Ladies of Liberty:
The Women Who Shaped Our Nation
by Cokie Roberts
I, not being a historian but an active member of the sisterhood, recognize that Cokie Roberts, author of Ladies
of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation said it best in her introduction, "There are generations of women . . .†
these ladies of liberty [who] truly did shape our nation". This statement describes what the book is about perfectly.
Roberts' overview of political influence by women, from the latter 18th century to the early 19th, defines the power
of nationwide feminine recourse in this country's developing stages.
Ladies of Liberty's viewpoint is one that shows women as designers of the nation, as well as mentors for
what was yet to come for political wives. Being released in 2008, the year of primary elections with a woman running
for president, makes the book fitting to remind us all of how big a role women play in the direction the U.S. takes
moving forward. Mentors like Eleanor Roosevelt, Lynda (Ladybird) Johnson, and Hillary Clinton, took their cues from
what Roberts calls the Ladies of Liberty. True libertarians of their time - presidential wives and all
connected to them - were the real designers of early political Americanisms.
Interlocking viewpoints from women who were married to presidents, or their female offspring, foretold the
direction which a few of the founding fathers eventually took. Whether it was considered treason or plain
necessity, the women's influence was essential. The book Ladies of Liberty chronicles the way distinguished
women of the time shared their beliefs and understandings of what should or should not occur during presidential
terms. They not only shared it within their own circle but with prominent men of the period.
To understand the power of women during this time, Dolly Madison - the wife of President James Madison - is
referred to in a chapter heading as the "Presidentess," a title, so it is said in the book, that was given to her by
the National Intelligencer's report of President Madison's inaugural ball. That in itself should not be taken for
granted. It validated the influential powers of women (president's wives or not) no matter how they gained their
privileges. The chapter expressed that Dolly had many unexplainable indiscretions, one being "pimped" by President
Thomas Jefferson for votes. She was not the only woman with authority. She and many others named in the cover flap
controlled the shaping of the nation.†
All told, the book brings the history of certain Ladies of Liberty to the forefront with much finesse. It
is what I would call a "lesson to be learned," scandals and all. As a member of the sisterhood, I feel that
Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation should become mandatory reading for those who wish to
teach the true history of women in America.
NOTE: Reviewer Sylvia McClain
is the author of the forthcoming 2nd edition of The Write Life: A Beginnerís Guide to Writing,
Money Management, Publishing and Marketing, Skipping Through Life: The Reason I Am
and editor of the Scribal News Calendar, a newsletter of writer events and happenings.