For most first ladies, their years in the White House are their sole claim to fame. For one-Hillary Rodham Clinton-that tenure was just another step in a remarkable political career. Neither a “hit job” nor a facile tribute, Gil Troy’s lively and refreshingly nonsensational new book provides a revealing look at arguably the most polarizing First Lady in history and undoubtedly the most prominent American woman of our time.
Troy, named by History News Network one of America’s Top 15 Young Historians, measures Clinton’s historical footprint, tracing her activities during the turbulent decade that brought her to national prominence and examining her influence as a key player in her husband’s administration. Covering her attempts to overhaul health care and redefine the first lady as co-president while she tried to cope with her husband’s scandals and impeachment, he recounts how Hillary’s rocky road had a mixed impact on the office, even as her ambitions illuminated the role’s potential.
As the first feminist first lady, Hillary Clinton faced dilemmas typical of modern American women as she tried to be both a family-oriented, devoted wife and a career-focused, independent woman. Troy shows how she did her best to navigate this divide and breaks new ground in taking her seriously as a thinker. Delving into Hillary’s speeches and writings, he uncovers a surprisingly more moderate, even conservative worldview. In fact, he finds some of her positions—such as her outspoken views on abortion—to be authentic expressions of a genuine Puritan/Methodist centrism rather than a mere political ploy.
Offering a mix of praise and censure that elevates to a more sophisticated level debates about her controversial career and presidential aspirations, Troy’s book will enlighten and intrigue Hillary’s passionate critics and staunch defenders alike. It will renew discussions of where she stands in the continuum of modern first ladies—and of where history will ultimately take her. Many of the book’s key themes are effectively underscored by an entertainingly narrated photo essay, with provocative images drawn from the Clinton Presidential Library.