• Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight

  • By: Julia Sweig
  • Narrated by: Kirsten Potter
  • Length: 18 hrs and 1 min
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (175 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A magisterial portrait of Lady Bird Johnson, and a major reevaluation of the profound yet underappreciated impact the First Lady's political instincts had on LBJ’s presidency.

“An inviting, challenging, well-told tale of the thoroughly modern partner and strategist Lady Bird Johnson, whose skill and complexity emerge fully in this rich tale of history and humanity.” (John Dickerson, author of The Hardest Job in the World)

“This riveting portrait gives us an important revision of a long-neglected First Lady.” (Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt, vol. 1-3)

In the spring of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson had a decision to make. Just months after moving into the White House under the worst of circumstances - following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy - he had to decide whether to run to win the presidency in his own right. He turned to his most reliable, trusted political strategist: his wife, Lady Bird Johnson. The strategy memo she produced for him, emblematic of her own political acumen and largely overlooked by biographers, is just one revealing example of how their marriage was truly a decades-long political partnership.

Perhaps the most underestimated First Lady of the 20th century, Lady Bird Johnson was also one of the most accomplished and often her husband's secret weapon. Managing the White House in years of national upheaval, through the civil rights movement and the escalation of the Vietnam War, Lady Bird projected a sense of calm and, following the glamorous and modern Jackie Kennedy, an old-fashioned image of a First Lady. In truth, she was anything but. As the first First Lady to run the East Wing like a professional office, she took on her own policy initiatives, including the most ambitious national environmental effort since Teddy Roosevelt. Occupying the White House during the beginning of the women's liberation movement, she hosted professional women from all walks of life in the White House, including urban planning and environmental pioneers like Jane Jacobs and Barbara Ward, encouraging women everywhere to pursue their own careers, even if her own style of leadership and official role was to lead by supporting others. 

Where no presidential biographer has understood the full impact of Lady Bird Johnson’s work in the White House, Julia Sweig is the first to draw substantially on Lady Bird’s own voice in her White House diaries to place Claudia Alta "Lady Bird” Johnson center stage and to reveal a woman ahead of her time - and an accomplished politician in her own right.

This program includes an actual recording of Lady Bird’s audio diary, dated October 12, 1965.

©2020 Julia Sweig (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“A revelation...a book in the Caro mold, using Lady Bird, along with tapes and transcripts of her entire White House diary, to tell the history of America during the Johnson years.” (The New York Times)

“Sweig makes a persuasive case for Lady Bird’s influence not just within her marriage but on her husband’s career. In doing so, she forces us to adjust the lens through which we’ve viewed one of our most consequential presidencies.” (The Washington Post

“A superb portrait that elevates Lady Bird’s stature as one of the most accomplished first ladies of the twentieth century.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)  

What listeners say about Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Fine, but lacking an intervention

This is an odd book in a lot of ways. Instead of a straightforward biography of Lady Bird, of which good ones already exist, Sweig gives a detailed account of the "other" LBJ's time as first lady. While there's nothing wrong with this approach, it requires a good deal of background information to fill in gaps and provide needed context and backstory. This book is probably most useful for someone who has read Caro or Dallek, but has yet to read a biography dedicated to Lady Bird. The strength of this book is in Sweig's analysis, which is serious and insightful, but the supposed intervention falls flat. First, Sweig's basic premise is that Lady Bird was much more than a sweet and genteel proponent of "beautification." Instead, she was an active and informed voice who helped shape both domestic and foreign policy. While this is certainly true, the case has already been made elsewhere, namely in Betty Boyd Caroli's biography of Lady Bird. Second, through the fragmented structure of the book, over-explaining of commonly understood events, and heavy reliance on already published journal entries, Sweig simply does not make a compelling case. Frankly, it's an easy case to make, but it gets lost in the shuffle. The early chapters are deeply frustrating, although the book does eventually find more even footing. Still, it never reads as an essential addition to many volumes detailing the political lives of the LBJs.

The narration also takes awhile to find its footing. The early chapters use caricatured performance of quotations, but the voice assigned to Lady Bird becomes more restrained and palatable as the audiobook progresses.

14 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A Book Worth Reading More Than Once

If you are at all interested in political history this is a book well worth listening to. Lady Bird Johnson was a brilliant woman and a political
force in her own right. The mark she made on the American Landscape is indelible and were it not for the intransigence of congress and politics over progress her legacy would be far greater. The book is beautifully narrated and the story resonates as strongly today as it did in the 1960s.

5 people found this helpful

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Much of The Rest of the Story

Loving the walking trail at Lady Bird Lake so much, I’ve been learning more and more of her. I’ve wondered why other books on her covered so much of the pre-presidency years, and so little of what we really need to know. This book delves into the rest of that story, and I was not disappointed. Highly Recommend! The narration is well done and lively, too.

4 people found this helpful

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A wonderful and insightful look into a very unknown American!

Prior to listening to the story there was very little I knew about President Johnson and Mrs. Johnson. I had visited the LBJ museum and library in Austin and that was about the extent to which I knew of anything in regards to his presidency and their life. However after reading this book and hearing of what the Times brought to them and what they brought to the nation I can no longer say that I don’t know much about them. The author spend time and energy and insight into the very historic and talked about moments in their lives while also providing great detail into the unknown for readers like myself. Now that I finished the book it sure does make me wish I could go visit the museum and library again as I would have much more knowledge this time around.

2 people found this helpful

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Great story

I just came across this and thought I would give it a try. Well worth the listen. I had no real interest in Lady Bird, but after I finished the book I understood what a real "Lady" is. Bravo!

1 person found this helpful

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New view of Lady Bird

So much I did not know. The sixties were a different time. So rich in events.

1 person found this helpful

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Some Interesting Parts

Lady Bird was an exceptional woman! She was pint-sized, yet she could manage her husband's massive ego and the stress he endured during his presidency. This book allows us to see Lady Bird outside of being President Johnson's wife! We see her as a businesswoman, mother, spokesperson for the Arts, for the beautification of communities, and for Civil Rights. With that being said, I must admit that this book was not as captivating as that of the LBJ bio. It could be because LBJ and Lady Bird were so vastly different. Some chapters on her beautification projects might have been shorter and more to the point. I would actually have preferred an entire auido book with just her personal recordings. That is a real little treat at the end. Overall, it was a thoroughly researched book that had some dry parts and some interesting parts. Listen to it and judge for yourselves.

1 person found this helpful

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Interesting, personal view of history

Lady Bird was aware of her view and made sure to capture the moments. Nice read.

1 person found this helpful

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Good book but not my favorite

This was well researched and detailed. It included her audio diaries which was really neat to hear at the end. I found myself stopping at times because it was so interpretive - I wanted the story to keep moving and the author would instead focus on analyzing something rather than move along with the narrative. But I learned a lot about lady bird and also the presidency itself.

1 person found this helpful

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  • TY
  • 05-02-21

Just read, please......

I have enjoyed the information and the writing, but I find the narration distracting. I sure wish the narrator would just read and not attempt various accents and voices. I started cringing every time she read Lady Bird's words.

1 person found this helpful

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