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With the outbreak of the Civil War, the small, social, Southern town of Washington, DC, 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, and 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, but 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.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Jean on 05-07-15
Roberts says she started writing the book in 2011 with the commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. She says she started to wonder what impact the Civil War had on women’s lives.
Roberts did extensive research including diaries, newspapers, government records and private correspondence. She narrowed her research to Washington D.C. and the women of the city.
As in other wars women took on new roles such as becoming nurses, forming social service and relief agencies. Some wrote propaganda, some even became spies. Women took on positions once held by men and black women founded societies to help the displaced slaves. The Civil War expanded the role of women in politics, health care, education and social services.
Roberts writes about the unknown and the known women such as Mary Todd Lincoln and her seamstress Elizabeth Kockley, abolitionist Josephine Griffing, Clara Barton, Sara Agnes Pryor and on the confederate side Varnia Davis wife of Jefferson Davis.
Cokie Roberts wrote a delightful tale that provided so much information, she also narrated the book.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
By Michelle B. Turner Dry on 04-22-15
Wonderful having Cokie Roberts reading her book
How can you go wrong with such a smart, interesting compilation of real life stories of women in Washington during the civil war. I read her other book about the women during the Revolutionary War so having this one read by the author was a extra special treat. I liked everything about it.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful