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From My Old Kentucky Home to the White House (Paperback)

The Political Journey of Catherine Conner

P&S History > Humanities > Biography & Memoirs

Imprint: University Press of Kentucky
Pages: 200
Illustrations: illus
ISBN: 9780813192987
Published: 10th November 2009
Casemate UK Academic

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This lively memoir recounts the story of a determined woman who led a remarkable life in the highest circles of power in both state and national politics. Catherine Conner spent her formative years on a farm named "Solitude," located outside of Bardstown. Her father, who taught her early to ride and swim, told the young woman, "I can't teach you how to be a lady, but I can teach you how to behave like a gentleman." She was weaned on a secret "early breakfast" of bourbon and milk toddies that her father brought to her every morning. Though she enjoyed privilege, Conner also witnessed the harsher sides of rural life. Those experiences markedly shaped the personality of a woman who would become the youngest National Democratic Committeewoman and would subsequently serve in FDR's inner circle. Conner began her political career in Kentucky under the tutelage of J. Dan Talbott of Bardstown, heading the successful effort to have Federal Hill, better known as "My Old Kentucky Home," preserved as a state park, which has now become one of the most popular in Kentucky. When local leaders proved only mildly supportive of the project, Conner devised a campaign in 1921 that raised $45,000 by having schoolchildren all over the state drop their pennies into a cardboard replica of the famous home. She acted as a special assistant to Harry Hopkins for five years, helping set up departments to carry out New Deal programs and lobbying. She befriended many of the shapers of the 20th Century, including Senator Sam Rayburn, A.B. "Happy" Chandler, and Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia. Throughout her life, Conner witnessed remarkable events. She saw the Hindenburg crash, met Amelia Earhart, and had Cary Grant show her how to gut a Thanksgiving turkey.

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