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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Succinct, Entertaining, Insightful
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...
Published on August 22, 2003 by Avid Reader

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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Marton takes a look at "hidden power" of White House Couples
I rarely read books about politics or political figures, even though my main interest in the non-fiction realm -- military history -- is, in essence, an account of political decisions gone wrong. When I do read books about Presidents, it's usually about the Cold War (The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khruschev -- 1960-1963) or specific events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis...
Published on August 22, 2004 by Alex Diaz-Granados


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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Succinct, Entertaining, Insightful, August 22, 2003
By 
This review is from: Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our History (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
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and informational, but quite biased by author, November 22, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our History (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Revealing look into presidential marriages..., August 8, 2010
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This review is from: Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our History (Paperback)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and Insightful, April 11, 2010
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This review is from: Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our History (Paperback)
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Behind Closed White House Doors, June 10, 2008
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This review is from: Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our History (Paperback)
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. The reader will learn how a woman with only two years of formal education ended up secretly running the country in one of the most devastating cover-ups in our nation's history. Unlike the personal memoirs of Edith Wilson and Dr. Grayson, this is not a self-serving account.

Not wishing to spoil the rest of the book by revealing too much, the reader will be engrossed with chapters on the other presidential couples to the present day. This is one book not to be missed.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Marton takes a look at "hidden power" of White House Couples, August 22, 2004
This review is from: Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our History (Paperback)
I rarely read books about politics or political figures, even though my main interest in the non-fiction realm -- military history -- is, in essence, an account of political decisions gone wrong. When I do read books about Presidents, it's usually about the Cold War (The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khruschev -- 1960-1963) or specific events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis or that awful day in Dallas.

Very rarely, though, do I read books about the personal lives of America's Chief Executives. I used to, as a schoolboy, read very generic accounts of those few Presidents I found interesting (Washington, Lincoln, the two Roosevelts, Ike, and JFK), but as I grew older I became less a generalist history buff and became more of a World War II/Cold War/Persian Gulf War specialist. Still, sometimes it's beneficial to step away from the familiar and explore uncharted territory from time to time.

Kati Marton's 2001 book Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our History is one such sally from my familiar Stephen Ambrose/Cornelius Ryan fortress of historical reading. It's a selection of 12 short biographical sketches of 20th Century Presidents and their First Ladies, with a strong emphasis on the post-Eisenhower White House "power couples" from the Kennedys on to George W. and Laura Bush. (Ike and Mamie, incidentally, are not interesting enough for Marton to have a chapter of their own, and neither are most of the Presidential couples between the Wilson and Roosevelt Administrations. Whether it's because those pairings are too bland or because most of those were Republican, I can't discern for sure.)

To be honest, I found Marton's book to be well-written but not terribly engaging. Maybe it's because the post-1960 couples are all-too-familiar to me -- I've heard far too much about how Jackie Kennedy thought her marriage was finally getting better by the time of that fateful trip to Dallas, or about Betty Ford's struggles with alcohol dependency, or the backlash to Hillary Clinton's "unlimited partnership" with Bill -- but I only really enjoyed the first two chapters about Edith and Woodrow Wilson and Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt. I found the image of the seemingly cold and stern Wilson acting like a lovesick teenager when he was courting the much younger woman who would become his second wife, a woman who, if truth be told, was actually more of a co-President of the United States than "mere" First Lady as a result of her husband's debilitating stroke after World War I and Wilson's efforts to create the League of Nations.

Because FDR's story dovetails nicely with my interest in World War II (and also because he was the country's first disabled Chief Executive, though much effort was expended to keep that from the public as much as possible back then), I really liked The Partnership That Changed the World, the chapter on Eleanor and Franklin. Of all the First Ladies of the 20th Century, Eleanor seems to me the most interesting, considering that led such an extraordinary life at a crucial point in American history. Homely -- a Jackie Kennedy or even Hillary look-alike she wasn't -- and living with the knowledge that Franklin had had an affair with one of her best friends, nevertheless she stayed by her husband's side -- if not in an intimate manner -- and became one of his socially aware "eyes and ears" advisers, particularly on issues of race and poverty. Her newspaper column and many public appearances -- even in far-flung areas in the South Pacific and elsewhere during World War II -- made her one of the iconic figures of the era and possibly one of the most admired First Ladies in American history.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging Overview, August 28, 2002
This review is from: Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our History (Paperback)
I picked this book up at the airport and was pleasantly surprised. It covers a selection of presidential marriages and presents a balanced overview of each. I enjoyed reading each chapter and it made me more interested in a couple of our past presidents that I didn't know much about. I highly recommend it if your interested in presidental history or how the partner of a person in power plays a large influence.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT Read, January 3, 2011
This review is from: Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our History (Paperback)
This book is excellent. It is the most interesting read on any of the persidential marriages I have ever read about. Starting with Woodrow Wilson (wow, so interesting, you won't believe it), FDR, through to the business relationship of the Clintons, the marriage of the reagans and others. A very good read. I couldn't put it down. It is not gossipy, yet it is not syrupy. It tells the truth. Especially interesting is how these wives related to their husbands during their presidencies. Ten stars !!!!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Snapshot look, March 25, 2006
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This review is from: Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our History (Paperback)
I found this to be a good book for those of us who were not around when many of these first ladies were. This book can also be a stepping stone to picking up a complete bio on one or more of them.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars largely unsupported opinions, misstatement of facts, December 17, 2011
By 
george freeland (gaithersburg, md United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our History (Paperback)
Book is a major disappointment. The author sets forth a one-sentence "diagnosis" of each presidential marriage, and then proceeds to make unsupported statements to back up her theses. Add this to misstatement of facts (how hard is it to determine the actual date of George Washington's death) and you have a book that can't be trusted. Lots of "he" (or "she" or "the public") "must have thought" type of statements - translation "I am guessing." Example: "Ford's fearless expression of his partner's importance was like a balm for a nation pained by Richard Nixon's treatment of his wife." Huh? I lived through those years and I don't know anyone who was "pained" by Nixon's treatment of his wife. Also: "It is hard not to conclude from the Fords' fulfilled partnership and failed presidential bid that devoted husbands rarely make successful presidents." Did the author forget she had gone on and on about Truman's successful presidency and his devotion to Bess? No, the problem is that the author, rather than state facts (and state them correctly), finds it "hard not to conclude." Had she gone without trying "to conclude" on the basis of (often misunderstood) selective incidences, and just presented history and let it stand on its own, she would have had a book worth spending time on.
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Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our History
Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our History by Kati Marton (Paperback - July 16, 2002)
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