Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848-1868

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9780062002761: Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848-1868

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.

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Cokie Roberts, the author of three New York Times bestsellers, including Founding Mothers and Ladies of Liberty, turns her attention to the Civil War in a riveting exploration of the ways in which the conflict transformed not only the lives of women in Washington, D.C., but also the city itself.

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 to determine the future of the United States. Much has been written about the men who defined the course of the war, but the role of America's women in the conflict has been given short shrift. Capital Dames introduces the resilient and remarkable women who remained in America's capital after the declaration of secession, chronicling their experiences during this momentous period of our country's history—and the transformation of a Southern society town into a center of national power, activism, and change.

While the nation's men marched off to war, either onto the battlefields or into the halls of Congress, the women of Washington joined the cause as well. As the city was transformed into an immense Union Army camp and later a hospital, they enlisted as nurses, supply organizers, relief workers, and journalists. Many risked their lives making munitions in highly flammable arsenals, 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.

Examining 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 formidable ladies like Sara Agnes Pryor and Elizabeth Blair Lee. Her engrossing, well-researched narrative is an inspiring work about increasing independence and political empowerment, honoring the indispensable role of Washington, D.C.,'s women in strengthening the city while keeping the lines of communication open with their Southern sisters, and in facilitating healing once the fighting was done. Compelling social history at its best, Capital Dames concludes that the war not only changed Washington; it also forever changed the role of women in American society.

About the Author:

Cokie Roberts is a political commentator for ABC News and NPR. She has won countless awards, and in 2008 she was named a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress. She is the author of the number one New York Times bestseller We Are Our Mothers' Daughters. Her other books, Founding Mothers, Ladies of Liberty, and From This Day Forward (written with her husband, journalist Steven V. Roberts), also spent weeks on the bestseller list. She and her husband have also collaborated on Our Haggadah. Roberts is the mother of two and grandmother of six.

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