Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington 1848-1868


Today's post is on Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington 1848-1868 by Cokie Roberts. It is 512 pages long in notes and is published by HarperCollins. The cover is an art piece with a party of top and the Capital building under the title. The intended reader is someone who is interested in history, women's history and the Civil War Era. There is no sex, some mild language, and no violence in this book. The story is told mostly through first person resources like journals, newspapers, and letters. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the back of the book- With the outbreak of the Civil War, the small, social Southern town of Washington, D.C., found itself caught between warring sides in a four-year battle that would determine the future of the United States. After the declaration of secession, many fascinating Southern women left the city, leaving their friends- such as Adele Cutts Douglas and Elizabeth Blair Lee- to grapple with questions of safety and sanitation as the capital was transformed into an immense Union army camp and later a hospital. With their husbands, brothers, and fathers marching to war, either on the battlefield or in the halls of Congress, the woman of Washington joined the cause as well. And more women went to the capital city to enlist as nurses, supply organizers, relief workers, and journalists. Many risked their lives making munitions in highly flammable arsenals, toiled at the Treasury Department printing greenbacks to finance the war, and plied their needlework skills at the Navy Yard- once the sole province of men- to sew canvas gunpowder bags for the troops.
Sifting through newspaper articles, government records, and private letters and diaries- many never before published- Roberts brings the war-torn capital into focus through the lives of its formidable women. Compelling social history at its best, Capital Dames concludes that the war not only changed Washington; it also forever changed the role of women in American society.

Review- This was a great and interesting history book. I learned and enjoyed this book so much. It was easy to read, with lots of interesting people, and about very interesting time. The notes in the back are useful but you do not need them to make the narrative make sense, the notes are just for more reading and where Roberts got her information. I knew very little about most of these women. I knew about some of them but for example I knew next to nothing about Mary Lincoln. I did not know that she was not liked in Washington, that she had a terrible temper, or that she died penniless and still disliked. There is just so much information in this book that I cannot give it all the room it deserves. The men in these women's lives are important but they really have very little to do with their stories. This is about what power the women of Washington had at a time of great need. If you enjoy historical nonfiction then you will enjoy this book.

I give this book a Five out of Five stars. I was given a copy of this book by HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.