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If it feels like there’s been some renewed interest or intrigue in American politics, you wouldn’t be wrong. Over the course of the last few years alone, the scrutiny on the White House has reached a fever pitch, leading to even more curiosity about how the past has informed our present, and where it will lead us in our future. Within the first families who occupied 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, no other person has matched the same notoriety as the First Lady of the United States.
From Martha Washington to Dr. Jill Biden, the role of First Lady has changed over the course of centuries, with each woman offering her own interests, pursuits, and style to the position — and there’s so much more to these women than just being the wives of the POTUS. Since the late 1700s, each FLOTUS has weathered pivotal moments throughout our history, ultimately setting the tone for their respective families. Eleanor Roosevelt was the First Lady during World War II and the recovery thereafter, for example, while Michelle Obama became the first Black woman to be First Lady, and Betty Ford worked hard behind the scenes securing women’s rights.
As we eagerly look ahead to Showtime’s The First Lady (out April 17 and starring Gillian Anderson as Eleanor Roosevelt, Viola Davis as Michelle Obama, Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford, and more), we’ve gathered some of the best biographies and autobiographies about the women who strode through the White House and left an indelible impact on the nation. From the very beginning of democracy to the current administration, here’s our round-up of the best biographies and autobiographies about our most famous First Ladies — read on and fill your cart accordingly.