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Growing up in 1950s Washington D.C., Cokie Roberts often saw the power political wives wielded, moreso than that of their husbands, who held elected offices.
The women, including her mother, often ran their husbands’ campaigns, raised money, mended fences, raised kids, and served as chief sounding board and entertainer.
“I knew that women in history had to have been at least as important, but I didn’t know anything about them,” Ms. Roberts told a Wednesday night crowd of 1,176 who filled the lower level of the Stranahan Theater. But that history hadn’t been written.
The popular, long-time political reporter for National Public Radio and ABC-TV was in town as part of the Authors! Authors! series, presented by The Blade and the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.
“I finally did the hard work,” she said, of historical research into the tremendous roles women played in establishing the nation. Her book, Founding Mothers: The Women who Raised Our Nation, was published in 2004.
Martha Washington spent eight long winters during the Revolutionary War camped with George and the troops, always arriving with food and clothing for the men. Like all First Ladies since, she was often criticized, including for lobbying Congress for veterans’ benefits.
It’s thought to have been woman who convinced Washington to accept a second term as president, a prospect he dreaded. Elizabeth Willing Powel, long a confidante of his, wrote an impassioned letter, appealing to his sense of duty and patriotism, saying that his leaving office might cause the fragile new democracy to crumble.
After her talk, she was asked how being a Washington insider, with parents who served in Congress for decades and whose friends held some of the top jobs in the land, affected her as a journalist.
“I am actually far less cynical than most of my colleagues,” she said. “I think most of the people there are there to do the right thing for the public and the country.”
Upcoming speakers are Marjane Satrapi (Oct. 22) and Elizabeth Gilbert (Nov. 19). Information: 419-259-5266.
Contact Tahree Lane at email@example.com and 419-724-6075.