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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.
"Catherine Conner at long last shares her fascinating life story. With colorful anecdotes, she tells us what it was like for a beautiful and intelligent Kentucky girl to become one of the most influential political figures of our time. This memoir is a page-turner."—Brother Patrick Hart, general editor of the Thomas Merton Journals
"Those in the know knew her, even if a larger audience did not, for she played a role greater than many public figures, including congresssmen. Her story of behind-the-scenes power has been untold for too long."—Jim Klotter, Kentucky State Historian
"Readers will enjoy Ms. Conner's account of her experiences with the 'vicissitudes of fortune.'"—Kentucky Living
"Provides insight into Kentucky politics, in addition to recounting many historical events."—Kentucky Monthly
"This memoir entertains and teaches, giving insight into Catherine Conner's imaginative life and courageous character. Her career in its various phases comprises a valuable chapter in the historical record of Kentucky and this century."—Lexington Herald-Leader
"Her remarkable life is well-defined in her memoir."—Louisville Courier-Journal
"This book is a good read for anyone interested in Kentucky women who have been involved in politics."—Paintsville Herald
"Full of places and people who are familiar to most of us. And it is an example of a woman who lived a large life."—Today's Woman
The University Press of Kentucky
Place of Publication
Catherine Conner, Kentucky, Kentucky politicians, Women politicians, New Deal
Conner, Catherine, "From My Old Kentucky Home to the White House: The Political Journey of Catherine Conner" (1999). Political History. 8.