Capital Dames by Cokie Roberts | Book Review

I received this book for free from Library, Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Capital Dames by Cokie Roberts | Book ReviewCapital Dames by Cokie Roberts
Published by Harper Collins on April 14, 2015
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Civil War Period (1850-1877), History, Social Science, United States, Women, Women's Studies
Pages: 544
Format: eARC, Hardcover
Source: Library, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
ISBN: 9780062199287

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.

Last summer one of my biggest reading accomplishments was reading Capital Dames by Cokie Roberts. As much as I love history and women’s history in particular – Capital Dames was a little bit out of my wheelhouse. After all, I do not prioritize reading non-fiction as much as I would like to. Don’t get me wrong, I love non-fiction about history. However, I am much more apt to pick up a YA fiction book or a romance novel, they’re just my preference to wind down with. I am so glad that I stepped outside of my comfort zone and picked up this book.

Capital Dames opens up on a summer day where Eliza Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton’s widow is giving a speech trying to fundraise for a monument for President Washington. The book then transitions to discussing society women in DC prior to the Civil War. Then we see the impact of the war on the relationships with each other — as DC was a city divided. Some of the women left to go south as that is where their sympathies were and some stayed in DC. We learned about women whose husbands had political ambitions. The most interesting to me was Jessie Benton Fremont. She’s pregnant a few times in the book and traveling while trying to get her husband more political influence. At one point she was super powerful in the DC circles and things looked great for her husband. Then things change.

In contrast to Fremont, is Mary Todd Lincoln. She was the wife of Abraham Lincoln and never was popular at all. Instead, she was criticized for spending a ton of money. She didn’t really have great social graces. Oh, and she was kind of a jerk to her dressmaker, a Free Black woman. I never knew that Mary Todd Lincoln sucked. However, I could have some sympathy as both her young sons died as well as you know, the whole her husband being assassinated thing.

I ended up liking Capital Dames by Cokie Roberts overall. It was a long read, one that did give me a little trepidation — especially because I was reading it while also having a severe case of morning sickness and exhaustion. What helped me get through this book was reading just one chapter a day. I ended up absorbing a bit more and not feeling a ton of pressure to rush through it. And now I’m willing and feeling up to checking out more non-fiction history books by Cokie Roberts.

The following two tabs change content below.
April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.

Leave a Comment


CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: