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This “smartly written…stunning” (The Boston Globe) portrait of Lady Bird as the essential strategist, fundraiser, barnstormer, and ballast for her husband Lyndon offers “a penetrating analysis…of a marriage that paired two complicated but devoted figures, a coupling that changed the face of America” (Richmond Times-Dispatch).
Marriage is the most underreported story in political life, yet it is often the key to its success. Historian Betty Boyd Caroli spent seven years exploring the archives of the LBJ Library, interviewing dozens of people, and mining never-before-released letters between Lady Bird and Lyndon. The result “redefines the First Lady as an iron fist in a white glove” (Vanity Fair) and helps explain how the talented, but flawed Lyndon Baines Johnson ended up making history.
Lady Bird grew up the daughter of a domineering father and a cultured but fragile mother. When a tall, pushy Texan named Lyndon showed up in her life, they married within weeks with a tacit agreement: this highly gifted politician would take her away, and she would save him from his weaknesses. The conventional story goes that Lyndon married Lady Bird for her money and demeaned her by flaunting his many affairs, and that her legacy was protecting the nation’s wildflowers. But Caroli shows that she was also the one who swooped in to make the key call to a donor, to keep the team united, to campaign in hostile territory, and to jump-start Lyndon out of his paralyzing dark moods.
In Lady Bird and Lyndon, Caroli restores Lady Bird to her rightful place in history. But she also tells a love story whose compromises and edifying moments many women will recognize.
The spouses of the world's most influential movers and shakers rarely receive similar attention to their lives, regardless of the influence they may have had, but biographer Caroli (First Ladies: Martha Washington to Michelle Obama and The Roosevelt Women) bucks the trend with this enticing and fun examination of Claudia Alta Taylor "Lady Bird" Johnson. The ascendance of Lyndon B. Johnson. to the White House has been dissected and criticized since he reached the office. He was known for being rude to his closest associates, ridiculing his opponents, and blowing up on his staff. Caroli posits that if it hadn't been for his wife cleaning up his messes, L.B.J. would never have reached such political heights. Johnson was born in Karnack, Tex., to an abusive businessman of a father and a closed-off mother. Being brought up in such a tumultuous household taught Johnson ambition and drive, qualities that later would prove invaluable. As Caroli tells it, she was the real driving force behind every ally L.B.J. ever gained, and she ran interference for him with the press. Johnson changed the role of First Lady forever, and Caroli's well-researched work gives readers insight into that shift.