An Independent Woman: The Life of Lou Henry Hoover

By Anne Beiser Allen; Jon L. Wakelyn | Go to book overview

Chapter 12
A First Ladys Duty Is to Entertain

Although Lou had been entertaining on a regular basis for many years, the White House social schedule presented new challenges. In addition to the friends and associates the Hoovers were accustomed to entertaining, there was a regular program of official dinners and receptions, with guest lists of between fifty and one hundred people, and still more attended the musicales that often followed. Diplomatic receptions ran into the hundreds. Distant relatives and vague acquaintances -- sometimes even total strangers -- wrote to solicit invitations to White House events. Although there was now a government subsidy for official dinners, passed by President Taft (who did not, however, get to enjoy the benefit of it), Lou frequently supplemented it from her own funds. "Mrs. Hoover just reveled in elaborate menus, both for their private table and for company," reported the chief usher.1

Washington's official social season ran from the first Tuesday in December until the beginning of Lent, but White House entertaining continued through most of the year. As first lady, Lou was expected to serve as hostess for official dinners and teas, represent the president at formal events that he could not attend (such as the launching of a ship), supervise the White House staff, entertain a steady stream of house guests, and during the social season, host or attend the nine to ten large annual receptions and numerous weekly dinners that tradition prescribed. When Bert, who detested mass gatherings, suggested that they might consider cutting down on the number of official receptions, Lou refused. It was part of their job, she maintained, and she did not want to appear snobbish by limiting the number of people allowed to shake the hands of the president and his wife, even though her hand often became swollen by the end of the evening. In order to talk more intimately with

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