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Nov 14, 2023 Washington, D.C. —
The White House stands as a living symbol of the nation’s power and prestige. As the home and office of the Chief Executive, it is the keystone to government. But the fascination the White House holds for most Americans is in its association with the presidents and their families. Like countless American homes, the White House is a place where marriages have been celebrated, children have been born and raised, and family dinners have been shared. Unlike other American homes, the life lived at the White House unfolds in the shadow of the serious business of the presidency, as the world looks on.
Life in the White House (White House Historical Association; November 14, 2023), is the story of the ongoing history of life as lived in the Executive Mansion. Inspired by First Lady Lady Bird Johnson and first released in 1966 as The Living White House, Life in the White House is the fifteenth edition of the book, updated and expanded to include the Joe Biden White House and opening with a letter from First Lady Jill Biden.
Written by former White House Curator Betty C. Monkman who served in the Office of the Curator during seven presidencies and was herself a witness to four decades of White House life, Life in the White House is heavily illustrated with historical images and photographs from the presidencies of George Washington through Joe Biden.
The book begins with the chapters on how the presidents have used the house as both a home and an office and continues with a section on “Where Hospitality Makes History,” which includes the history of State Dinners and such beloved holiday traditions as the presidential turkey pardoning, official Christmas trees, and the annual Easter Egg Roll.
A section on the “First Family at Home” sheds light on how the first ladies have used the national stage and made the house into a family home. The joy of White House weddings and the tragedy of White House funerals further reveal that the story is a human one.
Another section on “The President’s Park,” tells the story of the Rose Garden; the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden: the greenhouses; the Children’s and Kitchen Gardens; and the Commemorative Trees; as well as the garden as a setting for presidents pursuing their favorite sports. The chapter titled “A House for the Ages” focuses on the household staff and how they make the house function. There are also chapters on improving the White House through the introduction of plumbing, electricity, and computers as well as the large-scale renovations of the Truman era, which gives readers a sense of how the house is maintained and preserved.
The story of life lived in the White House is an ambitious subject for a single book as life has been lived in the White House for more than two hundred years. Since John and Abigail Adams became its first residents, more than forty presidents and their families have lived in the very public building, where hundreds of official events are held each year and thousands of guests and visitors walk through its public rooms and grounds. Life in the White House beautifully captures the big picture, focusing on the extraordinary subject of life in the house built for the ages.
Life at the White House can be purchased from shop.whitehousehistory.org for $22.95.
Betty C. Monkman served more than thirty years in the Office of the Curator, the White House, retiring as chief curator in 2002. She is the author of The White House: Its Historic Furnishings and First Families (2000, 2014), Furnishing the White House: The Decorative Arts Collection (2023), The Living White House (2007, 2013, 2017), and was managing editor of the 23rd edition of The White House: An Historic Guide.
About the White House Historical Association
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy envisioned a restored White House that conveyed a sense of history through its decorative and fine arts. She sought to inspire Americans, especially children, to explore and engage with American history and its presidents. In 1961, the nonprofit, nonpartisan White House Historical Association was established to support her vision to preserve and share the Executive Mansion’s legacy for generations to come. Supported entirely by private resources, the Association’s mission is to assist in the preservation of the state and public rooms, fund acquisitions for the White House permanent collection, and educate the public on the history of the White House. Since its founding, the Association has given more than $115 million to the White House in fulfillment of its mission.
To learn more about the White House Historical Association, please visit WhiteHouseHistory.org.