The New York Times bestseller, First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies by Kate Anderson Brower fabulously recounts well-known stories of our country’s first ladies while offering new perspectives and additions from an array of exclusive sources. Focusing on our first ladies from 1960 to present day, Brower has artfully compiled information from a plethora of sources into a comprehensive book which will surely preserve the awe-inspiring stories of our beloved first women for years to come. 

First Women is an engaging nonfiction book and a pleasure to read. Brower captivates her audience by dissecting what it means to hold the role of first lady and the lives of those who have done that job. Though this job does not come with a salary nor a job description, it does come with an auspicious platform, imperative responsibilities, years of dedication, and some of the largest shoes to fill. To date, all but one United States President was married and all spouses of United States Presidents have been women. Brower unlocks the struggles, marriages, friendships, and the politics behind those women who have so daringly held this role—both by outlining their unique shared experiences and also by revering the independence they each possess. With a focus on the most modern first ladies, this book is able to relate the trials and successes of these women to the reader.

Whether you’re a learned history buff or are simply intrigued by the glamour and influence of the role of the first lady, this book has something to offer. From Lady Bird Johnson’s journey to overcome her fear of public speaking (which made her purposely answer exam questions incorrectly so she could avoid giving a speech as a top student at her high school graduation) to JFK’s attempt to learn French—mere days before his death—to impress Jackie Kennedy, this book covers everything. Brower does not shy away from the tricky subjects either; the Clinton’s marriage, Pat Nixon’s troubled days during the investigation of her husband, Betty Ford’s mastectomy and substance abuse, quarrels between first women, the toll of the presidency on a relationship, and more are covered within the 416 pages of this masterful book. Brower does just as masterful of a job recounting the tragic aftermath of presidential assassination and assassination attempts as she does recounting Barbara Bush’s endearing jokes and role as both a mother and wife to presidents.

Though this is not a personal account, the sources in First Women offer to the reader candid accounts of the struggles of our beloved first ladies. Brower does a particularly good job of capturing Michelle Obama’s years in the White House, thanks to her time covering the Obama White House for Bloomberg News. If you enjoyed Becoming by Former First Lady Michelle Obama, you’ll love First Women because it gives an exclusive look into the White House and the stories of Michelle Obama and the other first ladies who have lived there.   

Until I began reading this book, I have never felt so connected to, yet so mystified by our first ladies. More people should pick up this book and share this awe as they digest Brower’s intense research and passion for these most important leading ladies, for it truly is a joy. Although I do not believe that Brower’s newly added coverage of First Lady Melania Trump’s start in the role was nearly as objective as was her narrative of the other first women, it no doubt provides insight into the unique qualities and struggles that Melania possesses as FLOTUS.

Prepare to feel every emotion: inspiration from Rosalynn Carter’s influence as the first first lady to sit in on Cabinet meetings, anger at the lack of appreciation Pat Nixon received in comparison to her capabilities and sense of humor, admiration for Laura Bush’s handling of 9/11, and wonder at Jackie Kennedy Onassis’s life after the White House. All in all, First Women is one of the most captivating nonfiction books I have ever read.

Get your copy of First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies here.

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Lucy H

Lucy Hutchinson is a proud Pennsylvanian and daughter of Christ. She is a junior at Washington & Jefferson College and she aspires to attend medical school through the military to eventually become a dermatologist. When she’s not advocating for Israel, sun protection, agriculture, or GMOs, she’s probably studying or waiting around for her 21st birthday so she can obtain her concealed carry permit. (Not sponsored by Chick-fil-A but should be.)