Lady First: The World of First Lady Sarah Polk by Amy S. Greenberg
While the Women’s Rights convention was taking place at Seneca Falls in 1848, First Lady Sarah Childress Polk was wielding influence unprecedented for a woman in Washington, D.C. Yet, while history remembers the women of the convention, it has all but forgotten Sarah Polk. Now, in her riveting biography, Amy S. Greenberg brings Sarah’s story into vivid focus. We see Sarah as the daughter of a frontiersman who raised her to discuss politics and business with men; we see the savvy and charm she brandished in order to help her brilliant but unlikeable husband, James K. Polk, ascend to the White House. We watch as she exercises truly extraordinary power as First Lady: quietly manipulating elected officials, shaping foreign policy, and directing a campaign in support of America’s expansionist war against Mexico. And we meet many of the enslaved men and women whose difficult labor made Sarah’s political success possible.
Sarah Polk’s life spanned nearly the entirety of the nineteenth-century. But her own legacy, which profoundly transformed the South, continues to endure. Comprehensive, nuanced, and brimming with invaluable insight, Lady First is a revelation of our twelfth First Lady’s complex but essential part in American feminism.