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

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

by Cokie Roberts


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062002778
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/19/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 544
Sales rank: 60,152
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.87(d)

About the Author

Cokie Roberts is a political commentator for ABC News and NPR. She has won countless awards and in 2008 was named a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress. She is 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.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 Meet the Women of Washington, 1848-1856 7

Chapter 2 Jessie Runs for President but Harriet Takes the White House and Mary Jane Reports, 1856-1858 23

Chapter 3 Varina Leads and Leaves as Abby Drops By, 1859-1861 51

Chapter 4 Rose Goes to Jail, Jessie Goes to the White House, Dorothea Goes to Work, 1861 93

Chapter 5 Rose Is Released, Clara Goes to War, Louisa May Briefly Nurses, 1862 153

Chapter 6 Lizzie Reports on the Action, Janet Goes to Camp, Louisa Takes Charge, 1863 197

Chapter 7 Anna Speaks, Jessie Campaigns (Again), Sojourner Visits, 1864 241

Chapter 8 One Mary Leaves, One Mary Hangs, and Lois Writes About It All, 1865 283

Chapter 9 Virginia and Varina Return, Sara Survives, Mary is Humiliated, Kate Loses, 1866-1868 341

Epilogue 395

Author's Note and Acknowledgments 413

Cast of Characters 419

Notes 423

Bibliography 481

Illustration Credits 493

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