Ladies of Liberty
Women Who Shaped Our Nation
By: Cokie Roberts
Renowned news reporter Cokie Roberts breathes new life into
Early American history as she relates the lives of dozens of women, both notable and obscure. These are the wives of America’s first Presidents and statesmen, the founders of America’s first social service agencies and religious orders, women actively involved in the lives of their families, polite society, and the workings of government. They accompanied their husbands to Embassy postings in Paris, London, and St. Petersburg. They faced the same dangers imposed by disease and trans-Atlantic travel, and endured additional threats specific to their gender such as intimidation and childbirth. And like women in every age, these women voiced their opinions.
Roberts uses letters and journal entries to detail these vivid examples of intelligence, grace and unspeakable courage. We wait nervously with beautiful, well-educated Theodosia as her beloved father Aaron Burr gathers troops to create his own American empire. We share Louisa‘s carriage as she deals with the perils of mud and snow–not to mention an encounter with Napoleon’s troops–during her 40 day journey to rejoin husband John Quincy Adams.
And just in case you imagine these women didn’t also tend to hearth and table, below is a recipe found among several included at the end of the text. As I learned from reading, not only did she manage to res cue George Washington’s portrait as the British attacked Washington DC in 1815, Dolley Madison was also famous for her social gatherings. Designed to introduce newcomers to the capitol city and to one another, these popular “Squeezes” challenged the sturdiness of the dining table, they were so weighted down with tasty delights.
Dolley Madison’s Layer Cake
8 egg whites
Beat the whites of 8 eggs until stiff, and in peaks. Set aside. Cream 1 cup butter with 2 ½ cups sugar. Add 1 cup milk slowly, mix well. Add ¾ cup corn starch and 3 cups sifted flour to the butter-egg mixture. Mix well and add 2 ½ teaspoons vanilla. Fold in the egg whites carefully. Bake in 4 layer pans, well greased. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the ake springs back when touched lightly. Cool on racks and frost with Dolley’s Caramel.
*Unfortunately, Dolley’s Caramel is not included In the text