Television is full of pundits talking about how unprecedented it is that Ivanka Trump would be working with an office in the White House. In fact, she is part of a long and storied history. Many presidents have been very close to their daughters and many put them to work.
According to one account, George Washington held his stepdaughter, Patsy, in his arms when she died as a teenager. She suffered from epilepsy. He was devastated.
Letty Tyler ran the White House for her widowed father, President John Tyler, and was stunned when he married a second wife, who was younger than she. Julia Gardiner, the new first lady had Letty thrown out. You can read all about the drama in my book All the Presidents’ Children.
Martha Johnson, the daughter of President Andrew Johnson, ran things for her politically challenged father, during his grueling impeachment process. Her mother was an invalid. Martha established much of the protocol that is still observed in the White House to this day. She also marched to Capitol Hill where she lobbied for appropriations. “Whatever you may think of my father, the White House is the nation’s property and it needs to be maintained,” she said.
Her brother, Robert, had his own office in the White House. He had seen tents full of severed arms and legs during the Civil War but he could not stomach the impeachment of his father. Most historians believe that he took his own life.
The story of Ivanka Trump, and the role she played for her father in the recent presidential election, is told in all its color, in my new book, Game of Thorns: Inside the Clinton-Trump election of 2016.
Ivanka would hardly be the first daughter to rise to power but she would be one of the most recent. Anna Roosevelt, daughter of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, practically ran the White House, during his last year in office, from her bedroom in the private quarters. Among other things, she ran interference with the first lady while her father renewed his relationship with his mistress, Lucy Rutherford.
There is a scene in my book, All the Presidents’ Children, when first lady Eleanor Roosevelt begs her daughter to be put on the manifest for the trip to Yalta. Eleanor knew it would be historic. First daughter, Anna, says no.
It remains to be seen how powerful Ivanka Trump will be but keep this in mind, you can fire an assistant and a chief of staff but you can’t fire “daughter.” It is a title Ivanka Trump will carry for life.