Lady First: The World of First Lady Sarah Polk (Review)

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Center for Judaic Studies


Sarah Childress Polk, First Lady, Jewish history


Lady First examines the life of Sarah Childress Polk, an often-overlooked yet powerful political player who became the First Lady of the United States when her husband, James K. Polk, became the nation's eleventh president in 1845. Born to a well-to-do Tennessee slaveholding family, Sarah was uncommonly well-educated for a woman of her era. Her early political instincts were honed with her marriage to the rising politician, who served as a congressman and then as governor of Tennessee. According to the historian Amy S. Greenberg, the Polks, who never had any children, “were above all else a team of two, in politics as in life” (p. 113). Certainly, American politics had long been a family affair, starting with the Adamses and the Madisons.

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