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Book about presidential moms is interesting for all ages

Posted Tuesday, Sep. 25, 2012  comments  Print Reprints

Topics: Barbara Bush

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First Mothers

by Beverly Gherman and Julie Downing

Clarion, $17.99

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It's no secret that mothers shape their children's lives. Even if you are president of the United States, Mom still thinks of you as her baby. First Mothers, by Beverly Gherman and Julie Downing, tells about some of the odd and interesting natures of the women who, in a roundabout way, helped shape this country.

Barbara Pierce Bush, mother of George W. Bush, worried about her weight until she was an adult. When her husband ran for president in 1988, his advisers suggested she make some style changes, but while Barbara Bush agreed to do most anything to better herself, she refused to dye her hair or go on a diet.

During the summers, the young Bush family spent time in Maine. She hired two African-American women to help with her five children on the drive from Texas. When the women were denied lodging because of the color of their skin, Barbara Bush refused to stay there, telling the owners she would find a place that would take all of them.

Bill Clinton's mom, Virginia Clinton Kelley, taught her son to "be who you want to be and don't worry about what people say about you." The book explains that she was married five times, wore heavy makeup and kept a white streak in her hair so she would be noticed.

Though her family was wealthy, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, the mother of John F. Kennedy, made her children work for their allowances. Her husband, Joe Kennedy, was a bank president who had affairs with many glamorous women. Rose Kennedy experienced grief beyond imagining, losing three sons and one daughter to early deaths. Another daughter was institutionalized.

William Taft's mother, Louisa Torrey Taft, loved to travel when she was single. She promised never to get married, but realized she would either have to cut back on her spending or find a husband to pay expenses. Enter Alphonso Taft. Her children always dressed in the latest fashions.

When Nancy Allison McKinley attended her son's presidential inauguration, she carried a bouquet of roses. She traveled to William McKinley's special event by train. But rather than buy the flowers, she took the ones in the train's dining car.

The book is packed with entertaining information. Though it's recommended for youngsters ages 6 through 9, it's far too interesting for such a small age group.

Even with all of the campaign robocalls this time of year that make everyone sick of politics, it's fun for folks of all ages to learn some offbeat facts about the mothers of the most powerful men in history.

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