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A Lady, First: My Life in the Kennedy White House and the American Embassies of Paris and Rome Paperback – September 1, 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her effervescent memoir, Baldrige, ambassador of etiquette, writes, "I disliked unfulfilled passions." She graduated Vassar in the mid-1940s and then, blessed with means, moxie and a voracious appetite for learning, she pursued her passions and led a life that was anything but ordinary for women at that time. Joining the U.S. Foreign Service in her 20s, she served in Paris as social secretary to Evangeline Bruce, the American ambassador's wife, and later to the U.S. ambassador in Rome, Clare Boothe Luce. These two women, Baldrige says, were among her greatest teachers. She tells of her subsequent work as the first female executive at Tiffany's under Walter Hoving, until the White House beckoned in 1960. For three years, she worked feverishly as social secretary to Jacqueline Kennedy until, overworked and contemplating the advice of Joe Kennedy, she quit. She soon opened her own, hugely successful PR firm in Chicago and then moved to New York, marrying in her mid-30s and having two children. With her plate already overflowing, she took on volunteering, lecturing, writing for newspapers and magazines, and writing books on etiquette and her experiences. A life lived so fully and at such a frenetic pace is scarcely to be believed at first, until one takes into account Baldrige's spirited will and work ethic. "I had always thought I was Wonder Woman without the steel bra." Readers may be disappointed by the gentle nature of the gossip and lack of scandal, but Baldrige's insight, humor and vivid encounters are sure to enthrall. Baldrige is an exemplary role model for women because she opened doors by refusing to accept that they were closed. (Oct 15) Forecast: If this sells, which it should, it will be not for revealing any secrets about Jackie Kennedy but for Baldrige's own admirable life.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Many know that Baldrige was Jackie Kennedy's White House social secretary and that she is the author of numerous etiquette and style books (e.g., Letitia Baldrige's Complete Guide to the New Manners for the 90's, 1990). What may not be so widely known is how she obtained the credentials to qualify for the White House position and become known as the late 20th century's etiquette expert. When she was fresh from a graduate program in international relations in Geneva, Baldrige served as the social secretary to ambassador and Mrs. David Bruce in Paris from 1948 to 1951 and then to the indomitable Clare Boothe Luce, ambassador to Italy, from 1953 to 1956. In this memoir, Baldrige tells in humorous and self-deprecating style about her service in those high-powered households. She fondly recalls memories of her White House years and the Kennedy family and relates many details of her subsequent career in public relations and publishing. Mainly an entertaining memoir with little discussion of international affairs, this book will appeal to library patrons who know Baldridge from her etiquette and amusing books. She is detailed but not bitter when describing the real lack of opportunity for women with her credentials. Recommended for public libraries. Jill Ortner, SUNY at Buffalo Libs.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (October 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142001597
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142001592
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,282,580 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Tish Baldridge has led an interesting and amazing life. She wasn't blessed with great wealth or beauty yet she managed to live and work on the upper echelons of American political and social society in the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's, and onward.
Baldridge takes you through her beginnings in the midwest, her education at Miss Porter's and Vassar as one of the less financially advantaged students, her life in Paris and Rome working for such trend setters as Clare Booth Luce, her days at Tiffany, her years in the White House with Jackie Kennedy, and her life after.
Here's what is great about this book and her story: her life didn't begin and it didn't end with her association with Jackie Kennedy. Camelot fans will get great glimpses into those years from her vantage point. But there is a lot more to this book...
I would highly recommend this book to women who love biographies on the Jackie Kennedy, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn set. I also would recommend this book to women who enjoy the story of a self-made woman and a survivor and anyone interested in the social history of this era. I would not recommend this book to most men and I would caution all readers to note that this is a book filled with details of food, flowers, gowns, and jewels and not policy making or congressional bills. You learn about the parties that Jackie Kennedy went to in the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis not about the policy nuances behind the crisis.
I gave this book as a present to several female friends and they loved it.
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By A Customer on January 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Yes, this book is a rehash of Diamonds and Diplomats but with one huge difference. In D&D Ms. Baldridge was not entirely frank. Since many of the people she wrote about in that book were still alive she had to sugar coat the truth considerably. Now, with Lady First she is free to set the record straight.

She explains fully for the first time why she really left the White House and although she clearly adored Clare Booth Luce she's now free to show that working for her was no picnic.
Also, we get a superior picture of the author herself. Bold or pushy, if you prefer she charted her own course and made her own dreams come true whether it was to get herself to Paris or into the CIA or to be the first American female tourist in Yugoslavia after WWII.
If you think of Leticia Baldrige as just being the etiquette lady or you only remember her from her White House stint then this book will will show you an entirely different side.
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Format: Hardcover
Some might say that _A Lady, First_ is a rehash of Ms. Baldrige's book, _Of Diamonds and Diplomats_. However, the author has reflected on her life then and has written this book for twenty-first century readers. The stories are familiar, but they have been expanded to include so much that is of historical significance and that makes it worth reading.
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Format: Hardcover
Just when you think there can't be anything new or insightful written about Jackie Kennedy, along comes this book. The book is also about Clare Boothe Luce and Baldrige herself.
My favorite parts were when Baldrige revealed her failures and how she overcame what she and her generation considered her drawbacks and failures. Baldrige is an inspiration. I wish I had read this 30 years ago. I would never have wasted so much time regretting not looking like the straight-haired, model-thin girls of my generation. She inspires me now.
Excerpts from this book should be required reading for high-school girls. Every time I've been told no, I took it as final, door closed, you failed ... After reading this book, it is obvious that there is a better way to view and handle life's setbacks and rejections.
And this book is a very good read about Jackie Kennedy and Clare Boothe Luce.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book somewhat shattered my perception of Baldridge as a high-society snob. She came from a relatively modest background, albeit still more privileged than most since her father was in Congress. Indeed it was her family's connections that gained her entrée into elite schools and social circles which set the stage for her positions at European embassies. She was a single career woman in an era when that was rare. She was plucky and resourceful in doing whatever she needed to do in order to be where she wanted to be, whether taking a crash course in shorthand or Italian, or dealing with postwar deprivations in Europe. She assuaged egos that would have defeated a lesser person. Anyone who thinks working in the diplomatic corps is all glamour and parties needs to read this book (although there is apparently plenty of that too).

I especially enjoyed her recollection of her time as Tiffany's first PR director and how her creative promotional concepts would go haywire in various ways but somehow always bring in customers. Anyone who has ever had an insufferable, egomaniacal boss will appreciate this part.

Baldridge always came across as a Kennedy sycophant, so I was surprised to read her frank and often less-than-flattering portrayal of Jackie as an employer. Without spelling it out, she makes it clear that her White House years were the most miserable and thankless and she hated working for Jackie, who seemed oblivious to her discontent as well as most things outside of herself. There is an hilarious account of Jackie's notorious materialism on a state visit to Mexico. It's telling that there is no mention of a friendship with Jackie after the White House years; no dinners at the Fifth Ave. apartment, no trips to Greece or Martha's Vineyard.
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