HQ : What is life at the White House like ?


               “I’ll be a wife and mother first, then First Lady.” Through these words, Jackie Kennedy puts the emphasis on the duality of a first lady’s role, who must combine her personal life and presidential representation. Like her, several first ladies have put into words their experiences at the White House. This list broaches the autobiographies and memoirs of a couple memorable women, who have taken part in the American political stage.

« I’ll be a wife and a mother first, then First Lady. »


            Born and raised in an upper-class political family, Eleanor Roosevelt looks back on her years as a first lady in her autobiography, which was first published in 1961. Indeed, she and her husband have taken part in crucial decades of modern history, as they governed during the Gilded Age, Depression, World War II, and the premises of the Cold War. In her book, the woman offers an insightful look at American politics, as she was tightly involved in her husband’s professional life.

eleanor roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt’s autobiography cover

           Eleanor Roosevelt reflects on her progressive and feminist positions, which led her to advocate in favor of civil rights, among others. In her literary work, she tells her evolution, from her involvement in the shadows to her rise in the public eye, in the context of a post-war world.


          George W. Bush’s wife was one of America’s most popular First Ladies. In her memoir, she shares her presidential experience, and opens up about her personal life. As a dedicated mother and a presidential wife, she met famous figures, of whom she speaks in the best-selling book. 

         The lady’s perception of a presidential couple directs her literary work, as she famously stated: “I do not meddle with what [my husband] does in the Oval Office, and he does not interfere with the way I manage my home.” Barbara Bush’s conservative way of thinking contrasts with the progressive view of her fellow First Ladies on this list. In that manner, the woman’s memoir focuses on her relationship with the American president George Bush, and the First Lady addresses the tragic loss of her three-year-old daughter to leukemia.

« I do not meddle with what [my husband] does in the Oval Office, and he does not interfere with the way I manage my home.”

          One of Barbara Bush’s life battles was literacy, as the lady was a social justice activist, a topic she also broaches in the work. In her memoir, Barbara Bush offers a personal perception of the White House, behind the scenes of a historical couple.


            In modern days, Hillary Clinton is best known for her electoral contest with Donald trump rather than for her first-lady role in the nineties’. Her presence on this list is however fundamental, as she embodies the renewal “after” the White House.

           During her husband’s presidency, the woman greatly helped raising awareness of health matters, thus conveying a political message while representing the American executive branch. In that manner, she is the first presidential wife to ever own an office in the White House, proof of her political involvement. She published a memoir in 2003, named: Living History, in which she describes her eight years at the White House. In these years, she redefined the position of First Lady.

Hillary and Bill Clinton acknowledging supporters in 2016

          In 2016, Hillary Clinton represented the Democratic Party during the controversial presidential election. A year after her defeat, the woman published a book called: What Happened, explaining her perception of this experience. As a First Lady or running for presidency, Hillary Clinton made History.


             In her latest Memoir, Michelle Obama reveals secrets about the White House, and shares her view of the current government, in contrast with her vividly described experience as a First Lady. Michelle Obama has been vocal about the publishing of her most recent memoir, Becoming. She retrospectively reveals her story, from her upbringing on the South side of Chicago to her relationship with Barack Obama and her view of modern politics. The book evokes her doubts and successes as a lawyer, a mother, and a first lady of the United States.


Obama + daughters
Michelle Obama and her two daughters, Natasha and Malia

           Through a very personal writing, the woman reveals the twists and turns of the power couple she and her husband embody. Indeed, the former First Lady shares her difficulty to conceive, which led her to undergo in vitro fertilization. On another note, the first African-American First Lady of the US criticizes Donald Trump’s “shocking” scandals, and addresses her “unforgiving” attitude towards the president. In an insightful memoir, the iconic woman of our era reveals her secrets to balancing her role as a mother of two, as a wife, and as politically-active First Lady.


               Each American First Lady experiences her presidential life differently, thus leading to a diversity in the writing of their memoirs or autobiographies. Michelle Obama’s latest literary work has once again reminded the public opinion of how much of a demanding task it is to be married to the president of the United States, as much in private as in the public eye.

Adriana BARED


4 commentaire

  1. Heureusement qu’on peut réagir en français…
    Article passionnant et bien mené, couvrant plusieurs décennies, tenant compte de l’intérêt marqué du public pour certaines First Ladies, et exploitant malicieusement (dès le titre) l’adjectif « first ». Cet article donne envie d’explorer plus avant le sujet. Qu’en est-il notamment de Mme Kennedy?

    1. Tout d’abord merci pour ces compliments !
      Au sujet de Jackie Kennedy, elle est, entre autres, reconnue pour les grands travaux qu’elle entreprit à la Maison Blanche.
      Personnage gracieux et énigmatique, il semblerait qu’elle ait été bien plus investie dans la vie politique qu’elle ne le laissait penser ..
      Une figure emblématique, sur qu’il est intéressant de se pencher

  2. Well done Adriana. Amazing article, based upon facts and memoirs of the First Ladies themselves. This is why I suppose you didn’t speak about Melania Trump, since she didn’t yet share her experience as a First Lady.

    1. Thank you for your comment.
      Indeed, Melania Trump has yet to finish her stay at the White House, after which she will be able to retrospectively reflect on her role as a First Lady.

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