Carl Sferrazza Anthony: Nellie Taft The Unconventional First Lady of the Ragtime Era

Helen Herron Nellie Taft was considered unconventional She drank alcohol smoked cigarette and gambled and insisted on participating in her husband s political affairs She was the first of the First Ladies to drive an automobile while first lady The car was a Pierce ArrowAccording to Anthony Nellie Taft was th This was one of my favorite First Lady biographies so far since I have been reading through them chronologically and blogging about each one at Remember the Ladies Carl Anthony s books are always the best at placing the lady in the context of her time and showing either her uniue ualities stand out compared to the other ladies around her or how her thinking and actions blended into the culture of the dayThank ou Carl for all our time and research that went into Nellie TaftI admired Nellie Taft for her willingness to step out and give herself something productive and worthwhile to do not just before she was married when she decided to teach for pay but also after she was married when she created the Cincinnati Symphony and in the Philippines when she welcomed and visited the native cultures I was also fascinated to read about the Taft s perspective on TR since I had just read TR s perspective on the Taft s I wouldn t have normally chosen to read a book such as this but I had a hard time finding a biography of William Taft that looked good to me I am reading through all of the presidents The story of a very head strong determined bossy woman does not appeal to me in the least but I still did find this book interesting to read and a good peek into early 1900s life in America What an interesting time period it was There were a lot of changes going on in the world at that time I was especially saddened to read about Nellie s dominance over her husband the worst of it being her pushing him into the presidency when all he d ever dreamed of was being Supreme Court Chief Justice At an early age she determined that she would marry a future president and she made sure that it came true with all of her strength and unstoppable determination It was also scary to find out how much control she had over Taft during the presidency in some ways America has already had a woman president Ironically however Nellie did suffer a stroke during the presidency and was incapacitated for months I was satisfied to learn that Taft did eventually reach his dream of being Supreme Court Justice what a moment for him after serving as president By this time Nellie had relinuished uite a bit of control over him and this was probably the best time of his life doing what he had always dreamed of doing exactly what suited his nature and personality Nellie was an extremely irritating person to read about headstrong opinionated unemotional harsh driven detached bossy somewhat of a whiner unimaginative and completely dominating She did however soften with age and I felt a touch of liking for her in reading about her latter days Overall this book is decently written and includes lots of interesting facts Like I said I normally wouldn t have chosen reading material like this but don t regret that I read it On the morning of William Howard Taft's inauguration Nellie Taft publicly expressed that theirs would be a joint presidency by shattering precedent and demanding that she ride alongside her husband down Pennsylvania Avenue a tradition previously held for the outgoing president In an era before Eleanor Roosevelt this progressive Firs.

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T is always interesting to learn about the lives that have gone before us to learn from their mistakes and gain encouragement from their successes and accomplishments I guess by now it is well known that Doris Kerns Goodwin has a new book coming out November 5 2013 about Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft called THE BULLY PULPIT I have it on order and expect like all of Kern s books it will be excellent In anticipation I remembered that I had in my library a copy of Carl Anthony s biography of Taft s wife Nellie Taft I had bought it some time ago because I had really enjoyed Anthony s book FLORENCE HARDING THE FIRST LADY THE JAZZ AGE AND THE DEAL OF AMERICA S MOST SCANDALOUS PRESIDENT 5 stars If ou have not read this prior book The Poems of Aemilia Lanyer (Women Writers in English 1350-1850) you will find it a most ent Carl Sferrazza Anthony takes a difficult subject and parses it out so that even if it isn t fascinatingou re at least able to follow the trajectory Helen Herron called Nellie all her life made the decision as a Selected Short Stories young woman that she would marry a man who would become President of the United States It made no difference that the man who fell in love with her and whom she apparently loved had as his life s dream to be on the US Supreme Court She actively campaigned against him accepting appointments to any courts pouted when he did serve and pushed for him to be President even though he didn t much want the job and didn t care for the work once he got it When he was not re elected in 1912 and finally blissfully joined the US Supreme Court as Chief Justice he did marvelous work and was very very happy but by then his bestears healthwise were behind him Nellie apparently loved her husband very much they missed each other terribly when they had to be apart if their letters to one another are anything to go by and she took care of him when he was ill Her children loved her and she was remarkably progressive insisting that there be no color or religious barriers in her service an incredibly unbigoted woman for her time She took great joy in having a tipple a smoke and a card game when none of those things was an acceptable habit for a lady She was also behind those gorgeous cherry trees that everyone loves in DC But she was terribly class conscious held grudges for a ridiculous length of time and then of course there s the determination that her husband should not fulfill his dreams but hers I honestly don t know what to make of Nellie Taft The admiration I have for her progressive behavior and interest in the world is somewhat over balanced by my dislike of her pushing her own goals over those of others She s an interesting woman though not a very likeable one What a remarkable woman Nellie Taft was Living in a time when women had almost no opportunity to set their own course Mrs Taft was a strong partner in her relationship with her husband She said when she was a oung girl that she wanted to marry a president and live in the White House and that she did But what a ride to get there taking her through the Philippines and around the world She set many precedents for a First Lady including being the first First Lad. T Lady was an advocate for higher education and partial suffrage for women and initiated legislation to improve working conditions for federal employees She smoked drank and gambled without regard to societal judgment and she freely broke racial and class boundariesDrawing from previously unpublished diaries a lifetime of love lette.

Y to ride back from the inauguration with her husband the president And she loved her beer While very open to diverse groups of people she was also very elitist Honestly there is so much I want to write about Nellie Taft but Mr Anthony does such a tremendous job I won t steal his thunder Read this book if for no other reason than to see the expression on people s faces when ou tell them ou are reading a book on Nellie Taft Thoughts soon I read The Bully Pulpit earlier this spring and wanted to follow up on its cast of characters Nellie Taft is presented as a modern woman at the turn of the 20th century Her one ambition is to marry a man who would be president and she achieves it at a fairly oung age Manipulative Open City yes but her manipulations make for an intriguing read The one issue I don t grasp fully is that if Taft truly desired to be Supreme Court Chief Justice how did he allow his wife to get the better of him His 4ears in the White House can be described as depressing as he longed for the bench the entire time Could it have been that had her husband assumed the bench earlier in life that Nellie would have been free from the stresses that led to her stroke Then she would have been free to enjoy her travels and activities at an earlier age All just speculation of course Most of us do not achieve our life s ambition and Nellie Taft did and made Where do I startThis book really got under my skin I actually had to put it down and read something else for a bitI felt the author picked a few themes namely Nellie s obsession with marrying a President Nellie enjoying beer and playing cards Nellie s dislike for Theodore Roosevelt He then built his entire book around these themes using letters and statements to back it up Sure he mentioned Nellie s accomplishm This is one of the few non fiction books that I read this ear At just over 400 pages it was a lengthy read for me packed with information However I believe that the author did an excellent job of arranging the narrative of this book and so even though it was full of information the book also had a sense of drama that compelled one s interest Ever since I was a little girl I have been interested in Presidential figures and keenly remember reading about them with some mentions of their First Ladies Idle gleanings of Wiki articles filled in the information gap a little but after reading this book I can truly say that I ve gone from knowing next to nothing about Mrs Taft to now knowing much about her than any other First Lady Coming into the book my expectations were speculative as to how much I would enjoy learning about this person I found her spunky and though she seemed to have been a sensitive person who did not easily forget being slighted by others as well as exhibiting classist behavior from time to time her immense love for music unflagging endurance and striving ambition demanded my respect All in all I very much enjoyed reading this book A large portion of it also details her close relationship with President Taft and gives a further degree of familiarity with his personality during various stages of their lives. Rs between Will and Nellie and detailed family correspondence and recollections critically acclaimed presidential family historian Carl Sferrazza Anthony develops a riveting portrait of Nellie Taft as one of the strongest links in the series of women from Abigail Adams to Hillary Rodham Clinton often critically declared copresidents.