7 Insightful Books for the Most Influential First Ladies

Women’s History month is the perfect time to indulge in some historical knowledge. Continue reading to discover the best books for learning about America’s First Ladies.

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When the United States was first founded in 1776, women and first ladies weren’t mentioned in the Constitution, much like everything else during that time. Even when Martha Washington began setting the trail for future first ladies in 1789, there wasn’t an actual designated title for her, as the president’s wife. As time continued, the significance and role of the First Lady evolved drastically. Below is a list of seven books written by or about some of the United States’ most interesting and influential first ladies.

1. Martha Washington: First Lady of Liberty by Helen Bryan

Martha Washington: First Lady of Liberty by Helen Bryan, book cover depicting the white house with people strolling on the lawn

In this anecdotal novel, Bryan tells the story of Martha Washington, the United States’ first First Lady. This book discusses how Martha not only commanded respect for herself during the 1700s but how, if it wasn’t for her fortune, George might not have been able to obtain the social, political, and military respect that he did. She was there for some of the most important foundational parts of American history and faced a life of excitement, loss, and love.

2. America’s Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis by Sarah Bradford

2. America's Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis by Sarah Bradford, book cover depicting Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis with pearls and a red dress on.

For over 50 years, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis has had the people of the United States captivated. Using a variety of interviews, Bradford covers multiple points of Jacqueline’s life, such as her very public marriages, her privileged upbringing, her work as an editor, and her life as a mother. Including photos from a private collection, Bradford paints the ultimate picture of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ life.

3. Becoming by Michelle Obama

Becoming by Michelle Obama, book cover depicting Michelle Obama in white dress.

This memoir follows Michelle from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago all the way to her days as the first African American First Lady of the United States. As the First Lady, Michelle has inspired women and girls all over America, encouraging them to live healthier and more active lives. She touches on failures and accomplishments, both public and private, as well as life as a mother to two amazing girls and being Barack Obama’s wife.

4. Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself by Jill Biden

Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself by Jill Biden, book cover depicting Jill Biden in front of an Ocean.

After a failed relationship, Jill was unsure if she would ever find love again until she met Joe. But that didn’t come without hesitation. Was she ready to raise Joe’s two boys? Was she ready to live a life forever involved in politics? From falling in love to raising a family and having her own career, Jill shares the challenges she has faced as a working mother and a politician’s wife with the audience.

5. Lou Henry Hoover: Activist First Lady by Nancy Beck Young

Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself by Jill Biden, book cover depicting Lou Henry Hoover waving.

In this engaging biography, Young dives deep into the life of Lou Henry Hoover, who, according to Young, was America’s first modern First Lady. Truly ahead of her time, Hoover was a college graduate, a lover of the outdoors, and a women’s activist. Young shares Hoover’s philanthropic efforts during the Great Depression to help the average American and her endorsement of women in politics. Despite her husband’s association with the Great Depression, Lou made a lasting and positive impact on what it means to be a First Lady.

6. Dearest Friend: A Life of Abigail Adams by Lynne Withey

Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself by Jill Biden, book cover depicting a Picture of Abigail Adams.

In this charming book, Gould shares stories from personal letters to paint the life of first lady Abigail Adams. Married to John Adams for 54 years, Abigail not only raised a family but was also involved in politics. She advocated for slave emancipation and was an upcoming feminist during her time. Gould shows what a smart, ambitious, and forthright woman Abigail Adams was.

7. Helen Taft: Our Musical First Lady by Lewis L. Gould

Helen Taft: Our Musical First Lady by Lewis L. Gould, book cover depicting Helen Taft in big hat.

In this biography, Gould sheds light on Helen Taft’s life by refuting the claims that she is a quarrelsome figure who pushed her stout husband into becoming president. Gould discusses parts of Helen’s life, such as the need to make Washington D.C. a cultural capital by welcoming classical artists into the White House and the support she gave her husband when it came to political issues. The book also goes over the impact Helen’s stroke had on her life as First Lady.

Throughout the history of the United States, the role of the First Lady has grown and changed so much, and it continues to evolve to this day. Starting with Martha Washington in 1789, all of our First Ladies have left an everlasting impression and impact on America, showing women all over the country that anything is possible.

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