Blink Book Review #10: “The First Ladies” by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

August 30, 2023

By Reba Hull Campbell


Another historical fiction for the win with “The First Ladies” by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray. After I really enjoyed “The Personal Librarian” earlier in the summer, this newest book by the same authors piqued my interest.

This book tells the story of friendship, political will, and a passion for righting wrongs that First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Black activist Mary McLeod Bethune shared. Many of the issues familiar in today’s culture – race, gender and divisive politics – played a big role in how these two women made their way through their individual and shared lives.

Meeting at an event for leaders of national women’s organizations, these two women’s lives both ran parallel and intersected repeatedly both in spite of and because of their shared vision for civil rights, equal education and social justice in the country. Plus, they forge a personal friendship that crossed racial lines unheard of at the time. The book is structured between alternating chapters in each woman’s voice which made the audio version particularly enjoyable.

After doing a little more research on Mary McLeod Bethune because of her roots in Mayesville, South Carolina, I realized that this book, like “The Personal Librarian,” is so soundly grounded in historical accuracy. As a matter of fact, one of the stories Mrs. Bethune tells in the book is about how her passion for reading was ignited as a very young child. Interestingly, that same story showed up in a recent column by the SC Superintendent of Education about the importance of reading.


In 2022, Reba Campbell set out to get off the screens and back to books for the summer. She set a goal of reading a book a week. Her accountability was writing short Blink Book Reviews (so short you can read them in a blink). Join Reba’s Blink Book Review Facebook group to follow along for the 2023 summer series. Reba is president of The Medway Group can be reached at [email protected].