The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848-1868
On Sale: April 14, 2015
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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.
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.
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
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
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