Who she is: Award-winning TV journalist and bestselling author
What she does: In addition to being a contributing senior news analyst for NPR, a regular roundtable analyst on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, a political commentator and on-air analyst for ABC News, she writes books. Her latest is “Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation.”
Why she does it: To show us the power of women. “In the early 19th century, men in politics were literally killing each other in the name of their beliefs,” Roberts explains. “The women of the time were trying desperately to get them to put down their guns and pick up a glass of wine so they could, in a relaxed moment, discuss their differences.”
THE STORY BEHIND “LADIES OF LIBERTY”
By Hope Katz Gibbs
When award-winning TV journalist and author Cokie Roberts was the keynote speaker at the prestigious “Excellence in Government” conference in 2009, she captivated the crowd with her behind-the-scenes knowledge of the ladies behind the founding fathers.
The insights came from researching her 2009 book, “Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation.”
“In the early 19th century, men in politics were literally killing each other in the name of their beliefs,” explained Roberts, who among her many successes is a contributing senior news analyst for NPR, a regular roundtable analyst on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” and a political commentator and on-air analyst for ABC News. “The women of the time were trying desperately to get them to put down their guns and pick up a glass of wine so they could, in a relaxed moment, discuss their differences.”
These women — from Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Aliza, to John Quincy Adams’ wife, Louisa, to the nation’s darling, Dolley Madison — kept tempers cool and showed the nation what it meant to be a first lady. “It’s a total myth that the first ladies were sitting around pouring tea until Eleanor Roosevelt came along, then poured more tea until Hillary Clinton took the political stage,” Roberts insisted. “These women were tough, smart, and incredibly clever.”
What would the founding mothers say to us today?
“They’d look us square in the eye and say, ‘Honey, relax, you got it easy,’” Roberts believes. “The truth of the matter is that this is so true. We are not pregnant every year. Typhoid hasn’t just come through town and killed two of our children. We are not making candles and bread before we prepare the evening meal. I think this perspective is wonderful because it’s true: We have it easy.”
Further, the concept of “multitasking” is something Roberts says “is a man’s made-up word for something women have done since the beginning of time.”
She points to her own mother — former ambassador and long-time Democratic Congresswoman from Louisiana Lindy Boggs — who first took office in 1973 after the death of her husband (the late Hale Boggs, who was Majority Leader of the House of Representatives) in a plane crash.
“I remember coming home one day and my mother was standing in her big kitchen cooking a grand meal and stirring pickles that she’d made from her giant vegetable garden. In one arm was my nephew, who was fussing and needed to be constantly rocked from side to side, and under her neck she’d cricked the phone and was dictating a speech she was to give the following day to Congress. All the while she was monitoring the chicken in the oven and stirring those pickles. I said aloud, ‘Mom, not only CAN you do it all — you can do it all AT THE SAME TIME.”
Listen to Cokie Roberts discuss “Ladies of Liberty” on Federal News Radio.