Ann Covell recently announced the release of her well researched historical overview of nineteenth century First Ladies, Remembering the Ladies, published by Outskirts Press.  Covell’s look into the lives of these fascinating women, who have mostly been overlooked or ignored in American history, allows her readers new insight into these ladies and into their roles in creating the “office” of the American First Lady.

A compendium of these women’s adventures with slavery, bigamy, duels, assassinations and royal snubs, Remembering the Ladies gives readers an easy-to-read series of abridged life stories about the trials and difficulties the President’s wives often had to undergo.  Covell’s book was inspired by a conversation she overheard between several college girls bemoaning the amount of time they had to spend painstakingly researching the information they needed about First Ladies which was so widely and sporadically scattered across the Internet.  She gained further inspiration from a personal visit to the National Library of First Ladies in Canton, Ohio.

In her handy guide, veteran author and researcher Covell shows there were three phases in the early development of this role that was completely undefined by the Constitution. 

In the “Building the Foundations” phase, Martha Washington, with no background or guidance, starts to represent an idealized version of the American woman, even though in her sixties she yearned only to live a quiet rural life with her husband.  Like a number of her followers, the role of First Lady was an oppressive one to her from the first day.

In the second “Reluctant First Ladies” phase from 1829-1869, Covell points out that of eleven First Ladies during that period, only three complete their tenure without pleading illness or infirmity or obtaining a substitute to carry out their role.  The sad story of President Jackson’s wife shows the viciousness some First Ladies had to endure from the elite snobbish clique of well-educated Washington women that surrounded them.

In phase three, “The New Women,” Remembering the Ladies chronicles the First Ladies who were better educated, but who nonetheless did not take up the challenge of modernizing the role.  Instead, they for the most part maintained the docile identity of their predecessors.

Only after the turn of the century did women like Edith Roosevelt and Helen Taft begin to create the more active identity for the office which Americans now see in figures like Jacqueline Kennedy, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama.

About the author:

Ann Covell and her husband, a dental surgeon, visit the United States several times a year and divide the rest of their time between their homes in the UK and Spain.  Ann has an extensive career in health service management and has published several articles in various health service journals.  She has also served as a Justice of the Peace in the UK for many years.  She is currently the editor of a magazine for the Costa del Sol Decorative and Fine Arts Society in southern Spain and she has written for a number of regional magazines and local newspapers in the UK.  Remembering the Ladies is her first book. 

For more information or to contact the author, visit

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