Cover image for The Georgetown ladies' social club : power, passion, and politics in the nation's capital
The Georgetown ladies' social club : power, passion, and politics in the nation's capital
Heymann, C. David (Clemens David), 1945-2012.
First Atria Books hardcover edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Atria Books, [2003]

Physical Description:
x, 389 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


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Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HQ1236.5.U6 H49 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
HQ1236.5.U6 H49 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
HQ1236.5.U6 H49 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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In this riveting book--a heady mix of politics, sex, scandal, and power--Heymann reveals the real moguls of Washington. The Georgetown Ladies' Social Club, a term coined by Ronald Reagan, comprises a list of formidable and fascinating women.

Author Notes

C. David Heymann is the internationally known author of bestselling biographies. Three of his biographies were made into major award-winning NBC-TV miniseries. A three-time Pulitzer prize nominee, he lives and works in Manhattan

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Heymann, bestselling biographer of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Barbara Hutton, offers a captivating chronicle of the female power behind American politics in the latter half of the 20th century. In a time when men wrote the rules of the political game, he writes, five formidable women greatly influenced who won and who lost: Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham; Lorraine Cooper, wife of Kentucky's Sen. John Sherman Cooper; Evangeline Bruce, wife of U.S. ambassador David Bruce; Democratic Party fund-raiser (and later ambassador) Pamela Harriman, married to the powerful and wealthy Averell Harriman; and Sally Quinn, Washington Post writer and wife of the Post's former executive editor Ben Bradlee. While they had husbands in high places, these women wielded a vital political influence in Georgetown by organizing the parties where momentous meetings took place and decisions were made. These women were so compelling not only for their professional and political accomplishments and legendary dinner parties but for their dynamic, and often clashing, personalities and ambitions. Heymann deftly explores these personalities through interviews with family, friends, enemies, admirers and detractors. The resulting anecdotal social history of Georgetown is a winning combination of sex, scandal and political escapade. It also provides a complex portrait of its subjects. "What the Georgetown Five ultimately share is their ability to maintain a public pose, to protect the image they sought to create, no matter what the cost, no matter what the burden," writes Heymann, whose earlier books have become award-winning TV miniseries. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. Agent, Owen Laster. (Oct. 28) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

In Washington, D.C., which parties you get invited to is apparently as important as which party you belong to, at least according to biographer Heymann's account of an inner circle of powerful movers and shakers. Two important facts set these figures apart: gender and geography. These players on the national political scene are all female--the wives, friends, and confidantes of some of the US's most powerful men. The parties they hosted, the social networks they built, the personal wealth many of them controlled, made them forces to reckon with, even though few if any held elected or appointed office in the nation's capital. Geography refers to Georgetown, the exclusive neighborhood where these women held sway. Heymann has moved the distaff side to the center. By focusing on Katharine Graham, Sally Quinn, Pamela Harriman, and Evangeline Bruce, Heymann paints a collective portrait of members of a "kitchen cabinet" who, by the very act of holding a dinner party, could change the course of US politics. Although compromised somewhat by an almost breathy, "true confessions" tone, the book makes an important contribution to understanding the real inner workings of government. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Most public and academic libraries. E. Broidy University of California, Los Angeles

Booklist Review

Heymann, the author of biographies of Jackie and Robert Kennedy, Gloria Vanderbilt, and Elizabeth Taylor, turns his attention to a group of women whom Ronald Reagan dubbed the Georgetown Ladies' Social Club: Katharine Graham, Lorraine Cooper, Evangeline Bruce, Pamela Harriman, and Sally Quinn. These influential hostesses wielded political and social power from their Georgetown homes, where the politicking done behind the scenes was sometimes as important as what was happening on Capitol Hill. Their stories overlap, but the similarities are striking. All of the women began their rise by standing on the shoulders of their husbands--ambassadors, a senator, newspapermen--but eventually they came to brandish power of their own. Following a loose chronological order, this well-researched account (bolstered by many primary-source interviews) tells the story of a time and a place, Washington from the 1950s into the present. Not surprisingly, the book is incredibly dishy, with some of the most intriguing stories having little to do with the ostensible subjects (e.g., the story of the mysterious murder of JFK's mistress, Mary Meyer, sister-in-law of Ben Bradlee). Heymann pulls out all the stops here, and the result is a well-researched, fast-paced, and fascinating look at dinner-party power-broking. Expect plenty of buzz around this one. --Ilene Cooper Copyright 2003 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Heymann, a writer of popular "candid" and "intimate" biographies (e.g., A Woman Named Jackie), asserts (repeatedly) that in the second half of the 20th century, Georgetown dinner parties, run by women, mattered to the nation. This several-hundred-page gossip column fails to demonstrate his claim: a consequential exchange occurs at most every hundred pages. The rest of the tome recounts the lifestyles of the rich and politically well connected, including their adulterous escapades and the names of their fashion designers, as well as other excruciating trivia. (From what store in Chevy Chase did Ambassador Ardeshir Zahedi buy a wardrobe for Elizabeth Taylor in preparation for her meeting with the Shah?) Purportedly focusing on "Kay" Graham, "Vangie" Bruce, Lorraine Cooper, Pamela Harriman, and Sally Quinn, Heymann throws in chunks about Liz Taylor and Jackie Kennedy, subjects of his previous works. This book will hold precious little interest for Washington insiders, and none for those outside the city who have never heard of Lorraine Cooper. Nevertheless, the publisher will be conducting a major publicity blitz, so public libraries should be prepared to tell at least a few disappointed patrons that they'll have to buy this book themselves.-Cynthia Harrison, George Washington Univ., Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Author's Note The White House, Capitol Hill, the Pentagon, and the Supreme Court immediately come to mind when considering the major spheres of influence in the nation's capital, but the true seat of power in Washington, D.C., may well be Georgetown, a tiny, picturesque, eighteenth-century village cozily nestled in the oldest section of the city. Lyndon Baines Johnson, while serving in the Oval Office, noted that "every student of Washington's political process ought to know that the business of government is often transacted during evening hours, sometimes over a drink and sometimes over a meal -- but almost always in Georgetown." What President Johnson did not say is that these evening transactions are largely conceived, created, produced, and directed by women. On the pages that follow I attempt to trace and chronicle the evolution, over the last fifty years, of female power in Georgetown through the public as well as the personal lives of five women -- Katharine Graham, Evangeline Bruce, Lorraine Cooper, Pamela Harriman, and Sally Quinn -- and through the lifestyles of a sizeable constituency of supporting players -- both male and female. This is the story then of a group of highly motivated and independent women who all happened to reside in the same place at roughly the same time. They pursued common goals and common interests. Their paths frequently intersected and overlapped. They socialized with many of the same people. They were married to well-educated, successful, power-driven men whose careers in almost every instance took precedence over the careers of their wives. Marriage and children aside, these women were bound together not only by their hard-won successes and victories but also by their losses and defeats. At the center of each of their lives can be found secrets so deep and dark that they threaten to destroy everything these women worked so long and diligently to achieve. What these Georgetown ladies ultimately share is their ability to maintain a public pose, to protect the image they sought to create, no matter what the cost, no matter what the burden. "The Georgetown Ladies' Social Club" was actually a term coined by none other than Ronald Reagan to identify an elite corps of prominent and powerful Washington women whose connections, courage, wealth, vision, intelligence, and ambition afforded them an abundance of social and political clout in a town traditionally and historically run by men. Richard Nixon, brought down by one of them, referred to all as "a shadow conspiracy of women." The description is biased but apt. The ladies in question emerged from the shadows into the light. Their parties, their personalities, and their presence forged change and lent shape to the human drama of the twentieth century and are still being felt in the twenty-first century. Copyright (c) 2003 by C. David Heymann Excerpted from The Georgetown Ladies' Social Club: Power, Passion, and Politics in the Nation's Capital by C. David Heymann All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Author's Notep. ix
Chapter 1 The Last Partyp. 1
Chapter 2 Phil and Kayp. 15
Chapter 3 The P and Q Street Axisp. 41
Chapter 4 The Turning Pointp. 62
Chapter 5 The Ambassador's Wifep. 70
Chapter 6 The Senator's Wifep. 93
Chapter 7 Dead Men Walkingp. 118
Chapter 8 An Inconvenient Womanp. 151
Chapter 9 The Big Dop. 169
Chapter 10 The Mighty Quinnp. 208
Chapter 11 Lorraine and Vangiep. 241
Chapter 12 Georgetown Goes Hollywoodp. 269
Chapter 13 Queen Pamelap. 290
Chapter 14 Who Killed Georgetown?p. 321
Epiloguep. 354
Explanation of Sourcesp. 357
Acknowledgmentsp. 359
Bibliographyp. 365
Indexp. 381