About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "This Grand Experiment: When Women Entered the Federal Workforce in Civil War–Era Washington, DC"

Good afternoon, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased that you could be with us today, whether you are here in the theater or joining us through YouTube or C-SPAN. I look forward to hearing from Jessica Ziparo about her new book, This Grand Experiment: When Women Entered the Federal Workforce in Civil War–Era Washington, DC.

Before we hear from Jessica, I’d like to tell you about two other programs coming up this week.

Tomorrow at noon author Richard Sylla will discuss his new book with co-author David J. Cowen—Alexander Hamilton on Finance, Credit, and Debt. The authors demonstrate the impact Hamilton had on the modern economic system and guide readers through Hamilton’s distinguished career.

Then on Thursday, at noon, we’ll show two short films from our motion picture holdings: A Day in Vietnam and Vietnam Crucible. This screening is part of a series called “From the Vaults: Remembering Vietnam,” which presents archival films chosen to complement our special exhibit in the O’Brien Gallery on the Vietnam War.

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our monthly Calendar of Events online at Archives.gov. Check our website or sign up at the table outside the theater to get email updates. You’ll also find information about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.

Every March, during Women’s History Month, we celebrate the contributions and achievements of women in history and today. Often we focus on the famous figures of our past, but if we look more closely, we’ll see that ordinary women, in all facets of society, made changes on fundamental levels.

Today’s speaker, Jessica Ziparo, combed through records in the National Archives and other research institutions to uncover the stories of women who seized the chance for challenging work outside the home during the Civil War. Thousands of women came to the nation’s capital to obtain federal employment. Those who won positions found rewarding work but also faced prejudice, discrimination, and harassment. They became, nevertheless, pioneers for women in the federal work force.

Since then, women have entered federal service in increasingly greater numbers. Across all executive agencies today, women make up 43 percent of the work force.

Here at the National Archives, we do better than that—women constitute 52 percent of our total staff. And throughout our agency's history, women played key roles.

The women and men of the National Archives are proud to be entrusted with our nation’s documentary heritage, and we are especially pleased to see the stories held within the records come to light in books such as This Grand Experiment.

Jessica Ziparo earned her bachelor’s degree from James Madison University, where she majored in history. After earning her J.D. from Harvard Law School, Ziparo worked as an environmental attorney at Latham & Watkins in San Diego. She also taught environmental law as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law, and it was this experience that inspired her to get back in the classroom and return to her love of history. While she earned her masters and Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University, she and Louis Galambos wrote An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Publications, 1991––2010, on Dwight David Eisenhower.

In addition to This Grand Experiment, for which she was named as one of the 35 best debut authors over 35 for 2017, Ziparo is a contributing author to Counterpoints: Women and the Civil War (forthcoming from Kent State University Press).

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Jessica Ziparo.