In the summer of 1962, 19-year-old Mimi Beardsley arrived by train in Washington, D.C., to begin an internship in the White House press office. The Kennedy Administration had reinvigorated the capital and the country - and Mimi was eager to contribute. For a young woman from a privileged but sheltered upbringing, the job was the chance of a lifetime. Although she started as a lowly intern, Mimi made an impression on Kennedy's inner circle and, after just three days at the White House, she was presented to the President himself.
Almost immediately, the two began an affair that would continue for the next 18 months.
In an era when women in the workplace were still considered "girls", Mimi was literally a girl herself - naive, innocent, emotionally unprepared for the thrill that came when the President's charisma and power were turned on her full-force. She was also unprepared for the feelings of isolation that would follow as she fell into the double life of a college student who was also the secret lover of the most powerful man in the world.
Then, after the President's tragic death in Dallas, she grieved in private, locked her secret away, and tried to start her life anew, only to find that her past would cast a long shadow and ultimately destroy her relationship with the man she married.
In 2003, a Kennedy biographer mentioned "a tall, slender, beautiful 19-year-old college sophomore and White House intern, who worked in the press office" in reference to one of the President's affairs. The disclosure set off a tabloid frenzy and soon exposed Mimi and the secret that she had kept for 41 years. Because her past had been revealed in such a shocking, public way, she was forced, for the first time, to examine the choices she'd made. She came to understand that shutting down one part of her life so completely had closed her off from so much more.
No longer defined by silence or shame, Mimi Alford has finally unburdened herself with this searingly honest account of her life and her extremely private moments with a very public man. Once Upon a Secret offers a new and personal depiction of one of our most iconic leaders and a powerful, moving story of a woman coming to terms with her past and moving out of the shadows to reclaim the truth.
©2012 Mimi Alford (P)2012 Random House
I'm a liberal, so of course I love President Kennedy. Some elements of the story were hard to hear...but the story felt very authentic, open & raw - so, it was enthralling. Another key element to this being a very good book is that the story was more about Mimi than JFK - so, there was a non-partisan feel ...you definitely don't need to know much about politics to enjoy the story. But, if you're a political wonk like me, you'll be wrapped up from the very beginning.
I bought this book on a lark because I am teaching a course on the Presidency in the 20th Century. The book turned out to be quite well done for what it is and provided insight into the private life of JFK. It is not tawdry or titillating in its approach to a delicate relationship and its effect on a 19 year old intern. The book says volumes about how the Presidency of the US is all about power. The author was perceptive of a situation which she knew would get her nowhere in the end. Her silence for the intervening years was admirable and the inside history, particularly during the Cuban Missile Crisis and assassination were interesting in understanding the JFK era.
I'm glad she wrote this, it's interesting to hear how Washington works, and the effect this sort of power has on a young girl's self esteem. I guess it must be sort of intoxicating.
Wow, Mimi Alford is, on many levels, one brave woman. She was basically raped by Kennedy in their first encounter. He recognized that she was inexperienced and asked if she had ever done "this" before -- AND SHE TOLD HIM NO. He didn't step back and examine the moral dilemma created by taking advantage of this confused, inexperienced, star struck girl. He proceeded to had sex with her anyway -- the thrill of having a virgin perhaps sweetening the prize. Certainly a president has stress beyond the comprehension of most of us, and he deserved relief from it in the manner he was accustomed to. But Mimi, she should have been off limits, even to him. He clearly took advantage of his awe-inspiring stature. To be wanted by him must have been intoxicating. The real shame comes in the repercussions that followed her throughout her life. The secret created collateral damage one could hardly imagine. I feel sorrow for her -- it seems nothing could eclipse this series of events. Apparently she felt it was "safe" to reveal the story now. I don't wonder that Ms. Alford should have denounced him privately and had counseling for being raped and repeatedly assaulted by her abuser before she apologetically escaped.
This story is so A-Typical of what went on back in that era. Mimi is no different than a lot
of other young girls who entered the a "working world" at that time. Granted the man Mimi was involved with was the "President" of the United States, but after that, her story is much the same as many other young women back then. The only difference is they never got to tell their stories because the culprit wasn't the President of the United States and so who would care? Frankly, I think the book was a waste of time and money. The only readers that might enjoy this book are those who have had their heads in the sand for a long time and don't realize that these things happened regularly back then. Thankfully times have changed and women don't have to tolerate such illicit behavior by their male counter parts and employers.
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