Lynne Rienner Publishers Logo

The Presidents’ Wives: The Office of the First Lady in US Politics, 2nd Edition

Robert P. Watson
The Presidents’ Wives: The Office of the First Lady in US Politics, 2nd Edition
ISBN: 978-1-62637-162-0
ISBN: 978-1-62637-876-6
2014/260 pages/LC: 2015300772
"An important starting point for anyone interested in researching the history of First Ladies or understanding how the Office of First Lady and its duties and traditions evolved over the years. Highly recommended."—Choice

"Robert Watson, one of the leading presidency scholars of his generation, returns his attention to the office of first lady. This book is captivating ... full of attention to historical detail and conceptually clear."—Douglas Brattebo, Hiram College

"Watson's synthesis of biographical detail and analytical approaches is much appreciated…. More important, he demonstrates the utility of using the first ladyship as a lens on US political development."—Margaret Scranton, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Praise for the previous edition:

"[A] meticulous yet readable survey.... Watson provides an intriguing and illuminating survey and assessment of the institution and individual incumbents."—Christopher Bates, Politics

"A particular strength of Watson's study is his incorporation of presidential scholarship in his discussion of first lady activism.... [He] presents a wealth of information about first-ladies—qualitative and quantitative, historical and contemporary."—Laura van Assendelft, White House Studies

"This handy guide provides a fascinating glimpse into the cultural, political, and historical evolution of the unofficial, but increasingly significant, office of the First Lady.... Brimming with engrossing facts, data, and anecdotes ... [it will be] a welcome addition to both political-science and women’s-studies collections."—Margaret Flanagan, Booklist


Robert Watson's groundbreaking study on the presidents' wives proved that the first lady can be an influential force in presidential politics and is a subject worthy of scholarly attention. Now, this fully revised second edition incorporates the first ladyships of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama in each chapter. The new edition also includes a decade-and-a-half of new research on public opinion, the growth and political development of the East Wing, and the issue of first lady character.


Robert P. Watson is associate professor and director of American studies at Lynn University.


  • Foreword—Clifton Truman Daniel
  • Behind Every Successful Man.
  • Studying the First Ladies.
  • A History of Influence.
  • A Woman Without Portfolio.
  • Approaches to the Office.
  • Roles and a Presidential Partnership.
  • The Question of Character.
  • Public Women and Public Opinion.
  • Rating the Presidents’ Wives.
  • The Future of the Office.