In this engrossing and informative companion to her New York Times bestsellers Founding Mothers and Ladies of Liberty, Cokie Roberts marks the sesquicentennial of the Civil War by offering a riveting look at Washington, D.C. and the experiences, influence, and contributions of its women during this momentous period of American history.
With the outbreak of the Civil War, the small, social Southern town of Washington, D.C. found itself caught between warring sides in a four-year battle that would determine the future of the United States.
After the declaration of secession, many fascinating Southern women left the city, leaving their friends—such as Adele Cutts Douglas and Elizabeth Blair Lee—to grapple with questions of safety and sanitation as the capital was transformed into an immense Union army camp and later a hospital. With their husbands, brothers, and fathers marching off to war, either on the battlefield or in the halls of Congress, the women of Washington joined the cause as well. And more women went to the Capital City to enlist as nurses, supply organizers, relief workers, and journalists. Many risked their lives making munitions in a highly flammable arsenal, toiled at the Treasury Department printing greenbacks to finance the war, and plied their needlework skills at The Navy Yard—once the sole province of men—to sew canvas gunpowder bags for the troops.
Cokie Roberts chronicles these women's increasing independence, their political empowerment, their indispensable role in keeping the Union unified through the war, and in helping heal it once the fighting was done. She concludes that the war not only changed Washington, it also forever changed the place of women.
Sifting through newspaper articles, government records, and private letters and diaries—many never before published—Roberts brings the war-torn capital into focus through the lives of its formidable women.
Cokie Roberts was a political commentator for ABC News and NPR. She won countless awards and in 2008 was named a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress. She was the author of the New York Times bestsellers We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters, Founding Mothers, Ladies of Liberty, and, with her husband, the journalist Steven V. Roberts, From This Day Forward and Our Haggadah.
“Cokie Roberts regularly dissects the power dynamics of modern-day Washington. As an author, though, she’s demonstrated a special regard for the farther reaches of American history and its behind-the-scenes players.” — New York Times Book Review
“Roberts is a gifted narrator of Civil War history, weaving the experiences and perspectives of the women into a fresh and illuminating account of key battles and events, from John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry to the assassination of the president.” — Washington Post
“An engaging narrative…. Roberts documents the struggles of many women to overcome their second-class status.… [she] does not ignore the experiences of ‘ordinary’ women.” — Philadelphia Inquirer
“Helping to reverse...cultural ignorance in American history...Roberts again combines her historical interest and long personal knowledge of Washington politics... [and] unearths the important and unique role of women during the US Civil War.” — Christian Science Monitor
“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. ” — Kirkus Reviews
“Another splendid female-centric slice of history. . . . 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.” — Booklist
“The author’s extensive research...gives this fresh look at Washington, DC during the Civil War era a sense of intimacy, immediacy, and originality.... [A] well-written, readable study. . . . Informative and accessible.” — Library Journal