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Welcome Remarks for The Agitators: Three Friends Who Fought for Abolition and Women’s Rights

Greetings from the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today’s virtual book talk with Dorothy Wickenden, author of The Agitators.

Before we begin, though, I’d like to tell you about two upcoming programs you can view on our YouTube channel.

Tomorrow, March 31, at 7 p.m. we’ll bring you a panel discussion titled “Overcoming Challenges: Women in the Military.” Journalist Soledad O’Brien will lead a discussion about the evolution of women’s roles and responsibilities in the U.S. Armed Forces. Joining O’Brien will be former Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, retired Brigadier General Kristin K. French, and Lieutenant Madison Hovren.

And on Friday, April 2, at noon, we’ll hear from George William Van Cleve, author of Making a New American Constitution. In this book, Van Cleve explores flaws in the U.S. Constitution and proposes solutions for them.

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Archives and manuscript collections are often called “treasure troves.” Archivists, librarians, and curators take pride in seeing the materials in their care come to light and be used to share previously little-known episodes of history. In the case of our guest author, Dorothy Wickenden, an encounter with a collection of neglected letters unlocked a treasure of material leading to the story of three remarkable women. The letters written by Frances Seward, the wife of President Lincoln’s Secretary of State, led Wickenden to Martha Wright, and Martha’s writings led to Harriet Tubman.

These three—the “agitators” of the title—bring their own perspectives on the critical issues of their time: slavery, women’s roles, the rights of women and Black Americans, and the Civil War.

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Dorothy Wickenden is the author of Nothing Daunted and The Agitators and has been the executive editor of The New Yorker since January 1996. She also writes for the magazine and is the moderator of its weekly podcast The Political Scene. A former Nieman Fellow at Harvard Wickenden was national affairs editor at Newsweek from 1993 to 1995, and before that was the longtime executive editor at The New Republic.

 Now let’s hear from Dorothy Wickenden. Thank you for joining us today.