The Hidden Influence of Lady Bird Johnson

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Lady Bird Johnson always fit the mold of a certain old-fashioned, stereotypical presidential wife: self-effacing, devoted to her generally unfaithful domineering husband, not particularly chic, and, being a traditional first lady one who needed a public cause, and found hers it in planting lots of flowers near highways. They called it at the time, with just a hint of disparagement, "beautification." Nowhere in the hundreds of thousands of pages written by presidential historians on the 36th president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, has there been presented much evidence to the contrary.

But in her new book, Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight, Julia Sweig has radically changed the narrative. “She doesn’t just have a front seat at history,” says Sweig on the podcast. “She was shaping it.”

Mother Jones's DC Editorial Operations Director Marianne Szegedy-Maszak sat down with Sweig to talk to her about Lady Bird Johnson, writing history, and how the dominance of a certain narrative about male power informed the way we have understood the Johnson presidency. Especially striking is how many of the same issues that are current today—income inequality, the fight for racial justice, police shootings, environmental despoliation, and environmental justice—were priorities for the Johnson administration. Nearly all of them eclipsed by the Vietnam War.

This episode includes clips from In Plain Sight: Lady Bird Johnson, a podcast hosted by Sweig and produced by ABC News/Best Case Studios.

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