How I found out about this book: I think this book was available for free download on Amazon Prime Reading so I tried it. The First Ladies exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of American History always appealed to me. The fact that J.B Hunt as usher of the White House served through the tenures of Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Truman, Mamie Eisenhower, Jackie Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, and Pat Nixon was really impressive.
Summary (subjective from what I remembered):
- Eleanor Roosevelt – always on the go, pointed/difficult with staff, demanding, highly professionally accomplished, formal/independent from her husband, White House busting at the seams with guests and impromptu events and campaigns
- Bess Truman – the favorite of J.B Hunt and all the staff, family first mentality for the President, greatly influenced her husband’s decisions even if out of the limelight, does a lot of chores herself, very careful on cost, White House evacuated since not structurally sound
- Mamie Eisenhower – very close to her husband (only first lady of the bunch that slept in the same room as her husband), stentorian and demanding for full-blown fancy entertaining, decorated a lot for the holidays, really likes pink and Victorian decorations
- Jackie Kennedy – public persona is an act, reality is very child-like, soft voice, very into French decorating, started the small conversation-based dinner party trend, capricious and also demanding, lots of arts council and conservation work, borrowed a lot of art from the national galleries for decoration
- Lady Bird Johnson – put her children and husband first, focus was primarily on Johnson’s strong effectiveness as a leader with limitless energy and 24-7 hours, President Johnson really liked strong shower spray, effective with her press/social secretary roles, preferred Texas food
- Pat Nixon – J.B Hunt left fairly early into the administration, but Nixon had Johnson’s special hard spray shower removed
Enjoy-ability factor (1 = low, 10 = high): 9 – very fun and very fast read. Kind of like a classier version of gossip magazines
Other comments: Eleanor Roosevelt is a personal hero of mine. The impression she left on the staff didn’t seem to be quite as positive (a little disappointing), but perhaps it is just collateral damage from doing as much as she did!