About the National Archives

Archivist's remarks for program to discuss new book "Capital Dames" by Cokie Roberts

April 20, 2015, William McGowan Theatre, Archives I

Who is the Archivist?

David S. Ferriero

David S. Ferriero The Archivist of the United States is the head of our agency, appointed by the President of the United States.

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Good evening to all of you here in the William G. McGowan Theater and to those of you joining us on YouTube.  Welcome to the National Archives.

Tonight, we take a look at the contributions of the women of Washington in the years leading up to the Civil War, during the war, and in the few years after the guns fell silent 150 years ago.

In her new book, Capital Dames, Cokie Roberts examines the contributions that these formidable women had in holding the Union together. At the same time, these women were changing the place of women in our society, as Cokie will explain in a few moments.

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Before we move on to tonight's program, I'd like to tell you about two programs coming up soon here in the McGowan Theater.

On Thursday, May 7, at 7 p.m., Jonathan D. Sarna will discuss his new book, Lincoln and the Jews: A History, which tells the full story of Lincoln's extraordinary relationship with the Jews.  Joining him in this conversation will be journalist Steven Roberts.

On Tuesday, May 12, at 7 p.m., we will welcome Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Joseph J. Ellis, who will discuss his new book, The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution. The book tells the story of the four men most responsible for creating the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

If you want to know more about upcoming events here and all our public programs, please refer to our monthly Calendar of Events.

Copies of the Calendar are in the lobby—along with a sign-up sheet to be included on our mailing list for the Calendar, either by regular mail or email.

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She is a political commentator for ABC News, where she previously co-anchored the ABC Sunday morning show, This Week.  She is also a contributor to NPR Morning Edition, where she once was congressional correspondent. She has written three books about the role of women in American history, all of which were best sellers.

She has been active in National Archives projects for a number of years and is a vice president of the National Archives Foundation.

For her book, Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848–1868, she looked at the experiences, influence, and contributions of the women of Washington, DC, during this momentous period of American history.

Cokie drew upon newspaper articles, government records, and private letters and diaries—many never before published—to bring the war-torn capital into focus through the lives of these "capital dames."  The result is a look at the impact of the Civil War from a very different perspective.

Kirkus Reviews calls Capital Dames   "An enlightening account detailing how the Civil War changed the nation's capital while expanding the role of women in politics, health care, education, and social services."

And the Washington Post observed, "Roberts has uncovered hundreds of personal anecdotes and woven them together in a single, suspenseful narrative with great skill."

Joining Cokie in discussing her new book is Presidential historian Michael Beschloss. He is a commentator for NBC News and the PBS NewsHour --- as well as a best-selling author and contributing columnist for the New York Times. 

He is also author of nine best-selling books, most of them about John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and other Presidents. He too is a vice president of the National Archives Foundation.

Now it is my pleasure to welcome to the stage: Cokie Roberts and Michael Beschloss.