"Dinner at the White House"

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An excerpt from Washington's Golden Age

by Joseph Dalton

Tonight would be intimate and off the record, but dinner with the Roosevelts in the White House family quarters was still an occasion and Hope Ridings Miller took, nothing casually.

Before leaving her desk at the Washington Post, she phoned her husband Lee to make sure he’d finished his rounds with patients and also on his way back to their 16th Street apartment. Returning home to change from office clothes into evening attire was part of Hope’s regular work routine. Collecting Lee wasn’t. But whether she went solo or coupled, her evenings were usually spent “going about,” as she often put it. A cocktail party or two, an embassy reception, or a formal dinner at a private residence, she was invited to everything. And the next morning she'd be alone with the typewriter, recounting the names and titles of whom she saw and what they were talking about. This evening at the White House would be unique though, and spouses were essential.

The dance for the Fourth Estate was one of the White House’s lighter affairs. In past seasons the Millers had been part of the throng of 1,500 reporters and editors who enjoyed an evening of beer and dancing at the executive mansion. But now they were invited to come early for dinner, a tradition reserved for the top officers of the various press organizations. The Millers were still in their early thirties and had only been in Washington for six years. Prominence had come quickly. As president of the Women's National Press Club, Hope would sit alongside leaders—all men—of the White House Correspondent’s Association, National Press Club, and the Gridiron.

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Joseph Dalton has been a journalist and critic since 2002. During the 1990s he was a record producer. Among his projects were the collections "Gay American Composers" volumes one and two, and "Lesbian American Composers." He also led a three-year research initiative into the effects of AIDS on American music.

Joseph will be on the retreat team for Gay Spirit Camp (July 29 through August 4). Our thanks to him for permission to reproduce this exerpt. Copies of Washington's Golden Age are available in our gift shop.

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