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Jo L. (PIZZELLEBFS) reviewed Wild Women in the White House: The Formidable Females Behind the Throne, on the Phone, and (Sometimes) Under the Bed (Wild Women Series) on + 331 more book reviews
If social history is more accessible to many readers than military or political tomes, perhaps its gossipy subgenre is the most entertaining of all. This quirky, highly readable series of portraits of "Women in and Around the White House" is enlivened by some wonderful quotes (many from the irrepressible Alice Roosevelt Longworth) and a gallery of first ladies every bit as insipid as those pictures of presidents inflicted on us all in school (but with really funny captions).
The first lady (she wasn't even called that at first) has always been under pressure from the public and the press to conform to an ill-defined, constantly changing role. Each in the parade of women across these pages did something to change that role, expanding or contracting it, or just plain opting out altogether out of fear or loathing of a public life. Presented largely chronologically, Stephens's look at the wives, mistresses, daughters, mothers, nieces, aunts, sisters, and female friends and acquaintances of the presidents of the United States is a refreshing review of changing fashions in etiquette, clothing, and gender roles. By the end, you'll find yourself compelled to agree with the current first lady's assessment of her treatment: "I don't think there's anything that has happened to me that is, frankly, very new."