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Capital Dames
By Cokie Roberts
A Book Review

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Capital Dames

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Capital Dames
The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848-1868
By Cokie Roberts
HarperLuxe Larger Print Edition, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-0623-9319-7
Genre: American History, Biographies

Reviewed by Angela Evans - May 4, 2015

Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848-1868 is an engaging book by Cokie Roberts, who has also penned several bestsellers including We Are Our Mothers' Daughters, Founding Mothers, and Ladies of Liberty. This new book looks at the American Civil War through a unique perspective - the eyes of women. All too often, the Civil War, and wars in general, are examined via a male perspective. By offering a book that looks at the war from a woman's perspective, Roberts not only offers a unique viewpoint on the war, but has also contributed to our understanding of the conflict. The only downside to this otherwise fantastic book is that Roberts only looks at the war via the experiences of women in Washington, D.C., from both sides of the conflict.

Writing in a flowing narrative style, this work of popular history follows the lives of well-known women such as Dorothea Dix and Clara Barton, as well as ordinary women including Elizabeth Keckley (an African-American woman who was Mary Todd Lincoln's dressmaker), Varina Davis (a journalist, who also happened to be the second wife of the Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, but whom, before hand, had been an elected member of the U.S. House of Representatives), Elizabeth Blair Lee (a prolific writer who wrote letters about her experiences during the war), Adele Cutts Douglas (the wife of Senator Stephen Douglas, and while she left little in the way of a written record behind, she was featured prominently in other peoples writing), and many, many more. The women chronicled in this narrative provide a cross-section of women from all economic and social classes, and for the most part, Roberts allows them to tell their own stories via their own words. As such, this book includes a large number of excerpts from letters, diaries, newspaper articles and other period sources. Throughout, Roberts has done an excellent job to weaving this eclectic selection of excerpts into an interconnected story that is both informative and fun to read.

Capital Dames is a book that will fascinate anyone with an interest in American history, and the Civil War in particular. It will also delight anyone with an interest in women's history and writing. The book's endnotes will be of aid to anyone seeking to delve deeper into the lives of the women who are mentioned in this book, as well as for those seeking to learn more about the experiences of women during the American Civil War.

One word of note about this Harperluxe edition of Capital Dames. The book is printed in a 14-point font, which is slightly smaller than many other large print books, which are usually printed in a 16-point type face. For most however, the difference will probably not be noticeable. However, if you need a book with 16-point print, you should be aware of the print size in this book.


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