Articles about First Ladies & Personal Interests

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Personal Interests

 First Ladies who played musical instruments

I would have to say that most of the First Ladies were trained in music, especially those who were young through about 1900 - before the onset of film and popular theater as a venue for entertainment. Among not just the wealthy but middle-class piano lessons seemed the rule rather than the exception. Some took music very seriously and went beyond being able to play as a way of providing entertainment for their families and friends. Nellie Taft, for example, played the piano and had determined to make a career out of music. She later helped found the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and served as its president, leading her into the business side of music. Florence Harding went to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Some did try other instruments. It is documented that Julia Tyler played the guitar and there is anecdotal legend that Dolley Madison did as well. Mamie Eisenhower played the electric organ "by ear" but starting with Jacqueline Kennedy I know of no other First Ladies trained to play musical instruments beyond perhaps a rudimentary semester of it in grade school or high school. By the time even most of those earlier ones stopped actively playing the piano by the time they married and had children. Two other notable exceptions: Louisa Adams played the harp and Abigail FIllmore played the piano while they were First Lady and often entertained guests after private dinners and at unofficial social gatherings.


First Ladies and Baseball
baseball.jpgAs recently discovered by the NFLL from a private collector, on 11 Oct 1971 Mrs. Nixon was the first incumbent First Lady to toss out a baseball for a major league team, being at game two of the 1971 World Series. She made the ceremonial 'first pitch' at Baltimore Memorial Stadium.

As far as I have been able to determine the first First Lady to throw out the ceremonial first pitch during a Major League game was Barbara Bush. She did so shortly after her son, the future president, became managing general partner of the Texas Rangers, in April 1989, for that team's season opener. She also threw out the first pitch on October 17, 2004 at game 4 of the Yankees vs. Red Sox World Series. This was during the presidential re-election campaign of her son, incumbent president, George W. Bush.

On April 4, 1996 Hillary Clinton threw out the ceremonial first pitch of the baseball season at a Chicago Cubs game in Wrigley Field; born and raised in the city she was a lifelong fan of the team until her loyalties were later split by supporting the New York Yankees, team of her adopted state, which she represented in the U.S. Senate. She spent the weekend before practicing her pitch to the President in the White House Rose Garden.

The first public suggestion that a president's wife take on this ceremonial role occurred in a New York Times editorial in the late 1970's; with the New York Mets needing some moral one opening season, a contributor made the argument that the former First Lady and New York City resident and Mets fan, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis should be given this honor. However, she was never formally approached to do so by the team.

Finally, among First Ladies were three prominent fans, each with a team loyalty: Nellie Taft who rooted for the Washington Senators and was with her husband at the June 1912 game when he became the first president to toss out the ceremonial ball (the event had been postponed from April of that year in lights of the sinking of the Titanic); Grace Coolidge, whose devotion to the Boston Red Sox was so strong that she was regularly honored with a special seat at all their games, which she attended regularly up until her death in 1957, coming from her home in nearby Northampton, Massachusetts; and finally, Bess Truman, a lifelong baseball fan who often dragged the President to attend games in Washington, and whose loyalty always remained to the Kansas City Royals.

First Ladies' Favorite Beverages
Here are some of the preferred alcoholic drinks of First Ladies:

- Jacqueline Kennedy, the traditional lime dauquiri
- Mamie Eisenhower, fruit old-fashioned
- Bess Truman, plain old-fashioned
- Helen "Nellie" Taft, lager beer and champagne cocktail (perhaps the one who imbibed the most)
- Edith Wilson, "Virginia Gentleman" brand bourbon on the rocks
- Julia Tyler, champagne punch
- Julia Grant, "Roman Punch"
- Dolley Madison, whiskey punch
- Abigail Adams, rum cider toddy
- Florence Harding, scotch-and-soda (she served as bartender to her husband and his friends when they came to play poker in the White House - during Prohibition)
- Ida McKinley, wine

HelenTaftSmall[1].jpgThere actually aren't many examples of First Ladies who drank a regular cocktail. In fact, several were noted as teetotalers for either religious reasons or because of alcholism in their family. For example, Sarah Polk served only wine but not hard liquor. Lucy Hayes was so famous for banning alcoholic beverages in the White House that she was dubbed "Lemonade Lucy." In recent times, Rosalynn Carter also served only wines and beers, and was dubbed "Rose Rosalynn" by a Washington humorist. Frances Cleveland helped to make Apollonaris Water famous: although she served alcohol to dinner guests, she always turned her glasses upside down and instead drank the mineral water.

Several First Ladies were also falsely accused of being alcoholic. Of course, Mrs. Ford quite courageously went public with her addiction to prescription pain killers and alcohol in 1977, a year after leaving the White House, as a way to help others - especially women - who faced similiar challenges, and went on to help found the famous Betty Ford Center for addiction recovery. So it is something of a serious issue, handled cautiously.

As for Presidents, I do know that Herbert Hoover liked the Ramos Gin Fizz and Franklin Roosevelt took especial pride in mixing martinis for his guests in his oval study. Apparently, George H.W. Bush enjoyed gin-and-tonic before his presidency, but I cannot say for certain what, if anything, his wife may have preferred.

First Ladies and College Degrees

Thank you for your inquiry regarding First Ladies and college degrees. It is difficult to give a definitive specific number to the question of how many First Ladies had college degrees. Not only is accreditation of the institutions of many of the formal post-middle school educations of these women uneven and hard to discern, but even more difficult is trying to make a judgment about the level of study provided at many of these schools which have long since disappeared.

That said, I can provide you with something of a list of First Ladies who had a formal higher education that went beyond what we today might think of as middle school. Some of these would be termed at the time as "finishing school training" for young women, yet would include academic education, particularly in language and literature, that would be comparable to a college-level course of study. Beginning with Grace Coolidge, there is a more standardized distinction of higher education which provided accredited degrees:

Angelica Van Buren, Madame Grelaud's Academy (Pennsylvania)

Anna Harrison, Madame Graham School (New York)

Julia Tyler, Madame N.D. Chagaray's Institute (New York)

Sarah Polk, Moravian Female Academy (North Carolina)

Harriet Lane, Georgetown Visitation Academy (Washington, D.C.)

Mary Lincoln, Dr. Ward's Academy, (Kentucky)

Eliza Johnson, Rhea Academy (Tennessee)

Julia Grant, Mauro Boarding School (Missouri)

Lucy Hayes, Cincinnati Wesyelan Female College (Ohio)

Lucretia Garfield, Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (Ohio)

Frances Cleveland, Wells College (New York)

Caroline Harrison, Oxford Female Institute (Ohio)

Ida McKinley, Brooke Hall (Pennsylvania)

Nellie Taft, University of Cincinnati, course of study in chemistry and German, did not graduate, no degree (Ohio)

Ellen Wilson, Rome Female College (Georgia) Art Students League (New York)

Edith Wilson, Mary Washington College, did not graduate (Virginia)

Florence Harding, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music (Ohio)

Grace Coolidge, University of Vermont at Burlington (Vermont), postgraduate teacher training class at Clarke School for the Deaf (Massachusetts)

Lou Hoover, Stanford University, degree in geology (California)

Jacqueline Kennedy, began study at Vassar College, took junior year abroad through Smith College at the Sorbonne, Paris, completed education at George Washington University, major in French literature, minor in history (Washington, D.C.)

Lady Bird Johnson, University of Texas at Austin, major in history, one-year postgraduate extension to earn a second bachelor's degree in journalism (Texas)

Pat Nixon, began study at Fullerton Junior College (California), took radiology courses at Columbia University (New York), completed education at University of Southern California, major in merchandising, also earned teacher's certificate, graduating cum laude with enough credits to gain the equivalence of master's degree - first First Lady to reach this level of accredited education (California)

Betty Ford, Bennington College, did not graduate (Vermont)

Rosalynn Carter, Georgia Southwestern College (Georgia)

Nancy Reagan, Smith College, major in drama (Massachusetts)

Barbara Bush, Smith College, did not graduate (Massachusetts)

Hillary Clinton, Wellesley College, major in political science, (Massachusetts), Yale University Law School (Connecticut)

Laura Bush, Southern Methodist University, major in elementary education, University of Texas at Austin, Graduate School of Library Science, master's degree in library science (Texas)

Michelle Obama, Princeton University, major in sociology, minor in African American studies (New Jersey) Harvard University Law School (Massachusetts)

I would say, generally, that the majority of the First Ladies came from the elite class and as such were privileged enough to receive a far higher education than was typical of women of their time and region. Interestingly, however, is that convergent with the earning of a bona fide college degree from an established university by Grace Coolidge, one also finds her to be among the first First Ladies who can be said to come from what was coming to be known in the early twentieth century as the middle class. The majority of those First Ladies who chronologically follow Lady Bird Johnson (Pat Nixon, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama) came from middle and working class families - and also represent the most continuous chronology of those who earned college degrees.
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First Ladies' Favorite Flowers

Famously, among her numerous projects under the umbrella of "beautification" Lady Bird
Johnson advocated the planting of native wildflowers that were indigenous in regional America and to that end she founded the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin Texas, in 1983. Although she was fond of many flowers, she is closely associated with a wildflower of her native Lone Star State, the blue Texas bluebonnet, often relishing an afternoon sitting among a wide field of them and sometimes photographed there. One source, a newspaper article from last summer at the time of her death, recounted that according to a flower salesman in Austin, the son of friends of Mrs. Johnson, her favorite flower was the bluebonnet. However, the Associated Press reported that, "The first formal ceremony for the widow of President Lyndon Baines Johnson was Friday at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Family and friends planned to attend a private Eucharist in a room at the center filled with arrangements of her favorite flower, the lavender-hued bluebell."

Another article further recorded: "In keeping with her membership at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the example set by Mrs. Johnson herself, Cyndi Krier… noticed blooms of purple and pink primrose and some Indian blankets, which have a yellow middle surrounded by a wheel of bright red petals. Those flowers, the kind Mrs. Johnson loved so much, bloom in spring, never summer, Krier said."

During her tenure as First Lady, Pat Nixon took a special interest in the gardens of the White House and made them accessible to the general public twice a year for an autumn and spring garden tour. As the Richard Nixon Library in Yorba Linda was being planned, the former First Lady designed the "First Lady's Garden" there with a wide variety of roses, including many of those that had been cultivated and named in honor of famous women, including some of her predecessors and successors. She also had a separate rose garden at the family's estate facing the ocean, "La Casa Pacifica," in San Clemente and landscaped it with the help of a nurseryman who eventually came to purchase the property as his own residence. She was also known to favor a golden yellow color, as seen in her 1969 Inaugural gown: thus a golden yellow rose would be a safe bet as perhaps one of her most favorite. In a 14 July 2007 article from the Austin Statesman, I found confirmation of this: "Tricia Nixon Cox, who lives with her husband in New York, said Mrs. Johnson’s daughters — Luci Baines Johnson and Lynda Johnson Robb — came to her father’s funeral in 1994. “My mother’s favorite flower was the yellow rose of Texas,” she said of former first lady Pat Nixon, who died in 1993.

With Bess Truman, it seems to be a tulip, lily or rose, all of which she took great pride in growing in the garden of her Independence, Missouri home. There are some interesting anecdotes relating to the pride she took in the tulips grown on her property, the original ones apparently dating from her time as First Lady, as was something called a "Peace Rose" which was given to her by Mary (Mrs. Albert) Lasker, a famous philanthropist and Democratic Party supporter. These are some excerpts from a government report on the history of the Truman home landscaping:


The answer to which flowers Mamie Eisenhower preferred is a relatively simple one: pink carnations. Every morning as First Lady, the President gave her carnation in her signature shade of "Mamie Pink," and she had it placed in a bud vase which sat on her breakfast tray.

Jackie Kennedy seemed to enjoy a wide variety of flowers - except for gladiolas. In a memo she wrote to her friend, the landscape designer Rachel Mellon (who created not only the East Garden and Rose Garden of the White House for the Kennedys, but also the flower arrangements for all entertaining in the house) Mrs. Kennedy specifically asked that no gladiola be used in arrangements. The two flowers that sources repeat as her favorites were a fully opened and blooming white peony and the simple blue cornflower, which her son wore as his wedding day boutonniere in her honor.

Very little is known about the life of Margaret Taylor. She was born and raised in colonial Maryland on a Calvert County plantation on the banks of the Patuxent River but when her mother died, when she was ten, she went to live with her maternal grandparents at their nearby estate, "God's Graces," noted for its famous high moss-covered brick walled garden. We also know that at the only home she created for herself, a small cottage in Louisiana, there were hanging moss trees around the property. Short of this, perhaps the Maryland state flower of the black-eyed Susan would be a substitute.

As far as Betty Ford and Barbara Bush, I can find no information confirming their preferred flowers or arrangements. I know that in their White House portraits Mrs. Ford has pink roses in the background, and Mrs. Bush has white roses. One source recalled how Mrs. Ford often used snapdragons as a floral arrangement at state dinners. The "Snowy Lady" Shasta daisy is named after Barbara Bush. Incidentally, Mrs. Bush is an avid gardener at her home in Maine and much prefers fresh-cut flowers because store-bought arrangements and bouquets, she told Larry King in a
2004 interview, were a "waste of money."
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First Ladies and Photography

There's an interesting history of photography and First Ladies - a certain ambivilence that stems back to the very nature of this role of a presidential spouse who has had placed upon her expectations to be a public symbol of the mythical "typical American woman" yet is unelected and vulnerable to attack for presuming to be a leader or spokesperson for the nation's women by virtue of her derivative power. In the earliest days that ambivilence was also part of the elite woman's credo of remaining in the domain where she was granted full power - the private home - and, as the old saying went, "have her name in the paper when she was born, married and died.". That First Ladies' private homes happened to also be the national political arena only deepened the ambivilence since the media and the public felt it had a full right to access of not only personal information but how that woman looked.

In 1844 (almost immediately after photography technology enabled individual images to be taken) an incumbent First Lady sat for her picture. Eloping with the widowed President Tyler, 24 year old deb and heiress Julia Gardiner - nicknamed the Rose of Long Island by the New York press - sat for her picture in New York but it had more to do with her healthy ego and youthful disregard for the modesty the older Washington establishment women. Interestingly, however, she decided to refrain from having copies made and publicly distributed.

Her immediate successor Sarah Polk also posed - at the White House - for three photographs - one alone, one with her husband and one with a group that included a future First Lady (Harriet Lane, niece of bachelor President James Buchanan) and a former one, the elderly Dolley Madison (chronologically speaking, Dolley Madison was the earliest First Lady photographed).

The next First Lady has perhaps the most intriguing story involving photography. Although living in the White House, Peggy Taylor refused to assume the full responsibilities of hostess and house manager, leaving most of it to her daughter Betty - but she did appear at events. She also refused to have her image made for public consumption - no paintings, engravings or photographs. Thus she was able to often attend public events in and out of the White House, with or without the President anonymously, with nobody knowing of her presence. The assumption that she was absent spurred the false stories in Washington that she was considered an embarrassment with crude western manners and smoking a corncob pipe - having spent most of her adulthood in the western frontier. About thirty or forty years after her death, an engraving began circulating that it was an image of her. Some experts doubted this - until the late 1990's when, sure enough the one private photograph that she did in fact pose for in Washington was discovered among a group of other images of Mexican War figures and bought by a private collector at the Georgetown flea market held on Sundays. It matches the engraving. We can send a copy to you as long as it is credited as 'private collection, courtesy of National First Ladies Library" and not distributed via any wire services.

That was the last time a First Lady could chose to be ambivilent about photography - the next First Lady Abigail Fillmore found that the portrait she posed for was quickly copied on small 'carte-de-visite" cards and sold to tourists. Mary Lincoln's photographs were used by newspapers that had begun to carry engravings as illustrations. In the post-Civil War era, there was no more popular First Lady than the 21 year old bride of the President Frances Cleveland. While she assumed a public profile with some caution about having her political opinions drawn out, she posed for dozens of photographs and they only increased the obsession with her - many young women used the pictures to copy her clothing and hair style. Frances Cleveland was, in fact, fascinated by the growing national love affair with the picture. By the time of her tenure, the small "brownie" camera had become available at reasonable prices to the general public and the First Lady bought one and used it in private, often taking pictures of her baby daughters - and along on those afternoons when she was able to slip away and go fishing at Rock Creek Park. She took hundreds of the small brownie shots.

When Edith Roosevelt found that her young children were being stalked by press photographers she declared them to be "fiends" but she permitted formally-posed shots of herself and children to be made and given out freely to the press with the hope it would reduce the spontaneous shots. She was only partially successful - one picture now in the Library of Congress shows Edith undaintily mounting her horse on a Washington sidewalk before her morning ride.

When Florence Harding was surrounded by photographers one day during her husband's campaign she yelled at them to stop "I take an awful picture." She tried to placate them by handing out copies of her on a bike - from thirty years earlier. They didn't buy it - and she endured the posing, but covering her neck wrinkles with a velvet neck band. She did, however, take an avid interest in the "moving picture." In fact, we have a still picture of Florence Harding working a movie camera on the White House lawn. Her fascination with Hollywood (she was the first to enlist famous film and stage actors to campaign for her husband), including her coming to the opening of Universal Studios in 1916 apparently spurred her confidante Evalyn McLean (whose husband once owned and edited the Washington Post) to set up her own mini-studio at her estate Friendship (where McLean Gardens is now located) to make edited high-quality home movies - and got pointers from Florence Harding's political ally D.W. Griffith. 

Grace Coolidge, hiking around Washignton in her sportswear, cooperated with anyone who recognized her and wanted a photograph. In assuming more of the ceremonial role from her taciturn husband and greeting dozens of public groups, organizations and clubs that came to visit he White House, Grace Coolidge helped to create the very first "photo ops" of posed tableaux intended to seem natural - one even caught her holding a flower at the amaryllis show - right beneath a sign that states: "Do Not Handle the Flowers." She also owned her own still picture camera and a home movie camera - one of the pictures you included in your initial email to us. Whether or not she was made an honorary member of the White House Press Photographers Association I have been unable to determine. On this question you might contact the Coolidge Memorial Association and Museum Foundation in Plymouth Notch, Vermont. Her immediate successor Lou Hoover also owned a camera which she used frequently on weekends at the presidential retreat she established in the Shenendoahs.

Photograph by Cecil Stoughton

Of course no First Lady, let alone few female celebrities could lay claim to the dubious title of "the most woman in the world" - except Jackie Kennedy. Her own history with the camera came one day in Washington, just after she was hired as the Washington Times-Herald "Inquiring Cameragirl" column. Walking up to bother strangers and ask them a question of the day was challenge enough - but then she had to run out and take a basic class on photography since she was also required to snap a picture of those she questioned. No First Lady took to photography as an art - and form of political messaging - better than Jackie Kennedy. She offered suggestions on angles and poses and light and distances to the government photographers assigned to cover presidential events and soon invited them into the family's private quarters to capture moments like birthday parties or to their summer and winter homes for parties, holidays and other intimate family moments. She also carefully controlled what were technically public domain images (the White House photographer is a federally-salaried position and the pictures they create are the property of the US government and by definition owned by the American people), editing out those that showed her smoking or which she felt were unflattering or too revealing - and was able to exercise this control even after she left the White House and the photo archive was sent to Boston for the eventually JFK Library. Yet as First Lady she enjoyed taking personal pictures of her children on the White House lawn and even took some snaps during her heralded trip to India and Pakistan in 1962 - there's a famous one of her surreptiously taking a picture of foreign press with a new compact camera - and one photographer she didn't see, who got the picture of her taking the picture. When she was in Italy the summer of 1962, she was so beset by dozens of agile snapping photographers who surrounded her as she went out to nightclubs and sat in cafes, she unwittingly helped give permanent circulation to the phrase "paparazzi" (Italian for pesky flying bugs). She was also known to edit the photographs of her children that were intended to appear in magazines, consistently refusing to cooperate with the West Wing Press Office pushing requests from photographers. One famous incident had Look photographer Stanely Tretick sending her pictures of her children that he took one day when she was away - it was the President's idea that he do so, feeling that if Jackie saw how great they were, she would relent. She would not. Of course, as a former First Lady she was so unrelentingly stalked by one paparazzi Ron Gallela that she took him to court and won an injunction that demanded he keep a certain distance of yards from her at all times. It had no affect on other photographers of course - one of whom even snapped her sunbathing in the nude on the private Greek island her second husand Ari Onassis. Still, her visual judgment and understanding of the journalistic power and artistic beauty of photography remained a lifelong passion. She was an early and important supporter for the founding and healthy establishment of the International Photography Center in New York. Along with the quality literary books she acquired and shaped as an editor that she considered her proudest works she also included one she had fought to do and for which she wrote the introduction, a book of the turn-of-the-century images of deteriorating Parisian parks by Eugene Atget called Atget's Gardens.

Since Jackie Kennedy every First Lady has come to accept the often unwelcome presence of photographers in every aspect of their life - whether one catches Hillary Clinton dancing in a bathing suit with her husband, or Nancy Reagan stumbling in a bad fall at the 1980 Republican Convention, or Barbara Bush in the morning on the lawn of her family's Kennebunkport home in a nightgown and slippers. With the constant presence of government photographers in their public and private lives, the experiences of their White House years are captured for them. While some (I believe Barbara Bush - but I'm not certain, so you'd have to check that) might take family pictures now, none since Jackie Kennedy has been known to be a regular photographer. One last note: as a young congressional wife, Lady Bird Johnson was so entralled with living in Washington,that she bought a movie camera - along with a still picture camera she had and used often. Among the bits of local life in the 1930's and 1940's that she captured was some color footage - of Eleanor Roosevelt. Only example I know of a First Lady filming a First Lady.
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Clinton bookFirst Ladies with Regard to Publishing and/or Writing Books

  • The first presidents' wife to write a book that was published in her lifetime was Helen "Nellie" Taft. In 1914, two years after leaving the White House she wrote her memoirs, Recollections of Full Years.

The other First Ladies who wrote and published their memoirs after leaving the White House were: Eleanor Roosevelt, Lady Bird Johnson (based on excerpts of her daily taped recordings of a White House diary), Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush and Hillary Clinton. However, there are several interesting footnotes to this:

  • Julia Grant actually wrote her memoirs in the 1890's but was advised not to publish them because she was too harsh in her assessment of her husband's political and military colleagues. They were posthumously published in 1975.
  • Grace Coolidge wrote a series of articles in American Magazine in the early 1930's that consisted of her White House memoirs, treated topically, but did not choose to have the articles published as a book.
  • Lou Hoover co-translated with her husband an ancient Latin text on mineralogy before she was First Lady - but not her memoirs.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt wrote the first volume of her memoirs, covering her early years, while still First Lady.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt wrote numerous articles and contributed to different books before she became First Lady. Following her husband's election as President, she published a small booklet-magazine called Babies, Just Babies about maternal care. She also wrote numerous books - besides her memoirs - as a former First Lady, including her last one, published posthumously, called Tomorrow is Now.
  • Nancy Reagan wrote and published an early, first version of her life called Nancy in time for the 1980 presidential race of her husband.
  • Nancy Reagan wrote and published To Love a Child, a book about the Foster Grandparent program in 1981, while First Lady.
  • Barbara Bush "ghostwrote" two books by her dogs, one while she was the vice-president's wife, C. Fred's Story, and the other, Millie's Book, while First Lady.
  • Hillary Clinton wrote It Takes a Village to Raise a Child in 1995 - and also read portions of it for a books-on-tape version which won a Grammy for the Spoken-Word Category.
  • Betty Ford wrote a second volume of her autobiography that actually returned to her earlier life covered in her first book - but in her second book, Glad Awakening, written once she had been in recovery.
  • Although Jacqueline Kennedy never wrote her own White House memoirs, she did quietly aid in the publishing of her White House "story" from her perspective by quietly editing in 1989 - when she was a professional publishing editor herself - the chapters on her tenure in the second volume of First Ladies (1991), a fact not disclosed publicly until a July 1994 Town & Country article by the book's author...yes, me, Carl Sferrazza Anthony.
  • Former First Ladies who published books in addition to their memoirs were Eleanor Roosevelt, Lady Bird Johnson, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan.
  • Barbara Bush is the only former First Lady who wrote a memoir about her life as a former First Lady.
  • The earliest book written and published by an incumbent "First Lady" who was not a president's wife but a president's sister, was the unmarried Rose Elizabeth Cleveland, whose brother was bachelor President Grover Cleveland (before he married his wife Frances in the White House in June of 1886. In fact, "Miss Rose," as the nation's newspapers dubbed her, "Libbie" to her family - published several books while in the White House and it launched her career. She wrote literary criticism and even works on proper social roles and behavior - not quite etiquette, not quite sociology, but a bit of both.
  • The earliest book ever "written" by a First Lady was unintended and dreaded by her as a possibility after her death - these were the published letters of Abigail Adams in 1848, Letters of Mrs. Adams - Wife of John Adams.
  • A similar book was "written" by Dolley Madison - Memoirs and Letters of Dolley Madison, Wife of James Madison, President of the United States, as posthumously published by her niece Lucia Cutts in 1886.

Surprisingly, no other First Ladies wrote what would be considered strictly a "children's book" but Eleanor Roosevelt wrote a Christmas book that was readable for children. Of course, the two "as-told-to" books that Barbara Bush wrote as being memoirs of her dogs, were largely picture books with her commentary and could be read by and understood by children, but they weren't "children's books" in the industry sense.

In terms of writing with their daughter - no. That is a first. Edith Roosevelt contributed a chapter to a book that included chapters written by her son. It was called Cleared for Strange Ports and came out in the 1920's.
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