The Mysterious Mrs. Nixon: The Life and Times of Washington’s Most Private First Lady

St. Martin’s. Aug. 2024. 416p. ISBN 9781250274342. $32. BIOG
Award-winning historian/biographer/curator Lee (The League of Wives: The Untold Story of the Women Who Took on the U.S. Government To Bring Their Husbands Home) offers an eye-opening view of Pat Nixon. Readers may have thought she consistently stood by her husband, former president Richard Nixon, through numerous campaigns, their years in the White House, and throughout Watergate. But Lee portrays her as an independent woman, born in 1912 in Ely, NV, a mining town, where her family experienced hardships during the Great Depression. They eventually left mining behind and moved to a small truck farm in California, near Los Angeles. Her mother died when she was 13; her father passed away when she was 18. This well-written book provides many fascinating details about her efforts to be independent and take care of herself; she worked as a teacher and paid for her college tuition. Later, she quietly supported women’s right to choose, pushed for more women to fill high-ranking government positions, and expressed that she hoped to see a woman on the U.S. Supreme Court. The book does not give any insight into what Pat Nixon thought of her husband’s actions.
VERDICT An enjoyable, detailed biography about a first lady perceived to be highly mysterious and private.
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