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Washington's Iron Butterfly – Bess Clements Abell, An Oral History - Kentucky Scholarship Online
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Washington's Iron Butterfly: Bess Clements Abell, An Oral History

Donald A. Ritchie and Terry L. Birdwhistell


Had Elizabeth "Bess" Clements Abell (1933–2020) been a boy, she would likely have become a politician like her father, Earle C. Clements. Effectively barred from office because of her gender, she forged her own path by helping family friends Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson. Abell's Secret Service code name, "Iron Butterfly," exemplified her graceful but firm management of social life in the Johnson White House. After Johnson's administration ended, she maintained her importance in Washington, DC, serving as chief of staff to Joan Mondale and cofounding a public relations company. Donald A. Ritchi ... More

Keywords: bess clements abell, washington d.c, politics, kentucky, oral history, lady bird johnson, president johnson, lyndon b. johnson, social secretary, white house, women in politics, 1960's, feminism, sexism

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2022 Print ISBN-13: 9780813182261
Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: May 2022 DOI:10.5810/kentucky/9780813182261.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Donald A. Ritchie, author
United States Senate

Terry L. Birdwhistell, author
University of Kentucky