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tv   Book Discussion on Capital Dames  CSPAN  May 24, 2015 10:06am-10:56am EDT

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keep making mistakes. i'm hoping he will get involved the national constitution center. you and i are trying to get him involved. >> would be so wonderful to get involved in this great second time in reconstruction process. >> when you go to his chambers, there is a portrait of lincoln there. lincoln is his hero two. lincoln should be all of our heroes. the story of the constitution is what unites us all north and south come east and west, liberal and conservative, republican and democrat, red and blue. that is what it's all about. i am hoping we can about justice thomas in the national constitution center in the years to come. >> ladies and gentlemen you can see from this great teacher what it was that kindled my passion for studying the constitution
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for inspiring me and millions of americans to live and study the can't dictation. i want to thank you ladies and gentlemen. please join me in thanking america is constitutional law professor akhil amar. [applause] >> cokie roberts political commentator for npr and abc news is next on booktv. her book "capital dames" recounts washington d.c. during
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the civil war through the lives of many would who lived and worked in the capital. following the stock from politics & prose story in d.c. we bring you a book party for "capital dames" from the museum also in washington. >> i want to say it is such a personal pleasure for me and for brad who is not here to post cokie roberts tonight. i think this is your sixth or seven at politics & prose. you have been here for three previous books all the way which were "new york times" bestsellers. we have a couple if you miss them on the first go around. cokie has also been here several times but there several times with her husband steve roberts, for books they've written together. some of you may know maybe not all of you that along with many other awards, cokie was named by the library of congress as a living legend.
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legend is good but he knows better. i was going to say here at pnp we think of her as one of our own legend because she has such deep roots in our washington community. if you will permit us tonight we will call for a living legend and a local legend at least for this event. i does seem particularly appropriate because tonight show been discussing her book "capital dames". cokie is best known as one of our nation's most respected broadcast journalist in her commentary on npr and abc news offer critical insight into politics, government and washington and as is the case with every campaign is in should undoubtedly be one of the most important voices we listen to in the months ahead as the 2016th presidential race unfolds and i know you will try to cover --
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[inaudible] >> exactly. a cast of candidates keeps going forever. i do want to mention npr and abc are just her day jobs. you know some of you that cokie grew up in a political family and has seen political life from the inside out and understands where dynamic students of american history. for that reason it is not surprising with her commentary on contemporary politics is also a student of american history and it's the role of women today and in previous eras that has captured her attention as writer and author. i can't empathize enough for my own personal vantage point what a contribution she's made to filling and very big lengths in the story of this nation, specifically the role of women at critical junctures over the last 200 plus years. were talking about this earlier saying it is actually infuriating how so many people
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think the story of america is complete in a matter of interpretation. it is so not completed thank you are helping enlarge and enrich the story. she has relied on letters and journals some first-hand account by and about women. the background and research this presents an important new dimension to our understanding of the colonial experience the american revolution and her newest book the civil war. she introduces her task of women some don't have a perilous time and explains how women change the capital and the war changed them and perhaps not surprising parts of the book is when it comes to women's roles, some things never change very much. and a colorful germanic about the impact of women on this country. if you haven't gotten a copy with planning up front. please give a warm welcome to
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cokie roberts. [applause] >> thank you. this is a neighbor of mine as well. we live very close to each other. i live in the house i grew up in. she is newer than the neighborhood. i probably moved there before she was born. what a fabulous contribution made to this community really. very wonderful. in addition to taking on this legendary legend in washington during the national book fair was a challenge and one that was while matt. my grandsons are here. you have to sit up and pay attention.
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but really they did a fabulous job. my college roommate is here. you know, the old gang. our precedents, my roommate in college helped me type my papers late at night and she couldn't help me finish this book and it was really upsetting to me because i was very late in getting it in. but it was great fun to do. i appreciate the women. i started on this quest about women in history as the results of growing up with my mother and many of you knew her. i watched when i was growing up here in post-world war ii washington the women my mother and her cohorts running everything. they read the political
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conventions. they ran the voter registration drive. they ran their husband's campaigns. they ran their offices in amman with the african-american women in washington, they ran all the social service these. in fact when my father was killed in a plane crash and another ran for congress, she called lady byrd johnson who was one of her closest, closest friends and a group of remarkable women and she told her she was going to run for congress and didn't want me to read it in the paper. ladybird said that ladybird said it is to make lindy, but how are you going to do it without a wife? that was a very good question and one she had a hard time with takeshi ended up playing both roles of course and making it twice as hard. it wasn't an experience in a way of growing up they really dig give me a deeper appreciation
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for the women in politics now and for women in history. and particularly interested in the women of the revolutionary. because i have to deal with the founding fathers all the time. i know them all by first names. i am not crazy about them. i admire them but once you start reading their wives letters, you like them less. but that is an era if you cover politics as long as i have you deal with constantly. the people who say that coming mainly in the united states senate have it wrong about 99.9% of the time. i was always going back to see what they did say about religion in the public square for the right to bear arms why you have to be an child of an american
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citizen to be president. you don't have to be born in america. canada will do. so i had gotten to the men and i started being very curious about what the women were up to. i really didn't know anything. so i went back to find out in the reason i didn't know anything is because they really hadn't been written with the exception of a couple good biographies of abigail adams, there really wasn't anything. since then to quite good books have come out. is that any better? thank you. so that is how i wrote founding
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mothers in the sequel ladies of liberty taking us through john quincy adams which is literally the next generation. there i was. i had done and i was happy with it. the publisher wanted a civil war book. never intended to write a civil war book. my relatives were on the losing side and they didn't fight and lost. 600,000 dead americans fighting each other, but they really did want to book so i started puzzling around about what it would need. whatever it would be i would love the letters because women's letters are fabulous. they are so much better. they really are. the men knew they were doing temp in extraordinary.
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and so they wrote with that in mind for their admitted and often pompous and focused and all that. the women just wrote letters. they were full of politics but they also talk about the economic situation who was having an all too often losing babies in fashion, all of it. all of life is in the letters. they are funny and frank and feisty and honest in ways you don't find with the men. most of them have never been published before. so i am always on this quest to see i don't know what i'm getting so i read along and see what i can learn. my personal favorite remains one
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from ladies of liberty in a letter written by louisa catherine adams who has a life of john quincy adams and it was here in washington in 1820 and he was secretary of state and she wrote these chatty letters that abigail had died and he was loudly. she had them at one point saying it was her vocation to get her has been elected president. so as the year 1820 committee or the compromise congress stayed in session much longer than usable. finally they adjourned. she goes to a meeting of the orphan asylum trustees abdali matteson after the british invasion in 1814. so she goes to meetings with
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trustees and one says to her day needed new building. she said what are you talking about? the woman said the session had been very long. the fathers of the nation had left or the cases to be provided for by the public and are in petition was the most likely to be called upon to maintain this illicit progeny. 40 pregnant women left behind in their worldly 200 members of congress. some of them could have been recidivists. i don't know. so she says to john adams i recommend a petition to congress next session for the great and moral bodies to establish an institution and certainly move the two additional dollars a day which they've given themselves as an increase in pay may be appropriated as a fund towards the support of the institution.
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it doesn't get any better than that. when i discovered this i couldn't believe it. i knew whatever this book was going to be that i would come up on wonderful letters like that. it turned that in fact her daughter-in-law who is married to charles francis adams who was here briefly in congress and in a cave the ambassador to st. james was very instrumental in keeping the british from recognizing the confederacy. while they were here in washington it was the infamous 36 congress, and she is writing home is unbelievably frank letters to his son henry adams and she says a president buchanan that he is a heavy old code and the senate behaved like children in silly ones that bad. we can get behind this. again, my favorite, i would
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advise any young woman who wishes to have an easy cry out life not to marian adams. so i knew whatever i did that the letters would be great but i still didn't know what the book was. so i started thinking about my own growing up here after world war ii and the effects of the war were very physically present the mullahs call bird with with what we call temporary buildings that had gone up in world war i and then more had been added. i remember asking my parents with temporary went because they didn't seem to be going anywhere and they were there for a long time. so you saw physically how the war had increased the government and made the city a bigger more important city.
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we knew the stories or at least learn the stories of rosie the riveter in the government girls who came into town in large numbers to staff the bureaucracy. and i knew because again i covered a hand had written about it but i haven't covered before these conventions but i had written about them after the war the movement really did come into focus and equal rights amendment was introduced in the first republic convention after the warrior and the democrats the next time around. and there is this myth that women had all gone home after the war, but it simply wasn't true. occupying all kinds of traditions they've never occupied before. 60,000 women took advantage of the g.i. bill and brought
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themselves to where we are now with the majority of college graduates female. i started thinking i wonder if the civil war had a similar impact on the role of women in the role of washington and as i started to do the research i found out absolutely and radically so. so that is the book. it turned out to be fascinating to learn about it to write. women came into work and all over the north but in washington a couple of very young women were killed in a horrible arsenal explosion in the newspaper stories about it or just terrific because they uncovered the women in the next day in their bodies are unrecognizable. they are trapped in their hoop skirts. in the middle of july 2 in this
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incredibly dangerous work of staffing ammunition in creating the ammunition and there they were dressed as the proper ladies at the 19th century. a huge funeral but by the president and secretary board and there is a beautiful monument at the congressional cemetery. the president giving do to the refuge contribution they have made. government girls same things. i started arriving just as they did in world war ii to make a living because the men were gone. then it was for two latest just as they started showing up congress authorized the money to pay for the war. as many of you has been to see it be made it is so much fun. comes off in this great huge sheets and now the bills are cut
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up by machines. but then it requires somebody sitting with a pair of scissors cutting out each bill and the treasurer of the united states say women are just better with scissors than men are. he also allotted how he could pay the women must come as something i've had several bosses say along the way. so by the end of the war one of the women journalists she's documented it there were women in every department of government and that has just not been true before. women journalists is another thing. women who came to washington and to cover the politics and the war. some have been here before. when it was an abolitionist and suffer just but she was the
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first woman allowed to report out of the press gallery before the war. she was soon kick out because she wrote vicious truths. she actually wrote that daniel webster was a drunk and the men were horrified. i found it so recognizable because the same thing happened when we women journalists started covering political campaigns and got on the us and the boys on the bus had taken a vow of america and we hadn't. we wrote what went on on the campaign trail. i remember once coming back after the break they show when i was the only woman and i said something along the lines we do report that the candidate is active. and of course we tell stories and a lot of our best friends
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wise. this look of total terror came over the guys face is in the timekeepers that the first 45 solid minutes of silence while they observe this piece of information. and then there are women you know about or you don't know how remarkable they are. women like dorothy dixie clara barton. before the war came to washington for lobby for a bill for the federal government. she wanted the government to put aside 12 million acres for the mentally ill and poverty-stricken. and she was already so influential because of her work and the mentally ill at the senate set aside an office in the capital for her from which to lobby and another house come
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another session. finally gets it through both houses of congress. so she left. before she left she established in elizabeth which was called the government hospital for the insane. then she got back and goes to the surgeon general and said she would be the superintendent of female nurses. there were no female nurses. that was not an open field. the surgeon general was terrified and basically said yes, ma'am. you go do that. by the way not only was nursing not open. the medicine was barely touched because women have not been allowed into medical schools. they were basically three or four women doctors. one of them came here to washington to get a job with the
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union army but she ended up having to volunteer. she dressed like a man so they arrested her all the time just on general principles. she is still the only woman to have won the medal of honor. she was surgeon in the union army. and then carl barton and one of the stories from a new england family and suffrage establishing the mother takes against the fact she didn't take as much as men and she then came to washington to try and make more money and she did for a while. then the war happens. massachusetts trip show up in the capital. and she started bringing them
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supplies and reading the newspapers and all of that. they started saying there's this woman here who can do while this. people started sending her supplies. she went in bed i've got three warehouses full of supplies. he sent her where she wanted to go which was to the front and she was incredibly brave and intrepid throughout the worse around here particularly antietam, the single worst in american history in terms of casualties. after the war one of the last that lincoln performed was to allow her to set up in missing persons bureau and so she found this, but she also identified the graves of tens of thousands of soldiers so they were given the respect of unmarked grave and not left unknown.
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then she goes to europe and discover some thing called the red cross and comes back here and establishes the american red cross. this is one of the many things that drives me crazy. this is the kind of statement and then she established the american red cross. was that hard? did anything go before that? was there a story there? of course there was. she was able to get a read cross going in the united states but it didn't have the clout of being aligned with the international red cross or you could really do some work because the senate first tattoo ratified geneva conventions for them to be part of the international red cross. for two decades she lobby the senate finally got the senate to
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ratify the geneva treaty. she puts in what is called the american amendment, which allows the red cross to go into disaster zones as well as war zones. right now after the earthquake but the red cross fair it's the result of the lobbying clara did 130 years ago. all of these things were showing me and fascinatingly and of course what i do for a living and also how i grew up and they were just wonderful. before the war the society was ruled by southern women.
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in a refer to themselves as ballast and there is a certain amount of fighting among them but also a great deal of friendship and their letters are full of politics but also again very very frank and at one point she was dolly madison's great news. she was brilliant and beautiful and kind. of the women write about her and they all like her. they discovered she was going to marry stephen douglas. he was considerably older and have a cup of kids. jefferson davis and his wife writes home and says that dirty speculator and trickster broken with the first wife's money
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bison allergan well read women because she is poor and her father is proud. fortunately washington is getting a new water system says sparing his wife's back therese, douglas may wash it little off of her. his acquaintance will build larger rooms with more perfect ventilation. the men don't the stephen douglas bank. so he still defeated a couple years later for the senate. she turns out to be one of the most delightful women and the letters are quite wonderful. she said presently throughout the war even after the state of mississippi sissy had and became president of the confederacy. from the beginning she wrote that there is no way this would work.
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she just did an analysis. we don't have enough manufacturing, enough for. while she went to richmond. the she stayed friendly in the north particularly who we all know from montgomery blair and all of that. he was in lincoln's cabin in of course. her father come of francis preston blair was a lincoln confidant and advisor. her other brother was a congressman. her has-been was robert e. lee's cousin, but was an officer in the union navy and because he was in the navy she wrote almost every day. there are thousands of letters. wartime letters are published but there are plenty more all happily at princeton. so her letters really gave you a
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sense of what is happening here through the war and how much danger washington within which is some thing i did not focus on particularly at the beginning of the war when there is every expectation they would come in and burn the place down and until the forests were built around it it was really unsafe. i found a diary an unpublished diary from 1861 that first year of the woman who was the farmer grows stale. she really talks about how scary it is and she's a confederate sympathizer as were most of the people in town. she's telling her children just keep quiet because loose lips sink ships. she was afraid they would be
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something intemperate and the union army would get them. she was completely cut off from her children in virginia. you get a sense of someone you could recognize right here. lizzie leigh was one of the few people who try to befriend mary lincoln. not easy. she was really difficult. today should probably be diagnosed as bipolar. she was certainly mercurial. she let her views be known to everybody about who she thought was awful in the cabinet, which was pretty much the cabinet. the press was all over her. they followed her everywhere, but about everything she did. all of her shopping and all of that. she was accused of leaking the state of the union message to the "new york herald" either in exchange for good publicity or money depending on the story you
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are breeding. the congress launched an investigation into the first lady's communications. so you see things don't change. the president went to the hill because it was a republican congress he could do this. please don't subpoena my wife. it would be very embarrassing to me. they did a full investigation and it was not pretty. the women of washington really didn't like her and i was somewhat precipitated. her best friend became elizabeth tetley and elizabeth keck was a former slave who bought her freedom and had come here. she was a very very talented dressmaker. she ran a very profitable business. all of these prominent women went to her and how to make the best dresses. they hired her and became very
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good friends and she was in the conversation with the president and first lady. the first lady told her many things herself. she helped take care of mary lincoln and then after the president was shot mrs. lincoln was in the white house for two months and out of her mind. she took care of her then and then took her back to illinois and got her set up and then she wrote a tell-all book. it's really remarkable how things don't change. of course that severed the relationship and ruined her business because other people worried she might do the same. but it allowed her to then pursue her real passion, which was social service. she understood as a formerly enslaved person what the situation was.
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first it was escaped slaves coming down for those who had gone to the union army called contraband and after emancipation friedman. she understood there were many chimeric particularly the elderly who have no wherewithal to get a job or housing or anything so she established a relief organization and they were able to raise a good deal of money and awareness of the issue. she was able after her business fell apart to really throw her energies into the friedman relief as many other women came to town to work as well. that was what really struck me in the end was how after the lawyer as a result of the experiences during the war these women did move out from and take on their own causes and their own issues.
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they have been very involved in very influential behind-the-scenes but now they were marching onto the public stage themselves. carina davis for instance after the war which was because she had been put in jail as part of the conspiracy to assassinate lincoln, which was a crock, but there he was. she prevailed. you cannot get over in this book how these women are in and out of the white house all of the time just giving the president i'm sure good grief. it is fabulous. i am so jealous. they have complete access. after she got there has been on a jail, they have a hard time and he finally dies and he moves to new york where she had a job at the new york world as a journalist and he was a huge
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scandal. the first lady at the confederacy moving to new york city and people offered her a house in richmond and she said she wanted to move to new york and she had never been fully accepted by the south. her grandfather was governor of new jersey. she was never quite fair enough for the perfect southern belle. /aim is to new york she writes her daughter and free brown and 64. i can do whatever i want to do. but then she got there cheaper friend ed julia grant and it was page one news in all of the newspapers when she and mrs. grant met. and then she went to the dedication of the great memorial very publicly because what she was engaged in was a very public series of acts of reconciliation
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of bringing the country back together. she wasn't trying to influence a man to do it. she was doing it herself but their own voice very publicly. similarly the same thing. a wonderful delightful woman named virginia clay or read a book about herself called the ballot the 50s. after the water she became an ardent suffragist amazon platform supports gracefully and william lloyd garrison, her husband a senator from alabama had fought nearly before the war and now she was with them again in this public act of reconciliation but also with a cause that she thought she could use her voice to promote and all the newspapers say her voice is terribly important and one of the great things now as you can
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read all the newspapers. they are online and so you can waste days because they are so much fun to read. that interested me too because when i was growing up there was always said that a proper lady was only in the paper when she was born, married and died. they were written about constantly. so she was very much out in front after the war. another southerner sarah pryor who went to new york, became a noted writer and created several important relief organizations worked with elizabeth blair lee who stayed true to the union to help establish the daughters of the american revolution began in an act of reconciliation going back to an earlier time when the country was together and had a common cause. so they really did stand there on their own two feet in front
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of the public and make their cases with their own voices having been greatly empowered by the war. clara barton looking back on it at a memorial day address a couple decades later said the woman was at least 50 years in an end to the normal position which continued peace would have us find her. so it is quite a story. i loved getting to know these women. i know you will too. thank you for than me share them with you. i would be glad to take your questions. [applause] questions. there is a microphone right here. >> why does it seem like history the women always seem to be conveniently deleted from history. >> why the women conveniently deleted? because the men don't care.
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as was said earlier its infuriating. it's also inaccurate. you can't tell history leaving out half the human race can have an accurate history. thank you. also it is so much more fun to have them. they are just more interesting. >> i thank you and mr. bash for a terrific at the national archives. wonderful program. you mentioned in passing how many people were there went to visitation schools, can you talk a little more. >> visitations stay in operation all through the war. it had always accepted girls of
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every faith and region and actually remarkably quite a few stayed through the war. most of the schools and hotels and everything were taken over either to house troops because washington became one great stinking hospital because everybody coming in from all the battles around came into washington. visitation was untouched because winfield scott had been the chief general before the war his daughter had become a visitation nun and she was buried there. so it was never taken over. continue to operate all through the war and a lot of these women went there. let's get some girls asking questions. >> he found some wonderful things about lincoln. did you have an unexpected
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debris at source for mary todd lincoln? >> i didn't spend that much time delving into mary todd lincoln because she has been written about a good deal. obviously i had to deal with her. she was the first lady. the parts that i found interesting were what other people who were contemporaries wrote about her because again it was the first person they thought. they all had views. elizabeth cap please book is very eye-opening about the white house in what was going on in the white house. but also her knees. towards the end of the war, and mary lincoln's half-sister came and stayed in the white house for about a week. her husband was in the confederate army and had been killed. very lincoln's half brothers and
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brother-in-law were in the confederate army which made her suspect to the north the way granted davis a suspect to the south. this half-sister came and stayed on that woman's daughter later wrote a book defending her aunt mary but it was also very clear how very crazy mary lincoln was. her sister kept a diary during her week in the white house or 10 days, whatever. barry had come in and told her that willey came to her bed at night. >> ackley is the only one i know that mary tells stephen douglas courted her at the same time as abraham lincoln. >> that is true. stephen douglas did woo and lose the mary todd.
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she was looking for a president. [laughter] she really was. even though everybody thought stephen douglas was presidential material, she saw something she could mold and abraham lincoln. it is a love match. they absolutely loved each other, but it was just tortured. she was mine and she was politically acute. she just had a difficult time. >> details that you've told so far just the winters didn't and i've are deprive your book and started it but haven't gotten far enough to read this. is there any chance of a documentary about some of these fantastic women? >> a documentary producer would have to do it. that's not me.
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audio mac >> i am assuming there are women there are women you're interested in writing about that perhaps you could -- >> i wanted to stay in washington because otherwise -- and also i do washington well. one of the things i've learned is academic historians often get the history right and the politics wrong. it really is helpful to know how to analyze politics in order to write these books. so i wanted to have equal numbers of northerners and southerners. and reading 19th century books the same women started being mentioned.
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so then i did go searching through their papers. i've never found any papers. i found the university of chicago had letters to her mainly after stephen douglas died and a few others. sarah pryor one of the women i write about seem to send people of virginia hams. she sent a recipe that said unless he boiled overnight in champagne as they do in new orleans, this is the recipe. but i found hardly anything at all written by her. she is still in there because everybody talks about her so much. when she died the newspapernewspaper s refer to her as a popular icon. for most of the others i was able to find papers and a lot of them were unpublished papers. >> what do you think you
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would've found? >> i would've liked to have known what she had to say. everybody else likes her and they say she's really smart and she's wonderful and she's this and she's back. every so often, after douglas died the whole world was wooing her because she was considered a great beauty. she did tell francis preston blair that she didn't want to settle. she did eventually remarry a union officer had not asked children. >> can you hear me? i just wanted to ask, how did you find all these letters? did you have to ride across the country? >> modern technology is a wonderful thing. mothers came out in 2004 so i started working on not around
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2001. then you really did have to go. but now you can see where the guy's papers are. mrs. google does that for you. and then you get in touch with those libraries or historic societies and ask if they have the women's papers at or not the state. they become far far more accommodating because now they know what i'm up to. said they can then scan papers. they can scan papers and send them to you. what you get at that point it's 19th century handwritten letters horizontally and vertically. breeding them is another matter altogether and i did have to hire someone. i really c

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