The First Ladies by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

The Instant New York Times Bestseller! 

A novel about the extraordinary partnership between First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune—an unlikely friendship that changed the world, from the New York Times bestselling authors of the Good Morning America Book Club pick The Personal Librarian.

The daughter of formerly enslaved parents, Mary McLeod Bethune refuses to back down as white supremacists attempt to thwart her work. She marches on as an activist and an educator, and as her reputation grows she becomes a celebrity, revered by titans of business and recognized by U.S. Presidents. Eleanor Roosevelt herself is awestruck and eager to make her acquaintance. Initially drawn together because of their shared belief in women’s rights and the power of education, Mary and Eleanor become fast friends confiding their secrets, hopes and dreams—and holding each other’s hands through tragedy and triumph.

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt is elected president, the two women begin to collaborate more closely, particularly as Eleanor moves toward her own agenda separate from FDR, a consequence of the devastating discovery of her husband’s secret love affair. Eleanor becomes a controversial First Lady for her outspokenness, particularly on civil rights. And when she receives threats because of her strong ties to Mary, it only fuels the women’s desire to fight together for justice and equality.
This is the story of two different, yet equally formidable, passionate, and committed women, and the way in which their singular friendship helped form the foundation for the modern civil rights movement.


Editorial Reviews 

An Amazon Best Book of July 2023:Growing up, I always knew Eleanor Roosevelt as one of the most influential presidential first ladies and Mary McLeod-Bethune as a prominent figure in African Americans’ struggle for equal rights. But this well-researched novel touches on aspects of Roosevelt’s life not widely covered in other books, showcasing what the authors imagined to be her inner dialog during a critical time in her life and U.S. history as a whole. Even though McLeod-Bethune was one of the most well-known African Americans during her time, and called the “first lady of African American progress” by Mrs. Roosevelt, very little has been written about her, especially her personal life. This novel changes that, showing how together these trailblazers were extremely dynamic. I was blown away to learn how these women forced significant changes, specifically for African Americans, to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. They were also the driving force for anti-lynching policy, and had a huge role in turning African American voters from Republicans to Democrats. Even more inspiring was the friendship between the two—experiencing their mistakes, but also their great joy in learning how to be friends in a time when their relationship was highly unusual. —Kami Tei, Amazon Editor

Other Reviews

“This book will expand your perspective and keep you reading late into the night.”
—Dolen Perkins-Valdez, New York Times bestselling author of Take My Hand
“It’s an utter joy to watch civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt forge a partnership that changed America: plotting over teacups, negotiating tricky conversations about race and privilege, celebrating their triumphs, and never giving up. The First Ladies is a wonder!”
—Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Diamond Eye

“This timely story encapsulates the unmovable power of when two strong minds come together in the name of justice and equality. “
—Sadeqa Johnson, New York Times bestselling author of The House of Eve

“Explores the extraordinary legacies of these two historical figures, while also bringing us into their personal lives and their deep friendship. Benedict and Murray bring their knack for historical fiction to a story of the women’s unlikely alliance and the ways their bond and efforts forged the beginnings of the modern civil rights movement.”
Entertainment Weekly

“A powerful and unforgettable story of female strength and the triumph of the human spirit.”
—Pam JenoffNew York Times bestselling author of Code Name Sapphire

“I’ve never read a more inspiring story about women raising up other women and working together to try to change the world. A tour de force.”
—Natasha LesterNew York Times bestselling author of The Paris Orphan

“Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray herald the beauty and passion of a celebrated friendship across color lines and the complications of history.” 
—Vanessa Riley, 
award-winning author of Queen of Exiles

“This rich, compelling portrait of a friendship between two quiet revolutionaries overturns our ideas about class, race, and gender in the twentieth century… a magnificently moving story, both intimate and monumental, that ultimately delivers a message of reconciliation and hope.”
—Beatriz Williams, New York Times bestselling author of The Beach at Summerly

“While the depictions of the women’s activism are inspiring, the novel really shines in the behind-the-scenes moments when the women support each other during personal struggles with marital infidelity, illness, and loss. This impeccably researched, relevant novel is a must-read and destined to be a book-club favorite.” 
Booklist (starred review)

“Those who enjoy stirring historical fiction, as well as fans of The Personal Librarian, will find Benedict and Murray’s latest collaboration compelling.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“Benedict and Murray deliver a dazzling narrative… a potent tale of two crusading women’s accomplishments.”
Publishers Weekly

“A compelling and captivating story… I was moved by not only what they were able to accomplish together, but the resilience displayed by both women. But more than anything, it was their friendship that kept me captivated until the very last page. I can’t remember the last time I was so inspired by a novel!”
—ReShonda Tate Billingsley, author of Miss Pearly’s Girls

Praise for The Personal Librarian, Good Morning America Book Club pick!

“Historical fiction at its best…The Personal Librarian spins a complex tale of deceit and allegiance as told through books.”
Good Morning America

“Benedict, who is white, and Murray, who is African American, do a good job of depicting the tightrope Belle walked, and her internal conflict from both sides—wanting to adhere to her mother’s wishes and move through the world as white even as she longed to show her father she was proud of her race. Like Belle and her employer, Benedict and Murray had almost instant chemistry, and as a result, the book’s narrative is seamless…I became hooked.”

“A fascinating story!”
Real Simple
“A marvel of a story. This unflinching look at one woman’s meteoric rise through New York’s high society is enthralling, lyrical, and rife with danger. Belle’s painful secret and her inspiring courage will capture – and break – your heart. Serious kudos to Benedict and Murray for bringing this true story to life.”
—Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue

The Personal Librarian illuminates the extraordinary life of an exceptional, intelligent woman who had to make the impossible choice to live as an imposter or sacrifice everything she’d achieved and deserved. That Belle denied her true identity in order to protect herself and her family from racial persecution speaks not only to her times but also to ours, a hundred years later. All that glitters is not gold. This is a compelling and important story.”
—Therese Anne Fowler, New York Times bestselling author of A Good Neighborhood

“As richly depicted as the lush world of art and literature Belle da Costa Greene presided over…an immersive, sweeping delight as well as an intimate, moving, and powerful portrait of Belle’s personal and professional life. An unforgettable, captivating read!”
—Chanel Cleeton, New York Times bestselling author of Our Last Days in Barcelona

“Meticulously researched, heartbreaking, and inspiring…a fascinating look at a very public figure fighting a deep private battle, whose story still resonates with surprising power and immediacy today.”
—Kristin Harmel, New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Lost Names

“An untold story that is simply amazing. It’s timely and impactful.”
—Brenda Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of Follow Your Heart

 “An intimate and extraordinary conversation with the past. As Belle da Costa Greene achieves her dreams by forsaking an identity, we wonder if we would or could do the same to irrevocably alter the literary world and our family. A novel abundant with culture, art, literature, and romance—the beauty and recklessness of love are revealed with astonishing clarity.”
—Patti Callahan, New York Times bestselling author of Surviving Savannah

“Upon starting this novel, be prepared to do nothing else until you’ve reached its poignant, reflective end. Through brilliant pacing and with painstaking care, Benedict and Murray paint a vibrant portrait of a woman whose accomplishments, relationships, and secretive history were as complex and intriguing as the collections she helped curate…a timely, provocative read perfect for book clubs. I loved it.”
—Kristina McMorris, New York Times bestselling author of Sold on a Monday

“From the opulent gilded age ballrooms of New York, to the fiercely competitive auction houses of Europe, The Personal Librarian is a poignant story of race, class and one woman’s struggle to live authentically.”
—Renée Rosen, Author of The Social Graces

“The story of Belle da Costa Greene is timely, universal, and enduring. Through it, Benedict and Murray raise questions that are as important now as they were a hundred years ago—questions to which a true historical answer may be less important than the fact that we are continuing to face them in contemporary ways.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“This fictional account of Greene’s life feels authentic; the authors bring to life not only Belle but all those around her. An excellent piece of historical fiction that many readers will find hard to put down.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“A powerful take on the accomplishments of J.P. Morgan’s librarian…. Benedict and Murray do a great job capturing Belle’s passion and tenacity as she carves a place for herself in a racist male-dominated society. This does fine justice to a remarkable historical figure.”
Publishers Weekly

“Every element of this blockbuster historical novel is compelling and revelatory, beginning with the bedazzling protagonist based with awestruck care on Belle da Costa Greene… a novel of enthralling drama, humor, sensuality, and insight. … [a] resounding tale of a brilliant and resilient woman defying sexism, classism, and racism during the brutality of Jim Crow. Benedict and Murray do splendidly right by Belle in this captivating and profoundly enlightening portrayal.”
Booklist (starred review)

“Kept me intrigued, fascinated, and mesmerized throughout….Everyone should know about the woman who took risks, carved her own path, silenced the naysayers, and forged ahead to becoming one of America’s most prominent librarians in history. Definitely a must-read.”
The Nerd Daily

“Both a stunning tribute to an amazingly courageous woman and a searingly timely exploration of race relations in America, The Personal Librarian is an extraordinary novel that will have you frantically googling the key figures to learn more. I won’t be ready to part with Belle and her contemporaries for a long time after finishing this one.”

About the Authors:

Victoria Christopher Murray is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 30 novels. Her novels, The Personal Librarian and The First Ladies, which she co-authored with Marie Benedict were both Instant New York Times bestsellers and her novel, Stand Your Ground won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Fiction. Four of her novels, Lust, Envy, Wrath and Greed have been made into TV movies for Lifetime. Visit her at

​Marie Benedict is a lawyer with more than ten years’ experience as a litigator at two of the country’s premier law firms, who found her calling unearthing the hidden historical stories of women. Her mission is to excavate from the past the most important, complex and fascinating women of history and bring them into the light of present-day where we can finally perceive the breadth of their contributions as well as the insights they bring to modern day issues. She embarked on a new, thematically connected series of historical novels with THE OTHER EINSTEIN, which tells the tale of Albert Einstein’s first wife, a physicist herself, and the role she might have played in his theories. The next novel in this series is the USA Today bestselling CARNEGIE’S MAID — which released in January of 2018 — and the book that followed is the New York Times bestseller and Barnes & Noble Book Club Pick THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM, the story of the brilliant inventor Hedy Lamarr, which published in January of 2019. In January of 2020, LADY CLEMENTINE, the story of the incredible Clementine Churchill, was released, and became an international bestseller. Her next novel, the Instant NYTimes and USAToday bestselling THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE, was published on December 29, 2020, and her first co-written book, THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN, with the talented Victoria Christopher Murray, will be released on June 29, 2021. Writing as Heather Terrell, Marie also published the historical novels The Chrysalis, The Map Thief, and Brigid of Kildare.