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Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our History Paperback – July 16, 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (July 16, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385721889
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385721882
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #118,577 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Insightful. . . . Colorful. . . . A shrewd and illuminating look at the juncture where the personal and the political overlap.” –The Wall Street Journal

“Irresistible. . . . An entertaining shot of history. . . . Scores of interviews and extensive research have turned up some revealing anecdotes and shrewd insights.” –The New York Times

“Brilliant. . . . Delectable. . . . Marton has a deft hand with narrative. . . . It’s the intimate, keyhole view of these marriages that gives Hidden Power its allure.” –Newsday

“Fascinating . . . well-researched.” –The New York Times Book Review

From the Inside Flap

Kati Marton?s bestselling Hidden Power is an engrossing look at twelve presidential marriages?from Edith and Woodrow Wilson to Laura and George W. Bush?that have profoundly affected America?s history.

Marton uncovers the behind-the-scenes dynamics of the ultimate power couples, showing how first ladies have used their privileged access to the president to influence staffing, promote causes, and engage directly in policy-making. Edith Wilson secretly ran the country after Woodrow?s debilitating stroke. Eleanor Roosevelt was FDR?s moral compass. And Laura Bush, initially shy of any public role, has proven to be the emotional ballast for her husband. Through extensive research and interviews, Marton reveals the substantial?yet often overlooked?legacy of presidential wives, providing insight into the evolution of women?s roles in the twentieth century and vividly depicting the synergy of these unique political partnerships.

More About the Author

Kati Marton, an award-winning former NPR and ABC News correspondent, is the author of Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our History, a New York Times bestseller, as well as Wallenberg, The Polk Conspiracy, A Death in Jerusalem, and a novel, An American Woman. Mother of a son and a daughter, she lives in New York with her husband, Richard Holbrooke.

Customer Reviews

It was very well written and researched.
Carol B. Layton
No, the problem is that the author, rather than state facts (and state them correctly), finds it "hard not to conclude."
george freeland
Whether it's because those pairings are too bland or because most of those were Republican, I can't discern for sure.)
Alex Diaz-Granados

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on August 22, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is more than a study of the evolution of American society than a history per se of Presidential marriages. The one theme - - apart from the relationship between personal and political lives - is how First Ladies viewed and interpreted that most ambiguous of positions. For this is a story told from the point of view of the woman - not the man - and for that reason it is all the more intriguing.
Each President has natural strengths but the adage "Behind every successful man is a woman" was never truer. The marriages can be divided into three categories - normal, those that recovered and those that never reconciled.
In the first category are Truman, Ford, Bush I, Bush II, Reagan and Carter. Lady Bird and Jackie chose to accept infidelity as part and parcel of the marriage while Roosevelt, Nixon and Clinton committed acts that forever scarred. Indeed, sexual infidelity seems a secondary theme. Eleanor never trusted FDR after her discovery, Jackie sought refuge in other arenas, Lady Bird found a life in other activities and Hillary - the most humiliated of all - found solace in a career apart from her husband.
As far as ideological sway, I found very little to challenge. True, the author seemed to praise Democratic administrations more than Republican ones but her personal stories were strictly non-partisan. She would sum up a chapter such as ,"The Clinton Administration is the story of a marriage" or "For Nancy, it was always only Ronnie." She managed to find the essence of the relationship and her conclusions were not only surprising but surprisingly on target.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
The book covers several presidential marriages of the 20th century. I knew very little about the presidents of the early 1900's, so it was fascinating reading about the marriages and issues of the times. It was clearly written by a writer who is not a historian. As evidenced by her footnotes, her research was based on other peoples books, newspapers and magazines such as Newsweek. She also interviewed a number of presidential spouses herself. The result is an intriguing blend of little-known facts and interesting quotes.
However, the author clearly formed personal opinions about each and every spouse in the book. Unfortunately her bias became stronger as the book progressed. By the time I reached the most recent presidential marriages, the book had turned into personal commentary of each presidency rather than the informational book it had been at the start.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Watson on June 10, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The reader will be engrossed from the first page to the last. Reads like a novel; but is factual. A real page-turner. I offer slight criticism with the overall scheme of the book: not including the Gilded Age presidents alluded to in the introduction. I agree that Mamie Eisenhower and Bess Truman did not play significant roles along with their husbands; but Florence Harding, Grace Coolidge, and Nellie Taft did influence their husbands....and significantly so. I hope that when a revision is done, the author will include chapters on these three presidential couples.

The reader will be "hooked" after reading the first chapter on Woodrow Wilson and his second wife. Its refreshing to find that Mrs. Marton, the author, did not gloss over the cover-up that Edith Wilson perpetuated with Dr. Cary Grayson, Wilson's White House physician. Every stone is turned over, including the little-known fact that Grayson attended to Edith during her first marriage to Mr. Galt when she had a miscarriage; this is an important connection often over-looked by historians who have preferred to over-look the Wilsons' peccadilloes, including his affairs with the Princeton professor's wife and Mary Peck.

Readers will be intrigued to learn about Woodrow's sharing of secret intelligence codes and allowing his wife to use them and the State Department documents which arrived encoded.

The author does a good job explaining why it was Edith who turned Woodrow against his closest advisor, Colonel House, his personal secretary, Mr. Tumulty, and Secretary of State Lansing, and even Vice President Marshall...all of whom he desperately needed while desperately ill.

Any serious student of presidential history needs this volume in their library.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By C. Skeen on August 8, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hidden Power by Kati Marton was a fascinating and revealing look into presidential marriages. These marriages not only shaped our country's history but also relected the culture at the time. It was a real page turner that was hard to put down. This is said by one who usually reads mysteries and thrillers and a few biographies! This book was written in a way to keep your attention and want to know more. It tells so much more about the inner workings of the govenment and the White House and the first families that we never learned in history class.
Thanks for enlightening me, and offering this book used at an excellant price! I saw the author interviewed on televion and immediately searched Amazon for the book.
Carole Skeen
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By B. McEwan VINE VOICE on April 11, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I saw Kati Marton interviewed on one of the Sunday morning news shows recently and later tracked down her book to learn more about her fascinating topic - how the office and the marriages of US presidents influence one another, for both good and ill. I have always been interested in first ladies, particularly in terms of how they balanced their very public lives with their responsibilities as parent and spouse.

It seems quite true that once a person becomes president (so far only men) he becomes public property, with everyone demanding something from him most minutes of his life. While this is to be expected and certainly doesn't come as a surprise to a candidate once he's in office, it seems essential that he have someone who cares about him as a person. Someone who has his back, so to speak, and keeps an eye out for his health and personal well-being. More often than not, that person is his wife. Some of them were more successful than others in watching out for their husbands and a few, notably Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Clinton, also managed to carve out important roles for themselves.

Kati Marton's profiles are well researched and full of interesting little details that help the reader see the first ladies as real people, with ambitions and emotions just like everyone else. Marton does not inject a particular political perspective into her work. I found myself quite liking most of the women featured in this book, including those not of my own political party.

Hidden Power is well written and easy to read. I highly recommend it.
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