“First Ladies”, on Histoire TV: the female face of the White House

TV STORY – SUNDAY, DECEMBER 12 AT 8.50 P.M. – DOCUMENTARY SERIES

It’s hard for a series on America’s first ladies not to start with Michelle Obama. In the line of the president’s wives, the former jurist occupies a monumental place: she was the first descendant of slaves to enter, in 2008, the White House, not to ensure the maintenance, but for the take charge of the place.

Also read: Article reserved for our subscribers “Becoming”, by Michelle Obama, an obstacle course

So much for the marble statue. In terms of political influence, the collection of six portraits (of the forty-seven First Ladies who held the post – from Martha Washington to Melania Trump) offered by Histoire TV every Sunday through December 26, is mixed. . With a question: what is the real weight that the wife of the President of the United States can have on the progress of his mandate (s)?

A curse is attached across the Atlantic to first ladies, suspected of always being too ambitious, expensive, “scheming” …

Combining interviews, testimonies and archive images, directors Liz Mermin, Kim Duke and Katharine English highlight some of those who have had a political or societal influence, grouped two by two, as if in resonance. Without hiding the curse that attaches across the Atlantic to the first ladies, suspected of always being too ambitious, expensive, “scheming” …

Sunday, December 12, Michelle Obama and Nancy Reagan – her famous gaze of wonder when she looks at her husband, Ronald – open the series. Sunday 19 will be associated Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Two “powerful” women. “Vote Clinton, you’ll get two for the price of one!” “, launches Bill Clinton in the middle of the campaign for his election in 1992. His wife, Hillary, will be the only First Lady to run for the White House, defeated by Donald Trump in 2016.

A true pioneer

But it is Eleanor Roosevelt who appears, ultimately, as the real pioneer. From March 1933 to April 1945, she will play a leading role in the progressive orientation of the presidency of her husband, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (“FDR”). This, in the midst of war and global economic upheaval. “The greatest political partnership in American history”, says a commentator.

Feminist, anti-racist, anti-fascist, columnist at Women’s Democratic News, she holds the first press conference that a First Lady had ever allowed herself. FBI Chief Edgar Hoover has a 3,500-page dossier on her! And the Klu Klux Klan is priced at $ 25,000 for its head. “FDR”, handicapped by polio, sends him on tour in the country to “sell” his New Deal, his plan against the Great Depression. He knows she loves – and knows – how to talk to Americans. She receives tens of thousands of letters per month.

Eleanor Roosevelt loves – and knows – how to talk to Americans. She receives tens of thousands of letters per month

A painful shadow to her political engagement, she discovered, even before arriving at the White House, that her husband was having an affair with the secretary she herself hired, Lucy Mercer. For her part, she bonded intimately with one of the rare female star journalists of the time, Lorena Hickok.

The first major political figure to use the radio, she wrote her weekly column on December 7, 1941, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. On the evening of this historic day, the voice of Eleanor Roosevelt was the first to be heard by Americans. An unprecedented event for a First Lady.

First Ladies, documentary series produced by Liz Mermin, Kim Duke and Katharine English (EU, 2020, 6 x 52 min). Aired from December 12 to 26 on TV story.

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“First Ladies”, on Histoire TV: the female face of the White House

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