5 Reads from, or about, Fabulous Former First Ladies

by | September 10

I’m not sure who said it first, but there is a popular saying that “Behind every successful man, there is a strong woman.” I would argue that these women are often more successful than the men they are supporting, because they are often also birthing and raising their kids, and kicking ass at work while standing by their spouse. Over the years the role of the First Lady has changed, but each of these five women helped our country through troubled times. 

As a First Lady, these incredible women not only helped support the presidents, but also served as shining examples for our country. Many continued to serve our nation even after leaving the White House. Each of these women helped to advocate for women’s rights and encouraged progress in lots of ways.  

Below are five books written by, or about, former First Ladies. These women prove that even when supporting the most powerful man in the country, you can shine on your own! They are amazing role models and they all have incredible stories to share.  

If You Ask Me

If You Ask Me

by Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt (1933–1945)
She was the longest serving First Lady of the United States, during the four terms of her husband’s presidency. She was a beacon of hope for our country through World War II. In 1941, she embarked on a new career path as an advice columnist for Ladies Home Journal. Her column entitled “If You Ask Me” became a way for her to connect with the public. This book, If You Ask Me, is an annotated collection of the advice columns that she wrote for more than twenty years.

Betty Ford

Betty Ford

by Lisa McCubbin

Betty Ford (1974–1977)
Elizabeth Anne "Betty" Ford set a precedent as First Lady. She refused to be silenced by her critics as she publicly championed equal rights for women, and spoke out about issues that had previously been taboo—breast cancer, depression, abortion, and sexuality.  

After an intervention by her family, Betty Ford admitted to being addicted to alcohol and prescription drugs. But instead of keeping her addiction private, she decided to speak out about it publicly, which helped to spark a national dialogue. In 1982, she co-founded the Betty Ford Center, which revolutionized the treatment for alcoholism. In this book, Betty Ford, Lisa McCubbin shares Betty Ford’s story and how she battled with her addictions.  

Barbara Bush

Barbara Bush

by Barbara Bush

Barbara Bush (1989–1993)
Barbara Bush supported not one but two US presidents. She served not only as a First Lady but also as a mother to another president (George W. Bush). As FLOTUS, she worked to advance the cause of universal literacy. Prompted by her son Neil’s diagnosis with dyslexia, she wanted to highlight the factors that contributed to illiteracy and how we as a nation could work to resolve them. In 1989, she founded the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy 

In this memoir, Barbara Bush, she shares a portrait of her life in and out of the White House. Filled with personal photographs and entertaining anecdotes, the book reveals a whole new side of Barbara Bush. 

What Happened

What Happened

by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton (1993–2001)
Hillary Clinton shattered the glass ceiling in so many ways for women in the US. As FLOTUS, she championed several causes, including health care reform, welfare reform, and women’s rights.   

She left the White House as First Lady in 2001 and then went on to become a U.S. Senator for New York from 2001 to 2009, Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013, and the Democratic Party presidential nominee in the 2016 election. She didn’t want to just be the First Lady, she wanted to lead our country as president and allow former President Bill Clinton to experience life in the East Wing. Hillary Clinton has had an incredible career and continues to support our country’s women’s equality movements.  

TBH, last year when she stopped in at the Simon & Schuster office for a book signing for What Happened, I had a bit of a fan girl moment.  



by Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama (2009–2017)

I’m going to be a bit biased about this one. Michelle Obama is my favorite FLOTUS. There are two main factors that I believe contribute to this…. First, when I was able to vote for the first time, it was for the 2008 presidential race Obama vs. McCain. The Obamas message of change energized the country and I got swept up in the movement. Second, as a person of color, I wanted to keep pushing the barriers for equal rights and wanted to see a black president in office.

Additionally, with the way social media evolved, we got to see a glimpse into the Obama White House like never before. We were able to see the family and FLOTUS beyond what the press previously reported.

As FLOTUS, Michelle Obama highlighted the Let’s Move initiative, encouraging children and parents to be healthier through diet and exercise. Since leaving office the Obamas have been pretty quiet and out of the spotlight. However, with the upcoming elections they are helping to support Democrat candidates in key battlegrounds. They have also pledged to continue to serve the public through the Obama Foundation. I can’t wait to read Michelle Obama’s new book, Becoming, when it hits shelves in November.

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Saimah works on the Corporate Digital Marketing team at Simon & Schuster. She is a die-hard Harry Potter fan and loves dystopian fiction! She also enjoys reading celeb memoirs, modern romances and murder mysteries. When she's not reading, she is binge-watching her favorite shows, finding the best roof deck bars in the city and watching sporting events (while defending her Cleveland sports teams!).