Why The Wives Of Civil War Politicians Were More Powerful Than Their Husbands

Mar 5, 2016

I’ve never tried playing the game of imagining the guests I’d most like to invite to a dinner party at my house. But I do know that one of the seats would be saved for Cokie Roberts. I’ve interviewed her a number of times over the years, and in each case she displays great skills as a completely engaging conversationalist. She’s warm and funny, always enthusiastic about the topic at hand, and oh so smart. Cokie always makes me feel that she’s glad I asked each question I’ve thrown her way, and I’m sure she does the same for the others who talk to her, too. It’s a generous gesture that makes the interviewer feel almost as smart as she is.

Cokie comes from one of the great contemporary American political families. Her dad was Hale Boggs, a majority leader of the U.S. House. When he was killed in a tragic plane crash in Alaska in 1972, her mother Lindy Boggs ran for his seat. She won and became a highly respected leader in the House.

The family split its time between houses in New Orleans and when Congress was in session, a home in Washington. So it’s not surprising that she is one of the most insightful analysts of politics working in the media today.

Because her mom forged a successful path as a woman operating in a legislative body dominated by men, it’s also not surprising that Cokie decided to write the stories of the women behind their more famous husbands and male associates in Washington.

She came to the GPB studios to talk about her latest book “Capital Dames; the Civil War and the Women of Washington.” I interviewed Cokie when the book was published in hardcover last spring. The paperback edition will be released next month. It’s filled with fascinating stories of women who were brilliant and ambitious and far too interesting to remain in the shadows of history. You’ll hear some of these stories during our conversation, and I think you’ll agree it’s wonderful that Cokie brought these women to our attention so vividly.