Review – WE CAN DO TOGETHER: IMPRESSIONS OF A RECOVERING FEMINIST FIRST LADY

Review – WE CAN DO TOGETHER: IMPRESSIONS OF A RECOVERING FEMINIST FIRST LADY
WE CAN DO TOGETHER: IMPRESSIONS OF A RECOVERING FEMINIST FIRST LADY 
Review by Julie Lorenzen
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WE CAN DO TOGETHER: IMPRESSIONS OF A RECOVERING FEMINIST FIRST LADY BY DAGMAR BRAUN CELESTE. KENT STATE UNIVERSITY PRESS (KENT, OHIO), 2002. 239 PP PB

Dagmar Celeste, First Lady of Ohio from 1983 to 1991, began writing her memoirs in 1991 after Kent State University offered to publish her life story. It took eleven years for the book to be written and then published, but the outcome was definitely worth the wait. Self-described as a woman who was born, raised and married in Austria, awakened in India and divorced and recovering in America (more specifically Cleveland, Ohio), Dagmar Celeste has had a fascinating life. 

She grew up in Austria during World War II and after the war spent some time in Italy as a result of a Red Cross program designed to help malnourished Austrian children. As an adult, she volunteered at Mother Theresa’s New Delhi mission in the early 1960s, argued with then Chief Justice Earl Warren as a newly wed 21-year-old at a dinner party, helped to oversee the renovation of the Governor’s mansion during Dick Celeste’s terms, and changed the role of First Lady from a silent supporter to an active political partner. Working with her Women’s Core Circle, Dagmar dealt with issues of childcare and pay equity, and strived to provide business opportunities to women and minorities. She also gave birth to and raised six children. 

Her life changed drastically when her husband, Dick, told her that he loved another woman and wanted a divorce in1994. Ironically, she received the news just after she had just edited the chapter describing their pan-European courtship and what she called a fairy tale wedding August 24, 1962. He remarried in October 1995. Despite being devastated to the point of being hospitalized a few months for depression, Dagmar managed to recover enough to start writing again and appears more insightful than bitter—most of the time—when discussing her ex-husband. Her insightfulness can be observed in essays providing a “post-divorce perspective” that precede each chapter. 
 
The book’s title of We Can Do Together and the chapter titles come from Dick Celeste’s 1981 campaign song Have You Ever Seen the Sun Rise on Ohio by Joe Ashley that Dagmar commissioned to be a wedding anniversary gift for Dick in 1977. She writes  “throughout our marriage the “we” in We Can Do Together changed from the “we” of Dick and Dagmar . . . to the “we” of the extended group of political and personal supporters. The “we” has also come to represent, for me, women’s energy so essential to my own survival—from my own mother, Theodora Braun, my grandmothers, Dora and Josephine, and my sister, Dorly … and my own loyal women friends who have comforted and inspired me in so many ways. (xv-xvi)” The appreciation Dagmar feels toward the woman in her life comes through strongly throughout the book.

In conclusion, We Can Do Together is the well-written work of a feisty and brilliant woman. Her book should be valued by all Ohioans, but will most likely be appreciated by feminists, historians, and Democrats. This First Lady’s book is first rate. 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 

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