A Problem with Touching
There was a look of happiness that she always had.
— MARY GARDINER, ON PAT NIXON IN HER YOUTH 1
PAT NIXON, "Bride of Failure," and "the Mona Lisa of American politics," 2 remains essentially unknown, and the nature of her marriage to Richard Nixon the subject of contradictory reports the reliability of which are difficult to assess. Her political role presents few problems. First Ladies by tradition have been expected to be circumspect and uninvolved in political decision‐ making, Eleanor Roosevelt being the most conspicuous exception. Mrs. Warren Harding was known to be a private termagant and Nellie Taft a husband-driver. The second Mrs. Woodrow Wilson acted as a kind of secret president after her husband's paralytic stroke. Several First Ladies were in varying degrees ill. Mrs. Franklin Pierce suffered from delusions over the death of her small son in a railroad accident en route to her husband's inaugural. Mary Lincoln was severely disturbed when maliciously accused of being a Confederate sympathizer because two of her brothers were fighting for the South, and she went into a depression after her son Willie Lincoln died. Mrs. Andrew Johnson, who had tuberculosis, was an almost total recluse, as to a lesser degree was Mrs. William McKinley, who had epilepsy.
Most of the presidential wives are remembered simply as gracious hostesses, supportive but unoriginal. Mamie Eisenhower confessed that she had been in the Oval office only five times in her eight years as First Lady. 3 Jackie Kennedy, it is true, had a special queenly glitter, and restored many of the rooms in the White House with elegance and taste. And Ladybird Johnson carved out a name for herself in her own right, in her programs for beautification and parks. But Pat Nixon, who told women's