Goodwin, Doris Kearns 1943-
Goodwin, Doris Kearns 1943-
(Doris Helen Kearns Goodwin, Doris Helen Kearns)
Born January 4, 1943, in Brooklyn, NY; daughter of Michael Alouisius (a bank examiner) and Helen Witt Kearns; married Richard Goodwin (a writer and political consultant), 1975; children: Richard, Michael, Joseph. Education: Colby College, B.A. (magna cum laude); Harvard University, Ph.D., 1968. Religion: Roman Catholic.
Home—Concord, MA. Agent—Beth Laski & Associates, 12930 Ventura Blvd., Ste. 513, Studio City, CA 91604.
U.S. Government, Washington, DC, State Department intern, 1963, House of Representatives intern, 1965, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, research associate, 1966, Department of Labor, special assistant to Willard Wirtz, 1967, special assistant to President Lyndon Baines Johnson, 1968. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, assistant professor, 1969-71, associate professor of government, beginning 1972, assistant director of Institute of Politics, beginning 1971, member of faculty council. Special consultant to President Johnson, 1969-73. Host of television show What's the Big Idea?, WGBH-TV, Boston, MA, 1972; political analyst for news desk, WBZ-TV, Boston. Member of Democratic party platform committee, 1972; member of Women's Political Caucus in Massachusetts (member of steering committee, beginning 1972); National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), news analyst. Trustee of Wesleyan University, Colby College, and Robert F. Kennedy Foundation; Pulitzer Prize board member, resigned in 2002.
American Political Science Association, Council on Foreign Relations (member of nominating and reform committees, 1972), Women Involved (chair and member of board of advisers), Group for Applied Psychoanalysis, Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Sigma Iota, Signet Society.
Fulbright fellow, 1966; Outstanding Young Woman of the Year award from Phi Beta Kappa, 1966; White House fellow, 1967; Woodrow Wilson fellow; Pulitzer Prize, 1995, for No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt—The Home Front in World War II; Charles Frankel Prize, National Endowment for the Humanities; Sara Josepha Hale medal; Lincoln Prize for an outstanding work about the president and/or the American Civil War, and National Book Critics Circle Award nomination, both 2006, both for Team of Rivals.
(Under name Doris Helen Kearns) Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, Harper (New York, NY), 1976, published under name Doris Kearns Goodwin with a new foreword by the author, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1991.
(Under name Doris Kearns) The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1987, corrected version, 2002.
Wait till Next Year: A Memoir, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.
Author of introduction to The Johnson Presidential Press Conferences, E.M. Coleman Enterprises (New York, NY), 1978; author of foreword to Kennedy Weddings: A Family Album, by Jay Mulvaney, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1999; contributor to Telling Lives: The Biographer's Art, edited by Marc Pachter, New Republic Books, 1979; contributor of articles on politics and baseball to periodicals, including the New Republic, New York Times, Atlantic, Life, Redbook, Lears, and TV Guide.
American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. purchased the television rights to The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga; works adapted as audiobooks include Wait till Next Year: A Memoir, Simon & Schuster Audio (New York, NY), 1997, and Team of Rivals, Simon & Schuster Audio (New York, NY), 2006.
Since the mid-1960s Doris Kearns Goodwin has distinguished herself as a writer, a journalist, an educator, a television commentator, and a presidential historian. A former professor of government at Harvard University, Goodwin is probably best known to the public as the author of several highly acclaimed biographical and historical books. Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream is a political and psychological study of the thirty-sixth president. The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga examines the life of John F. Kennedy and the two generations that preceded him. No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt—The Home Front in World War II looks at the difficult and often stormy relationship between Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt during World War II. "I realize," Goodwin told William Goldstein in Publishers Weekly, "that to be a historian is to discover the facts in context, to discover what things mean, to lay before the reader your reconstruction of time, place, mood, to empathize even when you disagree. You read all the relevant material, you synthesize all the books, you speak to all the people you can, and then you write down what you known about the period. You feel you own it."
The circumstances surrounding the writing of Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream are somewhat unusual. Goodwin first met President Johnson (often referred to as LBJ) at a White House dance in 1967. At the time she was a White House fellow working as a special assistant to Willard Wirtz. She had recently coauthored an article for the New Republic titled "How to Remove LBJ in 1968." The piece was sharply critical of Johnson's foreign policy. Johnson was aware of Goodwin's feelings when he met her but instead of arguing with her, he asked her to dance. At the end of the evening he suggested that she be assigned to work with him in the White House. According to Nation contributor Ronnie Dugger, in befriending Goodwin, the president had apparently heeded the advice of John Roche, one of his aides. Roche had told Johnson that having a White House fellow who was critical of the administration would cause him to appear open-minded and unthreatened by the growing anti-war sentiment in America. When Johnson eventually asked Goodwin to help him write his memoirs, she agreed; after his retirement she traveled to the Johnson ranch in Austin, Texas, on weekends, holidays, and vacations to help Johnson write the "official" version of his presidency.
Johnson's choice of Goodwin as his biographer was one many observers found noteworthy. In addition to being critical of his administration, she was, as the author David Halberstam noted in the New York Times Book Review, highly "respected in the Eastern intellectual world which Johnson was sure despised him."
With Goodwin (as one of their own) telling his story, he believed that the group he felt excluded from would finally, if not accept him, then at least listen to his story. He had, as a writer for the New Yorker put it, become "preoccupied with the verdict of history." He wanted to be remembered as a successful president, and he sought out writers who would be friendly in their judgment of him.
Published in 1976, three years after Johnson's death, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream found favor with reviewers. Halberstam called the book "a fascinating and unusual addition to the Johnson shelf." Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, writing in the New York Times, deemed it "the most penetrating, fascinating political biography I have ever read." In his Washington Post Book World review, Horace Busby commented on the quality of Goodwin's writing, describe her prose as "vivid and sensitive" and her portrait of the ex-president "the most fascinating and absorbing and, yes, sympathetic to appear in contemporary literature."
In Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, Goodwin does more than recount the details of Johnson's personal life and political career; she also offers a probing study of the former president's personality, examining in particular how his early years were integral in making him the politician he became. As Goodwin sees it, Johnson's political ambitions, his quest for power, and his plans for the "Great Society" all stemmed from an effort to free himself from the conflict he felt torn by from birth. His mother was shy, genteel, and dignified; his father was easy-going, flamboyant, and frequently ill-mannered. As the author Larry McMurtry explained in Saturday Review, Goodwin "demonstrates again and again how Johnson's youthful need to keep the peace between his parents affected his style as a politician, a style dependent upon endless and often very subtle personal negotiation." This psychobiographical approach drew quite a bit of critical attention, much of it positive. In a review for Newsweek, Paul D. Zimmerman praised Goodwin for "producing a sensible, scrupulous compassionate study of the connections between Lyndon Johnson's psychological drives and his political fortunes." He added: "Other books, pitched at a greater distance from their subject, will undoubtedly offer a more definitive social and political appraisal of the Johnson Presidency. But none is likely to offer a sharper, more intimate portrait of Lyndon Johnson in full psychic undress." McMurtry wrote that "the effort she has made to untangle the psychic knots of his character and relate them to his actions as a leader is … extremely loyal, requiring much empathy and a long application of effort and intelligence."
One of the more controversial aspects of the book was Goodwin's analysis of Johnson's dreams; several critics wondered about the validity of these interpretations. "She seems," wrote New York Review of Books contributor Gary Wills, "insufficiently aware of the fact that dreams told in a persuasive context cannot have the evidentiary value of those discussed in analysis." McMurtry, on the other hand, claimed that Goodwin "makes a tentative, fair, never very dogmatic use of the tools of psychoanalysis." James M. Perry wrote in the National Observer that although Goodwin presents "some pretty heavy character analysis amounting to psychohistory" in her book, "she is honest enough to admit that there are vast empty spaces in what we know about the human mind and human behavior."
Six months after Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream was published, Simon & Schuster contracted Goodwin to write a biography of Johnson's predecessor, John F. Kennedy. Goodwin began work in late 1977 but what she initially envisioned as a three-year project on Kennedy's life evolved into a multi-generational saga of two Irish-American families. Divided into three parts and spanning nearly a century, The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys chronicles three generations of Fitzgeralds and Kennedys—from the baptism of John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald in 1863 to the inauguration of his grandson and namesake John F. Kennedy as U.S. president in 1961. Although quite a few books have been written about the Kennedys, Goodwin was able to add fresh material to her work as a result of her access to two valuable sources. One of these was her husband, Richard, a former speechwriter for and advisor to Lyndon Johnson and Robert and John Kennedy. Having known the Kennedys for over twenty-five years Richard Goodwin was able to provide his wife with an insider's view of the family. Through her husband's close ties to the Kennedys, Goodwin also came upon a mine of information untapped by previous biographers—one hundred and fifty cartons of Joseph Kennedy's personal correspondence. These letters not only permitted Goodwin to fill in important details concerning Joseph's business dealings, they also allowed her to gain insight into his relationships with his wife and children. In addition, Goodwin was able to use the contents of these letters to stimulate the latent memories of Joseph's wife, Rose. In doing so she was able to dispel certain notions about John and his father as well as offer new perspectives on existing knowledge about other family members.
Critical reaction to The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys was enthusiastic, with many critics praising Goodwin's treatment of what has become a rather well-traversed subject. In a review for the New York Times, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt wrote: "The story is familiar enough. We've read its various parts in at least a dozen books over the past quarter century." The reviewer went on: "Yet rarely has this familiar saga seemed so fresh and dramatic. Rarely have its characters been so alive and individual. Rarely has popular history rung so authentic, or, conversely, fresh scholarship struck us as so captivating." Similarly, Los Angeles Times contributor Robert Dallek noted in his review: "Doris Kearns Goodwin's new study is now the best book on the subject." Again, Goodwin's writing style met with acclaim. Washington Post contributor George V. Higgins called The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys "an anecdotal, thoughtful genealogy" and deemed Goodwin "a meticulous and felicitous writer." Historian Geoffrey C. Ward, writing in the New York Times Book Review, described Goodwin's portrayal of the book's main characters as "remarkably rich and fully rounded," adding: "Her accounts of the events through which they all lived [are] unusually complex and elegantly rendered." In his New York Times review Lehmann-Haupt commented on the tri-generational approach the author employs in The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, deeming it "deceptively simple," and commended Goodwin on the book's attention to detail and "thematic coherence."
Many critics were aware of Goodwin's close personal and political ties to the Kennedy family, and a good number admired her ability to write The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys objectively, or as Dallek put it, "with compassion and understanding." Higgins acknowledged that Goodwin "deftly elid[ed] the problem implicit in the fact that her husband, Richard Goodwin, has been a Kennedy confidant for about three decades—while employing the advantage of that relationship." Higgins further noted: "I think she dealt brilliantly with the potential problem. She has ended her chronicle at JFK's inauguration, in 1961. While I think a stranger to the living family might have employed harsher rhetoric to deliver the moral and ethical estimates she renders, her verdicts are—though mercifully couched—just, complete and unsparing." Lehmann-Haupt commented: "Mrs. Goodwin pulls no punches when it comes to the faults and frailties of the Fitzgerald and Kennedy families because [she] examines their characters so intelligently. … Because she places them all in the broader sweep of history, she never appears to be debunking her subjects." The reviewer concluded: "In short, the legend remains intact in both its triumphant and tragic aspects."
In 1995 Goodwin received the Pulitzer Prize in biography for her third book, No Ordinary Time. The book's strong points and the "glowing reviews" it received, according to Chicago Tribune reporter Barbara B. Buchholz, "are in large part due to Goodwin's ability to bring to life complex personal relationships." These relationships include Franklin Roosevelt's "friendships with the women in his life: Lucy Mercer Rutherford (the woman who almost broke up the Roosevelt marriage in 1918), Marguerite (Missy) LeHand (his secretary and companion for over 20 years) and Princess Martha of Norway," explained Blanche Wiesen Cook in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. For her part, stated New Republic reviewer Joe Klein, Eleanor Roosevelt "hir[ed] close friends—the actor Melvyn Douglas and the dancer Mayris Chaney, among others—as public morale boosters" in her brief stint as assistant director of the Office of Civil Defense. She also carried on close—Goodwin does not say intimate—relationships with Associated Press reporter Lorena Hickock, her secretary Malvina "Tommy" Thompson, and social activist Joseph Lash. However, Keith Henderson of the Christian Science Monitor emphasized that "the central relationship between the wartime president and his irrepressible wife drives the book."
"No Ordinary Time is no ordinary book," declared David M. Kennedy in a piece for the New York Times Book Review. Besides being one of the few biographies to present a joint picture of the presidential couple during the war years, it also shows a unique picture of the two working together as a political, if not a romantic, team. "To Goodwin, though such a partnership made good political sense," noted James Bowman in the Washington Post Book World, "it was founded upon an essential truth about the partners' respective natures. Eleanor, the daughter of a neglectful mother and a loving but alcoholic father, never felt at home in a domestic role—partly because Franklin's mother, on whom he was emotionally dependent, prevented her from being mistress in her own house." For his part, Franklin was deeply sensitive about his paraplegia and dreamed about the days before he was stricken with polio, when he could walk alone and unassisted. "It is a measure of Doris Kearns Goodwin's success," asserted Klein in his review, "that the subtle sources of FDR's greatness become manifest in the course of this book."
Despite their effective partnership, Goodwin depicts both Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt as alienated from each other. "In the final pages of this book, Franklin, broken in health and isolated, appears unspeakably lonely. So too does Eleanor," wrote Kennedy, adding: "She still loved Franklin, Ms. Goodwin insists, but could no longer touch his soul nor be touched by his." "In weaving together private and public contexts," concluded Tribune Books reviewer Linda Simon, "Goodwin shows that history is not a chronicle of major events but the cumulative, quirky responses of idiosyncratic human beings to the demands and challenges of their time."
Goodwin looks farther back in history for her book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. "I thought, at first, that I would focus on Abraham Lincoln and Mary as I did on Franklin and Eleanor; but, I found that during the war, Lincoln was married more to the colleagues in his cabinet—in terms of time he spent with them and the emotion shared—than he was to Mary," Goodwin said of her approach to the book in an interview on the Bookreporter.com Web site.
Team of Rivals focuses primarily on Lincoln and the relationship he had with three men who were his political opponents for the presidency but whom he nevertheless appointed to his cabinet once elected. They were William H. Seward (Secretary of State), Edward Bates (Attorney General), and Salmon P. Chase (Secretary of the Treasury). In addition to describing how these men actually bolstered Lincoln's ability to govern despite their differences with him, Goodwin also examines the four men's wives and the large role that they played in influencing their husbands' political beliefs. "Goodwin's narrative gifts … are used to good effect," wrote Ronald C. White, Jr., in Books & Culture, further noting: "In exquisite detail Goodwin allows us to listen in on the gossip and political deals in backroom meetings, Kate Chase's parties, and Mary Todd Lincoln's state dinners. … [The author] gives us the private Lincoln, the president at ease, engaged in conversation in Seward's home across the street from the White House, with his feet up in front of the fireplace." Writing in the National Review, Arthur Herman concluded that "Goodwin's fine book makes an important contribution to our national understanding of this crucial era."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Heritage, October, 1994, Geoffrey C. Ward, review of No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt—The Home Front in World War II, p. 14.
American Scholar, winter, 2006, Gary Wills, review of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, p. 126.
America's Intelligence Wire, February 10, 2006, Matt Slagle, "Doris Kearns Goodwin wins $50,000 Lincoln Prize."
Booklist, August, 1994, Ilene Cooper, review of No Ordinary Time, p. 1987.
Books & Culture, March-April, 2006, Ronald C. White, Jr., review of Team of Rivals, p. 16.
Chicago Tribune, October 30, 1994, Barbara B. Buchholz, review of No Ordinary Time, p. 5.
Christian Century, November 29, 2005, David Hein, review of Team of Rivals, p. 42; December 13, 2005, review of Team of Rivals, p. 24.
Christian Science Monitor, October 18, 1994, Keith Henderson, review of No Ordinary Time, p. 3.
Europe Intelligence Wire, February 15, 2006, "Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin Receives 2006 Lincoln Prize."
Los Angeles Times, March 4, 1987, Robert Dallek, review of The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys; October 23, 1994, p. M3.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, March 1, 1987; October 9, 1994, Blanche Wiesen Cook, review of No Ordinary Time, pp. 2, 13.
Nation, September 4, 1976, Ronnie Dugger, review of Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream.
National Observer, June 19, 1976, James M. Perry, review of Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream.
National Review, November 21, 1994, Richard Brookhiser, review of No Ordinary Time, pp. 63-64; December 31, 2005, Arthur Herman, review of Team of Rivals, p. 42.
New Leader, June 1, 1987, Barry Gewen, review of The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, p. 14.
New Republic, March 16, 1987, Garry Wills, review of The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, p. 36; November 21, 1993, pp. 63-64; October 10, 1994, Joe Klein, review of No Ordinary Time, pp. 42-47.
Newsweek, May 31, 1976, Paul D. Zimmerman, review of Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream; February 9, 1987, review of The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys.
New Yorker, November 7, 2005, Caleb Crain, review of Team of Rivals, p. 126.
New York Review of Books, June 24, 1976, Gary Wills, review of Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream.
New York Times, June 7, 1976, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream; February 2, 1987, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, p. 19.
New York Times Book Review, June 6, 1976, David Halberstam, review of Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream; February 15, 1987, Geoffrey C. Ward, review of The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, p. 11; September 11, 1994, David M. Kennedy, review of No Ordinary Time, pp. 9, 11.
People, October 31, 1994, Ralph Novak, review of No Ordinary Time, and Kristin McMurran, "Talking with … Doris Kearns Goodwin," p. 29.
Philadelphia Inquirer, November 9, 2005, Marc Schogol, review of Team of Rivals.
Publishers Weekly, October 3, 1986, William Goldstein, "Writing The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys," pp. 64-65; August 1, 1994, review of No Ordinary Time, p. 65.
Saturday Review, June 12, 1976, Larry McMurtry, review of Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream.
Time, February 16, 1987, R.Z. Sheppard, review of The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, p. 69.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), October 2, 1994, Linda Simon, review of No Ordinary Time, section 14, pp. 1, 13.
Washington Monthly, May, 1987, Charles Peters, review of The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, p. 47; September, 1994, Chalmers M. Roberts, review of No Ordinary Time, p. 58; March, 2006, William Lee Miller, review of Team of Rivals, p. 49.
Washington Post, January 20, 1987, George V. Higgins, review of The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys.
Washington Post Book World, December 12, 1976, Horace Busby, review of Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream; September 18, 1994, James Bowman, review of No Ordinary Time, pp. 1, 11.
Academy of Achievement Web site,http://www.achievement.org/ (May 27, 2006), biography of the author, including an interview.
Bookreporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (May 27, 2006), Judy Gigstad, review of Team of Rivals; "Author Talk," interview with the author.
Doris Kearns Goodwin Home Page,http://www.DorisKearnsGoodwin.com (May 27, 2006).
New York State Writers Institute Web site,http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst/ (May 27, 2006), brief biography of the author.
Pulitzer Board Web site,http://www.pulitzer.org/ (May 27, 2006), biography of the author.