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A Lady, First: My Life in the Kennedy White House and the American Embassies of Paris and Rome

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Letitia Baldrige is the woman best known as Jackie Kennedy's social secretary during the White House years. But in this fascinating memoir Baldrige reveals a career sparkling with a host of other achievements: embassy work in an era when women rarely were given jobs overseas, becoming the first female executive at Tiffany & Co., and founding one of the first companies run Letitia Baldrige is the woman best known as Jackie Kennedy's social secretary during the White House years. But in this fascinating memoir Baldrige reveals a career sparkling with a host of other achievements: embassy work in an era when women rarely were given jobs overseas, becoming the first female executive at Tiffany & Co., and founding one of the first companies run by a female CEO. In her amazing life story Baldrige shares her perspective as a White House insider: the hilarity of young Jackie's antics on foreign diplomatic visits, the terror of the Cuban missile crisis, and the heartbreak of President Kennedy's funeral. Stylish, chic and always polite, Baldrige reveals the determination that has made her a success and brought her the admiration of women around the world.


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Letitia Baldrige is the woman best known as Jackie Kennedy's social secretary during the White House years. But in this fascinating memoir Baldrige reveals a career sparkling with a host of other achievements: embassy work in an era when women rarely were given jobs overseas, becoming the first female executive at Tiffany & Co., and founding one of the first companies run Letitia Baldrige is the woman best known as Jackie Kennedy's social secretary during the White House years. But in this fascinating memoir Baldrige reveals a career sparkling with a host of other achievements: embassy work in an era when women rarely were given jobs overseas, becoming the first female executive at Tiffany & Co., and founding one of the first companies run by a female CEO. In her amazing life story Baldrige shares her perspective as a White House insider: the hilarity of young Jackie's antics on foreign diplomatic visits, the terror of the Cuban missile crisis, and the heartbreak of President Kennedy's funeral. Stylish, chic and always polite, Baldrige reveals the determination that has made her a success and brought her the admiration of women around the world.

30 review for A Lady, First: My Life in the Kennedy White House and the American Embassies of Paris and Rome

  1. 5 out of 5

    Adrianna

    Very empowering book for women in a time they weren't allowed to be empowered. Baldridge shared enough of herself to satiate anyones peeked interest in the Kennedy affairs, and politics, while still remaining lady like in the sense of not divulging too many of her former employers secrets. However, the title leads you to believe the book centers around the White House. That is but a minor role in her life, spending far more time on her work abroad and in NYC. I would definitely recommend. Very empowering book for women in a time they weren't allowed to be empowered. Baldridge shared enough of herself to satiate anyones peeked interest in the Kennedy affairs, and politics, while still remaining lady like in the sense of not divulging too many of her former employers secrets. However, the title leads you to believe the book centers around the White House. That is but a minor role in her life, spending far more time on her work abroad and in NYC. I would definitely recommend.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    the chapters devoted to the kennedy years were pretty interesting. the rest was a little self-absorbed for me.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Daye

    Her autobiography, "A lady, first", was very inspiring for me because she lived a life that I dream of. Her autobiography, "A lady, first", was very inspiring for me because she lived a life that I dream of.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jared

    Tonya recommended this to me and I really enjoyed this. It's really more about Baldridge's entire professional career. As an assistant in two embassies, and then Jackie Kennedy's assistant, she really had her hands full scheduling appointments, creating guest lists for the dinners, seating assignments at the dinners and so on. I thought it was interesting that she made so many mistakes (and some were really huge) yet she always recovered. I also enjoyed reading about her time working for Tiffany Tonya recommended this to me and I really enjoyed this. It's really more about Baldridge's entire professional career. As an assistant in two embassies, and then Jackie Kennedy's assistant, she really had her hands full scheduling appointments, creating guest lists for the dinners, seating assignments at the dinners and so on. I thought it was interesting that she made so many mistakes (and some were really huge) yet she always recovered. I also enjoyed reading about her time working for Tiffany as well as her work in her own company. This is an eye-opener to a lifestyle that many of us will never experience.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I was expecting this to be mostly about Jackie Kennedy, but she was a very small part of this book. I was disappointed in that. Ms. Baldridge has had a very interesting life so as long as you realize it is a biography of her and not a book about Jackie Kennedy, then it is worth the read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Shaffer

    One of the all around best books I've encountered. It has history, world and cosmopolitan city descriptions, humor, and glamour and more history. A winner in my estimation. One of the all around best books I've encountered. It has history, world and cosmopolitan city descriptions, humor, and glamour and more history. A winner in my estimation.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Stefanie Robinson

    This is the personal account of Letitia Baldrige, who came from a modest background, but was able to attend some of the more elite schools. Her father was a Congressman, which opened up a lot of doors for her, as far as education and experiences. She was very social and well dressed, and attended many embassy functions in Europe. She had a really interesting collection of life experiences, but I was shocked to learn that working for Jackie Kennedy was the worst experience of her careers. She was This is the personal account of Letitia Baldrige, who came from a modest background, but was able to attend some of the more elite schools. Her father was a Congressman, which opened up a lot of doors for her, as far as education and experiences. She was very social and well dressed, and attended many embassy functions in Europe. She had a really interesting collection of life experiences, but I was shocked to learn that working for Jackie Kennedy was the worst experience of her careers. She was not impressed with Jackie as a boss and I was really surprised by some of the comments that she made in this book. It was a pretty good read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    This was a thoroughly enjoyable book, published in 2001 by Letitia Baldrige, best known for serving as Press Secretary to Jacqueline Kennedy during the Kennedy White House years. Prior to that, however, she had worked in the embassies in both Rome and Paris, then moved to NYC to work in public relations for Tiffany's. She had known Jacqueline Kennedy since before her marriage as both came from well-connected families and had many friends in common. (They both attended Miss Porter's School in Far This was a thoroughly enjoyable book, published in 2001 by Letitia Baldrige, best known for serving as Press Secretary to Jacqueline Kennedy during the Kennedy White House years. Prior to that, however, she had worked in the embassies in both Rome and Paris, then moved to NYC to work in public relations for Tiffany's. She had known Jacqueline Kennedy since before her marriage as both came from well-connected families and had many friends in common. (They both attended Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Connecticut; Ms. Baldrige was there on a full scholarship, the only such student there, and that was kept quiet so as not to adversely influence her relationships with her fellow students.) Letitia was 3 years ahead of Jacqueline at the prep/finishing school. Both also went to Vassar, although Jacqueline spent only 2 years there, then a year at the Sorbonne and her senior year at George Washington University. "Tish" tells fascinating stories about Clare Booth Luce, Ambassador to France, and her husband Henry Luce of Time magazine, while serving as an aide to the Ambassador in Paris. After leaving White House service, Letitia went on to work at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago (owned by the Kennedy family) and in more recent years, has become an authority on etiquette and entertaining, with many books to her credit on the subjects. She has a breezy style of writing which definitely holds one's interest. I highly recommend this book. **#67 of 100 books pledged to read/review in 2015**

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    I very much enjoyed reading this memoir. Baldrige seemed like she was a remarkable human being. Initially, I wanted to read this book because of her ties with Jacqueline Kennedy. However, the more I read the more I wanted to learn about Baldrige and her antics!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Vasilena

    Love this better, more filler version of Tish's autobiography. Gave a much clearer picture on her personal life and relationships, which I think the first book of the sorts (written in 1968) couldn't really do. You fill find some of the same anecdotes though! I appreciated her sharing the reasons for quitting her White House job, something that was left out (or was at least vaguely described) in her first book. Tish is an inspiration for me, especially when talking about the women's movement ("di Love this better, more filler version of Tish's autobiography. Gave a much clearer picture on her personal life and relationships, which I think the first book of the sorts (written in 1968) couldn't really do. You fill find some of the same anecdotes though! I appreciated her sharing the reasons for quitting her White House job, something that was left out (or was at least vaguely described) in her first book. Tish is an inspiration for me, especially when talking about the women's movement ("didn't need to move anything, I was too busy working") and the story of her lashing out a room full of executives at their country club (women were not allowed for cocktail hour!). Particularly inspired by the determination she exhibited when trying to land her State department job ("they were going to see my application so many times, they would get sick of it!"). And all while maintaining a supreme level of manners and dignity. Amazing.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Joseph J.

    From Claire Boothe Luce in the U.S. Embassy in Rome, to Jacqueline Kennedy in the Camelot White House. Throw in a stint at Tiffany's. and Letitia Baldridge lived quite a life. It is all told here with self deprecating humor an a manner honest, respectful and never tabloid sensational. This was a time of class, and though inhabiting the highest levels, see Letitia scraping dessert off of the floor, or forgetting when the doorbell rings that she invited a couple to Sunday supper. From Claire Boothe Luce in the U.S. Embassy in Rome, to Jacqueline Kennedy in the Camelot White House. Throw in a stint at Tiffany's. and Letitia Baldridge lived quite a life. It is all told here with self deprecating humor an a manner honest, respectful and never tabloid sensational. This was a time of class, and though inhabiting the highest levels, see Letitia scraping dessert off of the floor, or forgetting when the doorbell rings that she invited a couple to Sunday supper.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jordyne

    Really nice read. Baldridge is an engaging story teller with non-fussy prose. It's interesting to see how the world has changed in her lifetime-- diplomats were pivotal and now not really necessary (State Dept staff can get in touch directly, wars can be started over an email), and the profession of PR started and became irrelevant in her lifetime. Still, the career lessons and good behavior she espouses are timeless. Really nice read. Baldridge is an engaging story teller with non-fussy prose. It's interesting to see how the world has changed in her lifetime-- diplomats were pivotal and now not really necessary (State Dept staff can get in touch directly, wars can be started over an email), and the profession of PR started and became irrelevant in her lifetime. Still, the career lessons and good behavior she espouses are timeless.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Meg

    This memoir reads as fantastic travel writing mixed with romance and business savvy. As a public relations practitioner, I was drawn to Baldrige's success stories as a female PR professional when the industry was first becoming mainstream. I found her stories about working in the Kennedy White House engaging, but felt the plot moved along more quickly in the beginning parts of the book when Baldrige moved to Europe and then back to the states to work at Tiffany's. This memoir reads as fantastic travel writing mixed with romance and business savvy. As a public relations practitioner, I was drawn to Baldrige's success stories as a female PR professional when the industry was first becoming mainstream. I found her stories about working in the Kennedy White House engaging, but felt the plot moved along more quickly in the beginning parts of the book when Baldrige moved to Europe and then back to the states to work at Tiffany's.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Noreen

    I picked this up to gain insight into the Kennedy years but it wasn't until half way through the book before she got to that wonderful era of Camelot. That section was all together too short, so in that sense it was disappointing. But never the less, this was a very interesting recount of how the other half lives. By the end I got the impression the author's hubris got in the way a tad bit. I picked this up to gain insight into the Kennedy years but it wasn't until half way through the book before she got to that wonderful era of Camelot. That section was all together too short, so in that sense it was disappointing. But never the less, this was a very interesting recount of how the other half lives. By the end I got the impression the author's hubris got in the way a tad bit.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

    I honestly just couldn't get into this book. I love reading stuff on Jackie O and thought why not, she was her best friend but no matter what I did, I just couldnt keep reading it. Gonna try again in a few months. I honestly just couldn't get into this book. I love reading stuff on Jackie O and thought why not, she was her best friend but no matter what I did, I just couldnt keep reading it. Gonna try again in a few months.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Katie Clark

    It's amazing how much she accomplished as a woman, without seeing herself as a feminist. She worked hard and paved the way for other women. Overall it was an enjoyable book but at times it dragged and there was quite a bit of name dropping. It's amazing how much she accomplished as a woman, without seeing herself as a feminist. She worked hard and paved the way for other women. Overall it was an enjoyable book but at times it dragged and there was quite a bit of name dropping.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Helene

    a summary of a life that shows the secret to success is to have a family with lots of connections. Yes, some hard work may be required but it's easier after the connections produced the opportunity. a summary of a life that shows the secret to success is to have a family with lots of connections. Yes, some hard work may be required but it's easier after the connections produced the opportunity.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kerry Kenney

    She made quite a career out of her connection to the First Family didn't she? She made quite a career out of her connection to the First Family didn't she?

  19. 4 out of 5

    Molly

    Loved this book. Fascinating woman who has had an incredibly interesting career and life.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rhode

    A nearly total retread of her much older book Diamonds & Diplomats which I preferred.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    You definately want to read this when you are focused. Lots of names and places, so don't drag out getting through it. Unique look at DC and Europe You definately want to read this when you are focused. Lots of names and places, so don't drag out getting through it. Unique look at DC and Europe

  22. 4 out of 5

    Autumn

    I read this book the summer after graduating from college and it truly impacted my life. I found such courage in myself after reading.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    Started out boring, got good then turned a little show-offy before ending boring.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Name-obsessed-moron

    Wonderful book & life.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    As anyone who knows me knows, I am a Kennedy freak. This was one of the first books I read on Jackie---really interesting whether you are a freak or not. =)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Juli

    Picked up this book out of boredom, but found it fascinating - it tells the behind-the-scenes story of the Kennedy years and life as an American in Europe post WWII.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Keri Murcray

    Really interesting book about the very interesting life of an interesting woman. Much more than I expected and lovely to read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    This was LOVELY.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Suzan

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Kim

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