by Michael Swanger
Mamie Geneva Doud Eisenhower, who served as First Lady alongside her husband President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the White House from 1953 to 1961, who was on a first-name basis with the country thanks to her “Mamie pink” clothing and “Mamie bangs” hairstyle, and who for more than 25 years was listed in the Gallup Poll of the “Ten Most Admired Women in America”, never forgot her Iowa roots.
Those roots included being born in Boone and living for several years in Cedar Rapids.
“Mamie did not live long in Boone, only nine months, and she left Iowa at the age of five or six, yet she identified with the state at least once, declaring, ‘I will always be an Iowan,’” said Suzanne Caswell, editor of the Boone County Historical Society.
Though much of her adult life was shaped by her experiences as a military wife and First Lady, she was viewed by most Americans as a friend next door, a trait often affiliated with Iowans. It has been written that she not only ran the White House with precision and graciously entertained foreign dignitaries, but that she relished charity work and promoted cultural events. A devoted wife, mother and First Lady, Mamie accomplished more than most Americans realized and her popularity not only boosted her husband’s presidency but also largely defined the role of First Lady.
“There are very few originals in the world. And when one leaves it there is a void,” wrote the Boston Globe in 1979 following her death at age 82. “Mamie Eisenhower was an original. She had the courage to define herself rather than have outsiders tell her who she was and what she should be… She set an image for the role of the classic wife, the classic mother, the classic non-political president’s wife. She had the guts to be her classic self.
“She was ‘Mamie’.”