This first comprehensive study of the medical histories of America’s first ladies—from Martha Washington to Michelle Obama—discusses their illnesses, their treatments and their physicians in the context of their times. As the categories of illness afflicting Americans have changed through history so have the kinds of maladies affecting the first ladies. Infectious diseases and the consequences of poorly supervised pregnancies have been replaced by cerebrovascular accidents and malignancies. The secrecy with which the White House has traditionally handled inquiries about the health of the president’s wife is explored in detail; however, several first ladies, notably Betty Ford, have been transparent about their illnesses in order to educate the public. The effects of a first lady’s responsibilities on her health is examined. This book also seeks to discern how the well-being of the first lady influences presidential performance.