Doris Kearns Goodwin: “If you interview five people you see five different points of view. It’s what makes history so complicated.”

From The Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of the writer Doris Kearns Goodwin, considered the preeminent presidential historian having written best-selling books on Abraham Lincoln, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Goodwin was born in Brooklyn and grew up on Long Island. Her father called her “Bubbles” and inspired her lifelong love for baseball, taking her to Brooklyn Dodgers games and teaching her how to keep score. She was such a devoted baseball fan that during the 1951 season, she gave Gil Hodges, who was in a batting slump, the St. Christopher medal that she’d won in Confirmation class, for luck. His luck improved that very day. Goodwin wrote a memoir about her childhood, Wait Till Next Year: Summer Afternoons with My Father and Baseball (1998), that’s considered a classic of post-war American life. Later, Goodwin worked as a sports journalist and was the first female journalist to enter the Boston Red Sox locker room.

Goodwin met Lyndon B. Johnson when she was 24 years old and working as a White House Fellow. It was 1967 and Johnson took a liking to her, inviting her to his ranch in Texas and confiding in her. . . . Her book about Johnson, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream (1976), is now considered a landmark of presidential biography.

She quit her job as a professor at Harvard and started writing full time while she raised three children. She said: “Writing you can do right in your house. You don’t have to go anywhere.” She is meticulous about her research, relying on diaries, letters, newspapers, and firsthand accounts, but circumspect about results. She says: “If you interview five people about the same incident, and you see five different points of view, it makes you know what makes history so complicated. Something doesn’t just occur. It’s not like a scientific event. It’s a human event.”

No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II (1995) is her favorite out of all her books. The book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for history. It took Goodwin longer to write the book than it took for World War II to be foughtHer book The Fitzgeralds and The Kennedys: An American Saga (1987) took 10 years to write — 900 pages, including 3,500 footnotes. . . .

Her other books include The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism (2013), and most recently Leadership in Turbulent Times (2018).

Ms. Goodwin’s award-winning Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln was the inspiration for Steven Spielberg’s film “Lincoln,” which earned 12 Academy Award nominations, including an Academy Award for actor Daniel Day-Lewis for his portrayal of the 16th president. She is currently active as a guest on CNN and other media outlets.

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