tv Book Discussion on Capital Dames CSPAN September 13, 2015 4:45am-5:31am EDT
and i mean unique of reason, and balanced analysis of politics and issues today. she continues to provide that service. speaking to to provide that service. speaking to me and many other people we are very grateful she did that purpose for us and she continues to do that service. please tell me welcome cokie roberts. [applause]. thank you. >> thank you all for being here on this labor day weekend. i thickness a book festival is one of the greatest things that happened year in and year out. hundreds of thousands of people showing up [applause]. to celebrate books and to buy them. what a concept, children and families. usually my children are with me but i'm going to catch a plane and see them in a minute. it is a wonderful event and the
fact is that i write these history books often, many of the characters in the history book are political wives. there is a political wife who starred this book festival, it was laura bush who went to the fabulous library of congress and said i did it taxes a book festival, can we do one in washington. it shows you what a fabulous legacy political lie wives have left here in washington. that makes it more delightful for me to be able to participate in it. also, we should just say the volunteers of this festival are the heroes. [applause]. by and large the heroes because there is no way this could go on without these wonderful hundreds of volunteers. thank you all very much for what you do.
i have written history books about women in history and i never was going to write about the civil war. first of all all of my ancestors fought on the losing side. so i didn't really have any interest in its. secondly, it's an awful war. it is a horrible, horrible time in our history, we lost more than 600,000 americans and it's a failure of the political system that these politicians could not get to emancipation without war. as someone who covers politics and cares about politics, but to me is so dispiriting that i really did not want to write about it. my publisher had other ideas and was pretty clear that i was writing a book about the civil war. so i started to think about that, but i actually had had absolutely no idea what that
book was going to be. i knew it would be about women, and plenty of the others people. people always say to me why do you write about women? why i guess the fact that i menace kurds via other half of humankind think they should have a book written about them. i would actually argue that history is not accurate without knowing what the rest of the world was up to. so i know it was going to be about women and that i would make great discoveries. i knew i would find a wonderful women's women's letters that would just delight me. i have to say, the men's letters, particularly, particularly in the pouting. but throughout our history are so studying, adding the and ready for for publications.
where the women's letters were just letters. they are funny, frank, and truthful. they paint the whole story, and the same letter you will read about maybe we should go to war with france, but but i need my new hat that i left at home and so-and-so is having babies, and also often losing them, and here's what the economic situation is. you get the full picture of society and life through women's letters. you find them because most of them have never been published, you find these utterly delightful things. my favorite still remains from my second history book ladies of liberty from the republic it was
written by john quincy adams wife. it was written when he was secretary of state, she was running his campaign for president, she called this is what her vocation to get him elected president. she wrote these wonderful, gossipy letters from home. abigail had died and john was lonely so louisa wrote these letters home. this particular letter was from 1820 and the year of the missouri compromise. because of the hammering out the compromise congress state in session much longer than usual. so finally they go home. in july, louisa goes to the trustees that dolly madison had established after the invasion of 1814. she gets there, one of the other trustee says to her we are going to need a new building and the
weeds that says why? and the woman said the session had been very long, the fathers of the nation had left 40 cases and our institution was the most likely to be called upon to maintain this illicit progeny. congress had left 40 pregnant women behind and there is only like a hundred 87 members of congress. so she was up in arms and said i recommended a petition to congress next session for that great and moral body to establish a founding institution and to strictly move it to additional dollars a day which they have been giving themselves as an increase in pay, may be appropriated as a way to fund the institution.
it doesn't get any better than that. when i found that i was in ecstasy. and that it did turn out that one of the great letterwriters that i found for this book, was her daughter-in-law, abigail brooks adams. she came to washington when he was in congress before he went on to be the union ambassador to the war. she wrote these are wonderful, feisty letters home. calling president buchanan of the heavy old toad and saying the senate behaved as children, and silly one says that. i could get behind that one. my personal favorite was i could advise at a young woman who wishes to have an easy, quiet life, not to marianne adams. [laughter] i knew the letters were going to
girls coming to washington during the war. i knew the role of women during the war had promoted women's rights after the war. the republicans and their platforms in 1940s and then the movement toward equal rights again coming out of the experience of war. so i started wondering maybe that's it. maybe the civil war had a similar impact on women's lives and on the role of washington in society. so i started researching that and it turned out yes, in fact i was exactly the case. so that is the book. it was just fascinating to learn about it. it's as much a history of a
washington era it is a history of the women. as someone who is lived here all of my life, and addition to louisiana, it was of great interest to me. some of these women are women that you know of, like dorothy dix, but you probably don't know all about them and some other things they did were absolutely remarkable. clara barton had come here to work in the government. she worked in the patent office and she actually made as much as men for a period of time. then, during the war government girls did show up in the same way as they did during world war ii. mainly it was women coming to make a living when their husbands are the men and their lives gone. then it coincided with congress passing the bill to allow the printing of greenbacks to finance the war.
then, as now, the money comes off the printing presses in great huge sheets of bills. it's a. it's a lot of fun to watch if you haven't seen it. now course it's all caught up into individual bills by machines. then it took took women sitting there was scissors, cutting out bill, by bill, by bill. the treasurer of the united states, general skinner, said women are just better was scissors than men are. he also thought he could pay them less which was something many of us experienced in our own lives. then rosie the riveter, the equivalent, in my view the women who work in the arsenals. which they did around the country, here in washington
there was mainly, very young and very poor women who worked in the arsenal. there is this horrendous arsenal explosion that killed a couple dozen of these girls. the day after, the newspaper, the story was awful to read. pulling the tarp off of the charred bodies and they were basically unrecognizable. the reporter said, they were trapped in their hoop skirts, you can see these 19th-century, midcentury, midcentury women working in this very dangerous job in this boiling hot arsenal and being proper in their hoop skirts. thousands of people showed up to the funeral led by the president and the secretary of war, and formed the procession going to the cemetery where there is a monument to them recognizing their tremendous contribution to the war effort. as i say, there were were women
you knew about like clara barton, dorothea dix, there's also a woman journalist who came to town. some of them came before the war, one was grace greenwood she was an abolitionist, and she was the first woman allowed to write from the scented gallery. she was a soon kicked out of the senate press gallery for writing truth. she wrote that daniel webster was a drunk, meant it like that. again it reminded me a lot of my own experiences. there were activists, all of these fascinating women who thrive during the war in
washington and the reporters came in large numbers. dorothea dix was here before the war lobbying in congress and she was so influential that she is actually given a little alcove in the senate library, by the senate in which to do her lobbying. when she was here she established saint elizabeth, then she went off to other places when the bill she was trying to get through was vetoed. she then came back and brought herself into the surgeon general and said she would be the superintendent of the male nurses. there were no female nurses, she created that and opened the professor profession of nurses. she was a formidable figure.
there is just a few female doctors in the country at the time, 11 of them was a surgeon, mary walker, who again came to washington and presented herself to be into work for the union army. she was not hire, she worked as a volunteer. in a volunteer. in the course of her work during the war she was eventually hired, she was was captured and she had such horrific experiences that she is still, the only woman to have won the medal of honor. it was at mary walker during the civil war. by the time dorothea dix died, she had created more than 100 mental hospitals around the world including in japan, meaning, meaning she had to travel by herself there. clara barton, what you know about, this is what drives me nuts about this book, clara
founded the american red cross. really, was it hard? did anything go before that, what was involved there? well of course a a great deal was involved. she came as a governor networker and then did heroic work during the war as a nurse and as a supplier. she went to europe afterwards and discovered the red cross and came back and lobbied for two decades to get the geneva convention ratified by the senate. when they finally did ratify them it was with the american amendment, which which she wrote which said the red cross could go to natural disasters as well as to war zones. so anytime you see the red cross , after a flood, hurricane, hurricane, anywhere in the
world, it's because clara barton, and she then went back as the american representative, she got the american amendment adopted by the red cross. there is a lot involved in founding the red cross. but i but i of course was most interested, because i'm me, in the political women. i got to know a lot of them very well and i liked a lot of them a lot. one who i really very much enjoy getting to know was marina davis, jefferson jefferson davis wife, him not so much. she was here as the wife, senator and all the women of washington after madison died was really buying to be the chief of bell. they describe themselves themselves as that.
one of them, who i write about wrote a book about herself, called the belle of the 50s. so they all knew each other, they basically all liked each other even though they provide. one of the of the women who they all liked enormously was a dell cutts who is a dolly madison's great-niece. she then married stephen douglas, senator who defeated abraham lincoln in the famous lincoln douglas debate. she was furious this was happening. she wrote, the dirty speculator and party pics are, broken and health by drink with his first wife, buys an elegant well bred women because she is poor and her father is proud. but then she says it's a good thing there is a new water system coming to washington so that barry came his wife in the
factories douglas may wash some off of her. if he don't come they will be a perfect rooms with better ventilation. you don't learn from the men was stephen douglas think stinks. when she did go off to richmond to be the first lady of the confederacy, she stayed in close touch with her friends particularly elizabeth of blair house. lizzie lee wrote wonderful letters. her brother was in the congress, her father was a big advisory to lincoln, her husband was a cousin of robert e lee, was in the union navy. because he was in the navy she wrote to him almost every day. and we have the letters of the
wartime letters are published, and they are utterly delightful letters. she and marina tate stayed in touch through the war. she was also one of the few people who he friended mary lincoln, not easy to do. mary lincoln tank came to town at a tough time, it was a southern town, town, they didn't like abraham lincoln, and i thought she was kind of a rough westerner. not fair but that was the assumption. she then made life harder for herself by being a difficult person. at one point she was accused of messing with the state of the union message. there is an investigation of the first lady, private communications. she had a personal server to
[applause]. he carried the letters back-and-forth and she is accused of leaking this to the new york herald, either in exchange for for money or she was having an affair or depending on the rumor of the moment. she was not a well-liked person. after the president was shot, the only person she really have become friendly with was elizabeth correctly, her dressmaker who is really much more than a dressmaker, she was an artist, shoes written about at great personage. mary lincoln in the white house for a few months goes crazy, out of her mind after the president was shot and the woman was there with her and takes her back to chicago. then elizabeth correctly wrote a
tell-all book. nothing changes, it ended her relationship with mrs. lincoln and it actually ended her business to because others were worried she might write similar books. she was unable to do what she was interested in which is basically social work. people started showing up in washington trying to free themselves before me format the patient and after emancipation she saw she was a former slave herself and she saw the terrible circumstances. so she started what was called the contraband relief association which became freeman's relief association. she was very involved in getting people to help these desperately poor people because she did have the contact and was able to read those the money. that's what you started to think was the people had been behind the scenes or doing other things were now doing coming forward as
the war ended. virginia clay who had been though wife of an alabama senator and a delightful cot in the prewar period, she wrote a book about herself and was suddenly on platforms after the wars with horace greeley. people who had fought her husband bitterly, leading up to the war and during the war, she, she had, because of her experiences during the war felt she could come forward and be someone herself and use her own voice to promote a cause which had not occurred to her before the war. marina davis, after jefferson
davis died, long drawnout difficult situation, he had been in jail, accused of being one of the conspirator issues, she worked to get him out of jail. that's another thing these women showed up in the white house all the time. they would just go marching into the white house and tell off the president whoever he was. i am the president whoever he was. i am so jealous, i can't tell you. andrew jost johnson got clay's has been out of jail just to make his wife go away. now mainly she wanted the money, she wanted to make a living but she wanted the freedom. there is a big scandal of the first lady of the confederacy was moving to new york. she had always been a little too all of the complexity and for a perfect southern belle. so she wrote wrote to her daughter and said, i am free and 62 i'm going to move wherever i want to. so while she was in you
worksheet befriended julia grants. it was page one in every newspaper in the country. which was another great thing now, you can get these newspapers online, the online, the library of congress has a bunch of them. there they were, and what they knew they were doing was bringing about reconciliation. that's what a lot of these women were involved in. in their own face voices after the war was over. you see the tremendous impact it has had in their lives and their role of women in america going forward. in fact, clara barton said at a memorial day established by the women, she said that one of her addresses at a celebration in the 1880s, she said because of
the war woman was at least 50 years in advance of the normal position which continued peace would have assured her. so that is these women. that's a capital gains, their remarkable people and i love getting to know them and i know and i know you will too. thank you very much for being here. [applause]. their microphones at the front of each aisle of folks are appreciated if you could go to the microns because there taping this. i'm. >> i'm fascinated by dorothy's career be as at that time it was public and nontraditional role for people.
when in government workers too. to get the job, the recent civil service is created because to get the job a congressman had to recommend them and sometimes demand something in return. always had a little with about it. they still did those jobs and there are lots of women lobbyists after the war. >> who would you put on the 10 or the 20? >> i have a hard time with this and part of the reason is women didn't have the same kind of power as benjamin franklin or abraham lincoln but i can make a good case for clara barton. she is not somebody you would want to hang which frankly. she was very worthy.
an earthquake hits nepal and the red cross is there and it is because of her aunt that is true this many years later. i could make that case. [applause] >> not to change the subject too much but an inner city library used to fund raise and came across a book i paid $0.50 for, in two generations, three major religions. >> america, america. >> is there have the ending? >> 49 years this week. steve and i have hosted and i have cooked at our house for the last 47 years and it is written
for marriages. >> i have enjoyed all three of your books on women's history and i was wondering if you going to continue the journey up. >> yes. i don't know how necessarily. people say what is your next project and this book almost kills me. it is like saying mrs. roberts, you just had triplets. when is the next baby coming? i am not exactly, things rattling around, but the immediate one was here last year, the children's book of family matters, wonderfully, wonderfully illustrated book illustrated by diane good, a beautiful book, doing the sequel to that, ladies of liberty for children, that one i can handle.
>> it is good to see you. many years i have admired you. my question is did clara barn has any connection with free slaves? >> i don't have -- she was an abolitionist, she was an abolitionist but i don't have letters from her along those lines and it didn't seem to be a major issue with her. to her, i am saying. there were quite a few -- there was a woman named josephine -- >> i'm talking about clara barton. >> she was an abolitionist. it was a cause she was concerned about, but wasn't her major how
occupation. yes. yes. >> thank you for speaking. i wondered how you got access to all these letters. was that difficult? >> we have the manuscript division of the library of congress and that is a good place to go. when i did family matters it was much harder for a couple reasons. we were dealing in the 18th-century, not the nineteenth and also a lot of people felt that i was the mere journalist and what was i doing rooting around in history? i am supposed to deal with today. people were not as forthcoming as they became after that book came out. once i published, started getting more help from
historical societies, university libraries and historic homes. the library of congress was always helpful so that is, those are the main places you go. what has happened with modern technology is a helpful soul will scan a lot of the letters and send them to use a you don't have to travel and go through that way. even once i get them. once i get them, i stand nineteenth century handwritten letters that are written this way and this way because everybody was saving paper and i can't read them very well. i had to hire somebody right to read from so they were quite deciphering, but that is the
street in itself. and the second husband's -- it is kind of a cheery, funny, flirtatious book. she wrote a diary about the same period which is far starker and it had not been published. i get that from duke university library. >> not meant for people who are 5 foot 2. coming closer, is there a way to handle gloria and world war ii? they are all over the world. we are losing the history of the war at home. >> there have been some good
world war ii women's letters, books written, we were in this war too and there is a book about the wind air service pilots from their own families. more than half of it, i kind of like dead people. long dead people. even they can be a problem. i was talking to some group about founding mothers and someone was all outraged. that i have portrayed her ancestors in an unsavory light. give it a rest. several hundred years now, and she was actually a delightful woman but was of bit of a tramp.
>> good morning, thank you so much for speaking. i was interested in your comment that you never had any intention, having that affiliation, and going through this process, how has it changed for you? you have associated or preconceptions you had of being a southerner? >> i am a southerner but i must say since i wrote this book all of a sudden my southern confederate army ancestry coming out of the woodwork. one of their uniforms showed up. i can deal with those people. the fact is i love growing up in
the south, a tremendous sense of being at home. would never in a million years tried to pretend they do not exist. i grew up as the child of civil rights supporter from the deep south in the 1960s. and it was a very -- a cross was burned on our lawn. the very tumultuous time. would never in a million years say if it does not as violent and wrong headed and immoral as it was. the war itself as i said at the beginning aside from the fact that it was a horrendous loss of life and the people who lost the most were in the south. the area was ravaged for decades
to come, but the fact is it was such a failure of the ability of politicians to do what they are supposed to do which is to bring the country together and it is the true object lesson of where we don't want to be in politics, people not able to come together and do the right thing for the good of the country and that is something worth learning over and over and over. [applause] >> there is a hook over here, very subtle hook, it says wrapped up! i am very grateful to all of you for coming. i will immediately go downstairs to sign this book. i really hope that you do read