First Women by Kate Anderson Brower

Hi everyone, the weather is getting warmer here in New Zealand as spring slowly turns into summer. My first post for your perusal is a slightly heavy tome I found all about a group of powerful women. I would recommend you get comfortable and maybe take your time in reading this, there are some parts that will require attention…

cover image depicts the front of a smart woman dressed in a red two-piece suit of jacket and skirt. she has white gloves on clasped hands at front. blue background behind. large cursive white letters at top read First Women with subheading below it. under hands text reads Kate Anderson Brower.
A fascinating read…

Title: First Women: the grace and power of America’s modern First Ladies

Author: Kate Anderson Brower

Genre: Biography

Publication details: HarperCollins Publishers; NY, 2016

ISBN: 9780062439659    (Hardcover)

What this book is about: First Ladies make up the world’s most elite sorority, with members including Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama. Holding one of the most underestimated and challenging positions in the world, the first lady of the U.S. must be many things: an ‘inspiring leader with a forward-thinking agenda of her own, a savvy politician skilled at navigating the treacherous rapids of Washington, a wife and mother operating under constant scrutiny, and an able CEO running the private side of the White House. Kate Anderson Brower now tells the stories of the ten remarkable women who have defined the role for more than half a century. With stories ranging from the heartwarming to the tragic, Brower discusses the first ladies’ rivalries and friendships with one another – revealed in letters never published before – and explores everything from their political causes to their public and private relationships with their husbands. Candid and illuminating, this biography of the modern first ladies provided an inside look at life upstairs and downstairs at the world’s most powerful address. 

My review: Wow!! What a fascinating read this was!! For most of the chapters I was gripped with emotion and elated with surprise. I mean I knew the role of First Lady entailed a lot of social work and that they had to help run the White House but by reading First Women it opened up my eyes to the amazing contributions each of these remarkable women have made to America and to the world. What astounded me the most was that each President’s closest confidante, despite how sensitive the information, was their wife. From Kennedy to Obama, each disclosed everything to their respective first ladies. It was not only their role as wife to support their husbands but also to provide them with hope and faith in their abilities to get their job as President done. In this book Brower details the immense power the worlds of these first ladies had through their letters, speeches and simple words of gratitude. One such quote from Jackie Kennedy, of all people, to Soviet Premier Khrushchev was written in a letter on December 1, 1963: “…You respected each other and could deal with each other… while big men know the needs for self-control and restraint – little men are sometimes moved more by fear and pride. If only in the future the big men can continue to make the little ones sit down and talk before they start to fight”. We also read of the immense courage they had. One of the bravest, to me, was Betty Ford, who not only battled breast cancer but drug and alcohol issues and received nothing but support from President Ford from beginning to end, and to whom we now thank for the Betty Ford Center which to this day helps thousands of people. Another chapter dedicated just to the strength of their power as mothers for ‘Motherhood unites all of these women, no matter how different they are’. Although they support husbands, they are also the main source of “reassurance and normalcy during times of tragedy” and they can “speak to grieving mothers and wives in a more personal way than their husbands can”. It’s always expected by first ladies to be brave both physically and emotionally as they will have to meet with wounded veterans and families who have lost soldiers. This book is a testament to the power a devoted wife and mother can hold at the helm of the most powerful platform of this known world. The first ladies, who have always been inspirational women, are for me, for the first time being portrayed as the remarkable human beings they are in their role as wives and mothers. 

My rating: 5 ⭐

My favourite quote is:

“First ladies are part of a sisterhood… and become symbols of American womanhood”.

Kate Anderson Brower

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