During the period of the dramatic 2008 American presidential election, when the whole world was held spellbound, I overheard a group of young students discussing their latest study project. They were required to write an essay comparing any modern American First Lady with one who had served within the first century of the presidency, and to define which one of them they would have liked to invite home for dinner. The girls had quickly discovered that the early First Ladies lived in a complex world and that their role was much more difficult and dissimilar to the modern one.
Enthralled by their chatter, I gathered that pulling the overwhelming jigsaw of facts together from internet research was laborious and wearisome. One bright spark felt that they needed, and preferred, one compilation of 19th century First Lady stories, which they could discuss with each other and their tutor at anytime, anywhere. Their initial enthusiasm for the project had been dampened by an apparent dearth of such easy-to-read material and by the lack of time available to study long individual biographies. As I listened, the idea for this compendium
What's it all about?
In the 20th century and in this new 21st century, First Ladies have been immortalized under a blazing media spotlight. America’s First Lady is as well known as her husband due to world-wide modern technology. In the 19th century, however, it was difficult for the public to even know who the president’s wife was. Even today it is not easy to call to mind those pioneering First Ladies, many of whom were burdened with misfortune and ill health. They are a group of women who have been largely forgotten however – and not because their contributions were less or their lives less colourful.
This compendium of individual stories brings these extraordinary people to life. Many were thrust into a political arena that was not always supportive. The book provides an insight into the lives of the 19th century First Ladies, in an undemanding, easy-to-read style, and aims to raise awareness of the historical significance of these women. Their abridged stories, sometimes joyful, sometimes sad, range from slavery, bigamy, duels, royal snubs, European conflicts, American wars, assassinations, suffrage, personal courage and the cruelty of gossip and rejection. It demonstrates how they might be seen as victims of history.
The image of these trailblazers is one of remarkable spirit, loyalty and stamina and indicates a group of dedicated citizens, who deserve to be remembered.
The text includes a basic review of the restricted evolution of the First Lady role during the first hundred years. The aim is that the book will encourage foundational study in colleges and schools, and inspire anyone who is interested in presidential history to deeper levels of publications and study.
When America’s First Lady (Michelle Obama) visited the Costa del Sol, Spain in August 2010, the America Club of Marbella presented a Welcome gift basket, via the local Mayor, which contained items of local produce as well as two copies of “Remembering The Ladies”, as gifts for her daughters.