Capital dames The Civil War and the women of Washington, 1848-1868

Cokie Roberts

Book - 2015

"Roberts marks the sesquicentennial of the Civil War by offering a ... look at Washington, D.C., and the experiences, influence, and contributions of its women during this momentous period of American history"

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New York, NY : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers [2015]
Main Author
Cokie Roberts (author)
First edition
Item Description
Map on lining papers.
Physical Description
x, 494 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 481-492).
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. Meet the Women of Washington, 1848-1856
  • Chapter 2. Jessie Runs for President but Harriet Takes the White House and Mary Jane Reports, 1856-1858
  • Chapter 3. Varina Leads and Leaves as Abby Drops By, 1859-1861
  • Chapter 4. Rose Goes to Jail, Jessie Goes to the White House, Dorothea Goes to Work, 1861
  • Chapter 5. Rose Is Released, Clara Goes to War, Louisa May Briefly Nurses, 1862
  • Chapter 6. Lizzie Reports on the Action, Janet Goes to Camp, Louisa Takes Charge, 1863
  • Chapter 7. Anna Speaks, Jessie Campaigns (Again), Sojourner Visits, 1864
  • Chapter 8. One Mary Leaves, One Mary Hangs, and Lois Writes About It All, 1865
  • Chapter 9. Virginia and Varina Return, Sara Survives, Mary is Humiliated, Kate Loses, 1866-1868
  • Epilogue
  • Author's Note and Acknowledgments
  • Cast of Characters
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Illustration Credits
Review by Booklist Review

Roberts, (Founding Mothers, 2004, and Ladies of Liberty, 2008) provides another splendid female-centric slice of history. This time, to mark the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, she focuses on the period from 1848 to 1868. During these momentous 20 years, Washington, D.C., was transformed from an insular political and social center into a bustling army camp and a massive military hospital. Roberts explores in depth the ways in which this transformation affected and shaped the women of the capital and, by extension, the women of America. Formerly consigned to roles of social and political belles or servants, Washington females of all classes rolled up their sleeves, taking on both small and large jobs in journalism, nursing, munitions, government, and social services. Viewing this evolution through the lens of a remarkable group of women, who thankfully left behind a substantial written record in the form of letters, diaries, articles, and books, Roberts illuminates how the harsh realities of the war changed the course of individual lives and permanently altered the course of American women's history.--Flanagan, Margaret Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review

Emmy Award-winning political commentator Roberts (Ladies of Liberty; Founding Mothers) commemorates the sesquicentennial anniversary of the end of the Civil War with an exploration of the experiences and social, cultural, and political influences of women in war-torn Washington, DC. Covering the late 1840s through the late 1860s, this group biography focuses on 14 prominent political spouses and relatives, seven authors and journalists, and six activists and reformers, with first lady Mary Todd Lincoln, American Red Cross founder Clara Barton, and Confederate spy Rose Greenhow among those featured. Roberts uses these women's intertwined stories to chronicle the war's impact on the capital city from their viewpoints while also describing the broader story of the conflict throughout the fractured nation from their perspectives. The author's extensive research relies heavily on government records, newspaper accounts, and personal letters and diaries, which gives this fresh look at Washington, DC during the Civil War era a sense of intimacy, immediacy, and originality. Roberts concludes her well-written, readable study with a lengthy bibliography and a fascinating epilog featuring summaries of the post-Civil War activities of many of the women portrayed. VERDICT History buffs who enjoyed and learned from Roberts's two previous books on the pivotal roles of women in early America will likely find this volume just as informative and accessible.-Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Political commentator and bestselling author Roberts (Ladies of Liberty: The Women who Shaped our Nation, 2008, etc.) shines a spotlight on the remarkable political, literary, and activist women of Washington, D.C., during the tumult of the Civil War.In her previous books, the author has recounted the changing roles of women and their significant impacts on the nation's growth, and her latest is a natural follow-up. With the commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War in 2011, Roberts' curiosity was piqued again. "I started wondering whether that horrific conflict had a similar impact on American women's lives," she writes. The author's extensive research included diaries, newspapers, government records, and private correspondence, all of which capture the turmoil, excitement, and heartbreak that transpired in this once-quiet "prewar Capital City." With the onset of the war, Washington evolved into a sprawling Union Army camp and then a reeking, overcrowded military hospital. As a result, some Southern belles fled to Confederate territory. Women shouldered new roles, becoming nurses and forming social service and relief agencies. Some wrote propaganda, and others became spies. Many women moved to Washington to fill positions once held by men. African-American women founded societies to advocate for improved conditions in the camps for displaced slaves. The author's cast of characters is vast, from familiar names to those less well-known, and her detailed, layered narration makes the information fresh and highly relatable. Whether Roberts is relating the confidences between Mary Lincoln and her seamstress, Elizabeth Keckley, the tireless work of abolitionist Josephine Griffing, or the struggles of Varina Davis, wife of Jefferson Davis, to secure her dying husband's release from jail, each story widens the historical lens. An enlightening account detailing how the Civil War changed the nation's capital while expanding the role of women in politics, health care, education, and social services. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.