As we are all too aware of in 2018, there has never been a female president of the United States. So, it's not exactly surprising that the first people we think of when we think of The White House aren't necessarily women. And when it comes to your classic Washington memoirs, you're far more likely to see a gray-haired white man on the cover than anyone else. But, if you look hard enough, women have their fingerprints all over the surfaces of our country's highest office. There are, of course, the First and Second Ladies, but there too are Secretaries of State, Chiefs of Staff, Top Advisors, Cabinet Members, Photographers, Stenographers, Speech Writers, White House Staff, Assistants, First Daughters and so many more.
These White House women are all part of the backbones of their administrations in one way or another, in many ways hugely influential figures of their own. Below are 11 memoirs by women that take a different look at The White House and Washington, sharing stories from positions both behind-the-scenes and decidedly center stage. While some helped shape policy, and others just helped the White House circus run smoothly from act to act, these women have all made an undeniable stamp on history.
'From The Corner Of The Oval' by Beck Dorey-Stein
In 2012, Beck Dorey-Stein was just scraping by in DC when she answered a Craigslist post that landed her in the Oval Office as one of Barack Obama's stenographers. The ultimate DC outsider, she joined the elite team on whirlwind trips across time zones, leaving her real life behind to hop aboard Air Force One in service of the president. But as she learned the ropes of protocol, Beck became romantically entangled with a consummate DC insider, and suddenly, the political became all too personal.
'No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington' by Condoleezza Rice
This book is Former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's story of eight years serving at the highest levels of government. It follows her as she travels almost continuously around the globe — all while she deals with the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks at home.
'Jackie's Girl: My Life With The Kennedy Family' by Kathy McKeon
In 1964, Kathy McKeon was just 20 years old and newly arrived from Ireland when she was hired as former first lady Jackie Kennedy’s personal assistant. The next 13 years of her life were spent in her service, during which she had a front-row seat to some of the 20th century’s most significant events.
'Hard Choices' by Hillary Rodham Clinton
In the aftermath of her 2008 presidential run, Hillary Clinton expected to return to representing New York in the United States Senate. To her surprise, newly elected President Barack Obama asked her to serve in his administration as Secretary of State. Hard Choices is the story of the four extraordinary and historic years that followed, and the hard choices that Clinton and her colleagues confronted during that time.
'Who Thought This Was A Good Idea?' by Alyssa Mastromonaco
Alyssa Mastromonaco worked for Barack Obama for almost a decade, from the then-senator's early days in Congress to his years in the Oval Office. But for every historic occasion there were dozens of less-than-perfect moments when it was up to her to save the day. This is her intimate portrait of a president, and the story of how she challenged, again and again, what a "White House official" is supposed to look like.
'Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life' by Jenna Bush Hager & Barbara Pierce Bush
Born into a political dynasty, Jenna and Barbara Bush grew up in the public eye. As small children, they watched their grandfather become president; just 12 years later they stood by their father's side when he took the same oath. They spent their college years being trailed by the Secret Service and chased by the paparazzi, with every teenage mistake making national headlines. But the tabloids didn't tell the whole story.
'Madam Secretary: A Memoir' by Madeleine K. Albright
The first woman to hold the position of Secretary of State, for eight years, during Bill Clinton's two presidential terms, Albright was a high-level participant in some of the most dramatic events of the time. In her memoir, she reflects on her remarkable personal story, from her upbringing in war-torn Europe to her historic role in the White House.
'What I Saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era' by Peggy Noonan
Peggy Noonan was a special assistant to President Ronald Reagan from 1984 to 1986 and in 1988, she was appointed chief speechwriter to Vice President George Bush. Her memoir shows us the world behind the words, detailing what it was like to be speechwriter among bureaucrats and a woman in a place dominated by male power.
'Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World' by Jennifer Palmieri
Framed as an empowering letter from former Hillary Clinton Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri to the first woman president, and by extension, to all women working to succeed in any field, Dear Madam President is a memoir meets advice book filled with forward-thinking, practical advice for all women who are determined to seize control of their lives — all based on Palmieri's own time working with one of the world's most influential women.
'Not for the Faint of Heart: Lessons in Courage, Power, and Persistence' by Wendy R Sherman (Sept. 4)
In Not for the Faint of Heart, Ambassador Wendy Sherman shares stories of her time in the State Department negotiating the most sensitive issues of our time, bringing readers insider the world of international diplomacy and into the mind of one of our most effective diplomatic negotiators. Sherman also shares personal stories that show how our private experiences affect our professional lives, offering advice for forging common ground, and understanding the nature and use of power to help us reach our own goals. It's not quite a White House memoir, but very much worth reading, nonetheless.
'Becoming' by Michelle Obama (Nov. 13)
In Becoming, Michelle Obama chronicles the experiences that have shaped her —from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. This one isn't out yet — but you need to add it to your TBR for the fall.