Author and journalist Kate Andersen Brower presented a lecture on her New York Times bestselling books “The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House” and “First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies” at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library on April 5, 2017.
Brower spent four years covering the Obama White House for Bloomberg News and is a former CBS News staffer and Fox News producer. She has written for the New York Times, Vanity Fair, the Washington Post, and Bloomberg Businessweek.
She noted that “The Residence” is a result of a lunch assignment in the White House for Bloomberg News where she noticed Michelle Obama calling the butler by his first name, which led to Brower’s interest in learning more about the lives of the people surrounding the President.
She worked on both “The Residence” and “First Women” at the same time noting most White House residence staff stories were intertwined with various First Ladies decisions from food to eat during the week to official state dinner seating charts.
Brower explained that the White House residence staff comprises various roles including ushers, painters, butlers, maids, and butlers that can, in some cases, span 30 to 40 years. Brower highlighted how the personal relationships between the White House staff and the various First Families transcend politics.
In her discussion, Brower shared several anecdotal stories from the staff from the Ford through Obama administrations, including the relaxed attitude of Gerald and Betty Ford by allowing daughter Susan Ford to roller skate in the White House, Betty Ford teasing the staff by placing a cigarette in a flower vase of two angels holding hands to test whether staff had cleaned the room, door man Preston Bruce comforting Jacqueline Kennedy after her husband’s autopsy report, and White House houseman Lindsey Little playing games with H.W. Bush and son Marvin.
Brower also shared various First Lady photos with commentary, such as Betty Ford standing on the Cabinet table on the last day in the White House, Barbara Bush taking interest in staff working in the White House flower shop, the First Ladies on John F. Kennedy’s Inauguration Day, Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter sitting together at a weekly working lunch, Rosalynn Carter, Betty Ford and Lady Bird Johnson in rocking chairs at the Johnson home in Texas.