The "[b:The Georgetown Ladies' Social Club: Power, Passion, and Politics in the Nation's Capital|576667|The Georgetown Ladies' Social Club Power, Passion, and Politics in the Nation's Capital|C. David Heymann|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348888276s/576667.jpg|882515]" is a book that draws the reader in once he/she has ventured beyond a few pages. The reader is taken back to an era in Washington DC (and by extension, the nation) when policy decisions and key relationships among politicians (and their wives and/or mistresses), diplomats, literary and media figures were made in the private homes of a select number of politicians, policy makers, diplomats, the well-heeled --- and their wives.
Here the focus is on 5 women (Katherine Graham, Evangeline Bruce, Lorraine Cooper, Pamela Harriman, and Sally Quinn), who, from the late 1940s until the early 1990s, resided in Georgetown (a part of Washington DC that actually predates the city itself, having been in existence since 1750, when it was a part of what was the Colony of Maryland).
Aside from Sally Quinn, who is representative of the generation that came of age in the 1960s, the other 4 women hailed from affluent backgrounds during a time in which women were expected to know their place --- while men ruled the world. They were of the interwar generation, having received various educations both in the U.S. and abroad. Katherine Graham (who later became the owner of The Washington Post following the death by suicide of her husband Phil in 1963 --- it was Phil Graham, who convinced JFK to select Lyndon Johnson as his running mate in 1960) grew up with parents who showed her little love. (Indeed, her mother never had an encouraging word to say to her, only criticism.) She struggled for much of her life to develop a firm sense of self. In the process, she came to be, in her own right, a significant powerbroker in Washington.
Evangeline Bruce ("Vangie"), whom I had never heard about prior to reading this book, utterly fascinated me. Here was a remarkably intelligent, saavy and resourceful woman, born in Britain in 1914, where her father, an American (who had been a classmate of FDR at Harvard and hailed from an old New York family) worked as a diplomat in the U.S. Embassy in London. Her British mother (with whom Evangeline was to have a distant relationship) came from a long line of "Tory members of Parliament, actors, and writers." Evangeline, up until her 20s, led a very peripatetic existence. Her father later held diplomatic posts in Japan and China until his premature death in 1924. Three years later, Evangeline's mother remarried a well-heeled British diplomat, with whom Evangeline and her younger sister lived in Paris. A decade later, having lived in various European countries and mastered a number of languages, "Vangie" visited a paternal uncle in Boston and resolved to make a life for herself in America. She studied at Radcliffe, later made her way to Britain during the Second World War (engaging in war work in London), where she met David Bruce, a lawyer and diplomat, who was, at the time, married to one of the Mellons. (They later divorced, citing as a reason his wife's growing mental instability.) Evangeline married David Bruce in 1945. Both came to epitomize the ideal Washington couple. They had their main residence in Georgetown -- and owing to David Bruce's future posting as Ambassador to France and later Britain (during the Kennedy-Johnson years), spent a fair amount of time in Europe, too. "Vangie" was stylish, attractive, elegant, and well-versed in all the subtleties deemed vital for staging the best diplomatic and social functions over lunch or dinner. Both she and her husband were a perfect fit and charmed everyone with whom they became acquainted. ("Vangie" and Jackie Kennedy were the best of friends.)
Lorraine Cooper outlived her first husband, married a second who was a handsome playboy, living with him the high life in New York society of the 1930s and 1940s before divorcing him and moving to Georgetown, where she fully immersed herself in the life and politics of Washington. In the process, she met John Sherman Cooper, a Kentucky native, lawyer and state politician who had ran for the U.S. Senate twice and lost. The two married in the early 1950s and were very well suited for each other. Lorraine Cooper, like Evangeline Bruce, was shrewd and very smart, and was crucial in her husband's winning election to the Senate in 1956, an office he would serve until retiring in 1973. He was one of the few Republicans from the South at that time, but unlike most of his fellow Southerners in Congress, he championed civil rights and proved to be a very principled and progressive politician.
Pamela Harriman came from the lower rungs of the British aristocracy. Her first husband was Winston Churchill's only son, Randolph. While Randolph was away on wartime duty in Egypt, his wife struck up a friendship with W. Averell Harriman (one of American's most richest and influential men, who was acting as FDR's Lend Lease representative in London) which developed into a torrid 2-year affair. Eventually, Randolph and Pamela divorced and she went on to live in Europe (charming a score of powerful, influential men along the way). Eventually, she remarried (Leland Hayward, a highly successful actors' agent and Broadway producer), lived in New York, where she became part of the social scene. Hayward died in March 1971. Later in the year, Pamela renewed her acquaintance with Averell Harriman (whose wife had died the previous year, leaving him emotionally bereft). Both married before the year was out and made their home in Georgetown. Here is where Pamela Harriman reinvented itself and involved herself deeply in Democratic Party politics, and earned a reputation as a hostess par excellence. With the election of Bill Clinton as President in 1992, Pamela, now widowed, had reached the heights.
This is a book that makes very much alive again the power and significance that Georgetown had once exerted, decades ago, in the life of this country. It is, simply an AMAZING story, peopled with a rich and diverse cast of characters who added their own spice to life to the social scene in Washington. I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK HIGHLY AND MOST ENTHUSIASTICALLY. (This book reads better than a Jackie Collins novel and what it tells is all true.)