Publisher: Harper Perennial, March 2009
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In this eye-opening companion volume to her acclaimed history Founding Mothers, number-one New York Times bestselling author and renowned political commentator Cokie Roberts brings to life the extraordinary accomplishments of women who laid the groundwork for a better society. Recounted with insight and humor, and drawing on personal correspondence, private journals, and other primary sources, many of them previously unpublished, here are the fascinating and inspiring true stories of first ladies and freethinkers, educators and explorers. Featuring an exceptional group of women—including Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, Rebecca Gratz, Louise Livingston, Sacagawea, and others—Ladies of Liberty sheds new light on the generation of heroines, reformers, and visionaries who helped shape our nation, finally giving these extraordinary ladies the recognition they so greatly deserve.
After getting hooked on Hamilton (“Just you wait!”…sorry), I was thrilled to find Cokie Roberts’ history of the ladies of liberty, the women so often overlooked in favor of the famous men in their lives. Roberts take a in-depth looks at the lives and effect of these women, starting shortly after the founding of the nation, bringing life back to these amazing characters in history.
Thanks to Hamilton, I actually had a pretty good handle on the more minor character Roberts delved into and found myself connecting to them more so than others. It was a good segue into what occasionally became an info dump, helping keep the book moving along.
I loved the amount of depth about Aaron Burr, a man I sadly knew very little about, and his daughter Theodosia. Those treason charges? I had no idea about that, but watching it through his and his daughter’s eyes (a person who is essentially an extension of him) was fascinating.
There were other people throughout history I recognized, such as Sacagewa (who I have a whole new respect for), whose stories brought life to Ladies of Liberty. The portrayal of Dolley Madison made me sad I didn’t get to meet her – she sounded like quite the character. The level of detail was fascinating.
However, it did have a downside. Occasionally the narrative was so bogged down by the detail that it felt smarter to skip ahead a few pages and get back to the story. It was hit and miss: half engaging, the other half a bit boring.
I felt like the narration went off on tangents occasionally. There were many stories about women I’ve never heard of (great!), but without the proper set up, their stories didn’t resonate with me (not so great). Sometimes it felt like Roberts found a really great history, and felt she had to stick it in somewhere…ah! Without the proper introduction, these histories fell flat, and I felt more irritated than intrigued.
Overall, a must for American history (or Hamilton) buffs. The level of detail and occasional personal touch Roberts adds in brings the stories to life. Maybe with a little more background, the rest of the stories would have stood out to me as well.