time. If Truman's 'First Ladies' is a lens through which one can view the position of the First Lady and what impact she can bring to ...more
Jun 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
It was so nice to read the perspective of a woman who has lived in the White House and understands First Families in a way the public cannot. It was so neat to read of her personal experiences meeting many of the First Ladies she writes about. A great read.
Ghost of the Library
Interesting piece of historical work regarding the First Ladies of the United States since Martha Washington up to Hillary Clinton.
The title of the book pretty much explains its content so i wont bore you with a description, suffice to say i, for one, very much enjoyed reading it and discovering some very remarkable women behind the first man of the country.
Margaret Truman no doubt had VIP access to sources, researches and the White House (like her name indicates she is the daughter of former pr
Jan 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a great book for history/trivia buffs and people who don't have a lot of time to pore through a complicated novel. Each standalone chapter talks about one or two First Ladies, fascinating women who played important roles in our history and often differed from their presidential husbands in ways you wouldn't expect. Margaret Truman, daughter of President Harry Truman, interviewed the modern First Ladies up through Hillary Clinton, and mined diaries and letters for personal insights on the ...more
Jan 07, 2012 rated it liked it
A book full of facts, interesting tidbits, and enlightening details about the lives of our First Ladies, I enjoyed this book. However, it was so packed full of information, and not in chronological order, I wish I'd had a time line and would have taken notes. Many of the details are lost to me now.

Truman grouped the ladies by things they had in common, which was surprising on its own. Several did not want to be First Ladies. Some wanted it more than their husbands. Too many lost a child while in
Jan 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, history
If you like biographies, history, and politics, this book may appeal to you. Chock full of interesting tidbits, nevertheless it is also strewn with filler. Unless you are interested in all the first ladies, you may find yourself skimming through some sections to get to others. Not terribly well organized, it seems to be well researched. But Margaret Truman does infuse the book with her opinions, which can be interesting, if not factual. If you are looking for personal insights into the first lad ...more
Leslie Goddard
May 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. Truman is not only a lively, consistently readable author, she does what so many historians fail to do -- she actually analyzes, explains and contextualizes. This is one of the few books that actually explores the question of what makes for a great First Lady. Yes, she provides facts and biographical details but at the end you really understand why certain women were revered and idolized while others were criticized and condemned. I came out with a much more nuanced understanding ...more
Jennifer Wyld
Aug 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
I found this book to be a great overview of the american presidency from the women who lived with them. There are a lot of interesting stories and I felt that I had a different insight into American history. I have a lot more respect for the role and a lot less respect for basically every president! YIKES! So many of them were unfaithful and neglectful- uggh! But I highly recommend this book anyway. The author is the daughter of Henry Truman, so she spent part of her life in the White House and ...more
Rebecca Nebesar
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I highly recommend this book! Most of us tend to ignore nuance and perceive the presidency and the various presidents with a judgmental attitude. This book will serve to remind us that presidents are human. In addition, what we the people remember as history is quite distorted from reality. Certain first ladies such as Martha Washington, Mary Todd Lincoln, Dolley Madison and Eleanor Roosevelt have iconic status but few really know the details. Truman, with an insider's view, gives us details - o ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jul 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Don't look for objectivity here!
But if you enjoy hearing stories
about American Presidents and
their lives, especially from a
decidedly opinionated source,
you will love this book. Get
Margaret Truman's take on
recent White House wives including
Pat Nixon and Jackie Kennedy as
well as less well known but equally
fascinating figures such as Julia
Tyler and Lou Hoover. Recommended.

Great book with lots of anecdotes about the First Ladies and Presidents. As the daughter of President Harry S. Truman, she experienced the White House first hand as well as the pressure inside the Washington bubble. We hear a lot about the Presidents in other books. This book tells you the power behind the presidents. Easy to read. Fun to read. It is not chronological. Instead it skips around in time.
Sep 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: already-read
I enjoy reading biographies, so this book of mini-biographies of Presidential First Ladies (through Hillary Clinton, who was the First Lady when the book was written) was interesting and enjoyable. I enjoyed reading about how each First Lady made her mark on the White House, and how each viewed her role. Some were protectors (of their husbands), some political partners, and some had the role to deal with anything pertaining to the home.
Oct 17, 2008 rated it it was ok
This book was written in stream of conscience. It was hard to follow who was who just because it was in no particular order and I don't know my presidents very well. However, it is full of information on life in the White House and what to look for when judging a First Lady. I wouldn't suggest it if you are researching the First Ladies, but if you are just interested in learning more than this will work.
Jun 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Margaret Truman bases her book on factual details, some she lived herself and some she gleaned from the archives. It is a great read - very interesting information on the women behind the men who have led our country.

Even the second time this is a great read. I have loaned it to my friend, Mary, who is also enjoying it. Margaret Truman has taken research on each first lady and personal knowledge and woven a great and detailed description. At times it feels as if you are there.
Jul 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Having just gotten back from a trip to DC and the Smithsonian exhibit of First Ladies, I wanted to learn more. My impatience led me to this book (the only e-book on the First Ladies I could find). Great subject matter. I'd give it more stars but I found the writing maddening; smarmy and self serving at times. A quick and informative read nonetheless.
Dec 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I really enjoyed this audio book, a fascinating and informative look at the role and history of the white house through the efforts and influences of the first ladies. This mostly ignored role in history has much to offer in understanding not just the politics but the people who have run this country.
Keli Wright
Mar 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
under the advice of my friend Kelly I got this book on tape at the Chantilly library and listened to it while driving...Zorig and Buuvei were not happy...according to Margaret Truman everyone LOVED and admired Bess Truman...EVERYONE!!! also...she did not like Florence Harding..! I am so glad I listened to this :)
Jun 17, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book got all kinds of publicity when it came out, but it's really boring! Having read so much about these women, this seemed a little fluffy. The women are covered in no order I could discern, except perhaps by their husband's occupation outside the White House? Truman is far from unbiased about who she dislikes, too. Ultimately, I didn't finish the book.
Apr 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
This was a very fun read - a great insight into the Whitehouse and the women who lived there. The stories were more fun (and more scandalous) for the first ladies who have died..... Once we got to about Nancy Reagan, the stories became much more subdued. Apparently PR was playing a role! :-) Overall, an enjoyable book.
Jun 23, 2009 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed learning about our first ladies and all the strengths and weaknesses they brought to the White House. As much as they all disliked the spot light and scrutiny, some used it to their advantage and made excellent political partners while others fell hard from the pressure. Great little history lesson!
Mar 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Fun read. She groups first ladies by their similar approaches to being a first lady. It was fun to learn about the different first ladies and surprised me at times. It only goes up to Hillary Clinton and that is before Monica so that chapter is interesting to read. Not a thorough history of any of the first ladies and their presidents but a entertaining fairly light read.
Katdarling Darling
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved how Margaret's own experiences in the White House portrayed the First Ladies in a light that can be seen from both the good and the bad. A lot of times I broke out in laughter at some of the antics and it was great.
Julie  Durnell
Nov 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this history lesson! So informative about our First Ladies, who aren't always as well known as their husbands. Learned much about what they accomplished before, during, and after the White House.
Nov 23, 2010 rated it liked it
I do not like history books but I like biographies, so this was a pleasant book. I did not read it fron to back, but ratrher went through the parts I found interesting and kept going til I read it all.
Dec 02, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, biography
Margaret Truman can't say anything bad about anybody no matter how horrible they truly were. Definitely not an academic book and not going to win any prizes but interesting and informative nonetheless
Aug 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
If you love history-this is a fun book to read. Margaret Trumann brought to life the difficulties and the grace that these women experienced. It was remarkable to see how influential they have been to our country with out any accolades or honor. I had no idea--very informative.
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Mary Margaret Truman-Daniel, widely known throughout her life as "Margaret Truman", (February 17, 1924 — January 29, 2008) was an American singer who later became a successful writer. She was the only child of Harry S. Truman (33rd President of the United States) and his wife Bess.

Born in Independence, Missouri, she was christened Mary Margaret Truman (for her aunt Mary Jane Truman and her materna
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