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March 2001

March 2001
The Business
First ladies' memoirs throughout history.

By Kaja Perina

Last year, Hillary Rodham Clinton scored $8 million for her memoir, but she's not the only president's wife to pen her story. Louisa Catherine (Mrs. John Quincy) Adams titled her personal papers from the 1820s "Adventures of a Nobody," but they were never intended for publication. Other first ladies have been more public; below are some volumes from this long tradition.

Julia Dent Grant Personal Memoirs, published in 1975 Mrs. Grant shopped her book at the turn of the 20th century, but she was asking for $100,000, a sum deemed too high. The book was finally published in 1975.
Helen Herron Taft Recollections of Full Years, 1914 Mrs. Taft's autobiography, the first to be published during a first lady's lifetime, was largely apolitical, but she did lightly criticize her husband's predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt.
Edith Bolling Wilson My Memoir, 1938 Mrs. Wilson earned $40,000 for serialized installments in The Saturday Evening Post.
Eleanor Roosevelt This I Remember, 1938 She didn't discuss FDR's infidelity or illness, and Mrs. Roosevelt received no advance. She did earn a 15 percent royalty, though, and sold serialization rights to McCall's for $150,000.
Lady Bird Johnson A White House Diary, 1970 Mrs. Johnson treated her White House years in detail. She received an undisclosed advance for the book, which was based on daily tape-recorded notes.
Betty Ford The Times of My Life, 1978 Mrs. Ford detailed her battle with breast cancer and her treatment for alcoholism and drug addiction. She and President Ford, who published his own memoir the following year, were jointly paid $1 million.
Rosalynn Carter First Lady from Plains, 1984 Mrs. Carter earned an advance of less than $500,000, but she did go on to write a number of best-sellers about spirituality and mental health.
Nancy Reagan My Turn, 1989 Mrs. Reagan earned $2 million for perhaps the most politically revelatory (albeit inadvertently) memoir, as America learned that an astrologer had affected some of President Reagan's decision-making.
Barbara Bush A Memoir, 1994 Mrs. Bush also received $2 million for her book, which, although written in the form of diary entries, didn't shed much light on her notoriously guarded opinions.



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