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First Ladies of the United States: A Biographical Dictionary

Robert P. Watson
First Ladies of the United States: A Biographical Dictionary
ISBN: 978-1-55587-907-5
2001/327 pages/LC: 00-028068
Includes photos

"Well-written, offering excellent summaries of the lives of their subjects.... Because of its uniform layout and shortest entry style ... my nod goes to First Ladies of the United States: A Biographical Dictionary for high school and public libraries."—Feminist Collections

"School, public, and small academic libraries will benefit from adding this biographical dictionary to their collection."—American Reference Books Annual

"Fascinating reading, this work presents in chronological order surprisingly thorough sketches of every first lady from Martha Dandridge Custis Washington through Laura Welch Bush.... A welcome reference tool in a neglected area, this book also offers current material in women's history. Simply a good read, it will be a valuable addition to any high school collection."—Lucy Schall, VOYA

"Watson unearths many forgotten or unheralded undertakings of lesser-known first ladies.... A great starting-off point for students and fans of history alike, this title is recommended for young adults."—Today's Librarian

"Watson does indeed achieve his objective of providing readers with "concise yet thorough" profiles of our nation's first ladies.... The author provides glimpses into the personality of these women and offers interesting tidbits of information about each one.... A well organized, up-to-date resource."—School Library Journal

"This is a great book, and fun to read—which says a lot for a biographical dictionary. Most libraries, academic and public, will want to add it to their collections."—Ben LoBue, University of Colorado Norlin Library


Whether editing speeches and appearing on the campaign trail, presiding over White House renovations and social events, championing important causes, or functioning as the president's most trusted adviser, first ladies have made significant contributions to the heads-of-state's careers and to the nation. Yet, the accomplishments of those who have acted as the power behind the presidency have gone largely unreported and underappreciated. Systematically profiling each first lady from Martha Washington to Laura Bush, Watson offers the reader an intimate look at these women who have served the United States.

The chronologically arranged biographies examine each first lady's early years and education, her family life, her presidential years, and her legacy. A short bibliography for each entry provides a selected list of additional sources. First Ladies of the United States is a convenient, well-researched, and thoroughly indexed reference, as well as an insightful account of the lives of forty-three women who have helped shape the course of U.S. history.


Robert Watson is associate professor and director of American studies at Lynn University, Florida. He is editor of the journal White House Studies and author of numerous books on gender and the presidency. His publications include The Presidents' Wives: Reassessing the Office of First Lady.