ABC News political correspondent and best-selling author Cokie Roberts continues the story of early America's influential women that she began in "Founding Mothers" (2004). In her new book. "Ladies of Liberty," she draws on personal correspondence, private journals and many previously unpublished primary sources to capture the lives of extraordinary women, including Abigail Adams, Martha Jefferson, Dolley Maddison, Elizabeth Monroe, Eliza Hamilton, Theodosia Burr, Louisa Livingston, Rosalie Calvert, Rebecca Gratz, Louise Catherien Admas, Margaret Bayard Smith, Sacajawea and others.
Roberts is also the author of the national best-seller "We Are Our Mother's Daughters."
Read the introduction to Cokie Robert's "Ladies of Liberty" below or click here to browse inside the book and find several of the chapters in full.
The new American nation bristled with expectation and exploration at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century. But the Old World looked with such skepticism at the upstart across the sea that the country was forced to fight what amounted to a second war of in dependence. In this unsettled, still self-defining time women were in the middle of everything—contributing to the culture as writers and educators, shaping the society as reformers and religious, expanding the nation as settlers and seekers. And though they possessed no official power—not only were women denied the right to vote, married women could not even own property—their considerable political influence is evident in their own words and those of the men in their lives. Take, for example, the great trader John Jacob Astor's letter to Dolley Madison in 1812, after war had been declared, thanking her for following through on a promise: "He well remembers Mrs. Madison's assurances that all Mr. Astor's ships should arrive and he is happy to say that they have arrived from Canton with valuable cargos." The First Lady had been the one to guarantee his ships' safe passage. Everyone seemed to take it for granted that these elite women would be called upon to play essential parts. Soon after Elizabeth Pinckney married William Lowndes, her father, statesman and General Thomas Pinckney, charged her with studying her husband's plantation books because public life would soon call him: "Lowndes cannot escape it, for the country will demand it, and you must learn to manage his business for him."