Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation

by Cokie Roberts

Paperback, 2009




Harper Perennial (2009), Edition: Reprint, 512 pages


Shares the stories of remarkable women who shaped American history between 1796 and 1828, including Dolley Madison, Theodosia Burr, and Sacajawea.


½ (63 ratings; 4)

User reviews

LibraryThing member smithwil
Very well researched and written. Easy and pleasant to read. I felt that the main character was Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams. Her writings, and writings about her, added fresh insights into the historical period covered, from the John Adams to the John Quincy Adams administrations.

To a certain
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extent, the amount of coverage of each lady correlated with the amount of written material available about/by them from which to draw. Abigail Adams has a wealth of materials. Her daughter-in-law is even more interesting, in my view.
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LibraryThing member bonsam
Thank you, Cokie Roberts, for showcasing the women whose contributions to America's development deserve just as much note as do the men of the time. Ms Roberts writes well with her own view interjected from time to time in an informative and interesting style bringing to light heretofore little
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known stories of these influential women. "The Ladies of Liberty" tells us much about the intellect, deeds and ways of influence of her subjects and much also about the times and conditions of day to day life in colonial times. I do think the book was heavy on Abigail Adams, while interesting and certainly had an impact, more on the other women would have given the book more balance. None the less, a good read.
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LibraryThing member mojomomma
Profiles of the wives and daughters of early American movers-and-shakers, told in their own words. Roberts forms her chapters around presidential wives Abigail Adams, Dolly Madison, and Louisa Adams but branches out to tell us of their contemporaries in Philadelphia and Washington DC.
LibraryThing member cyderry
Ladies of Liberty shows the history of the United States through the eyes of some the most noted women of the historic age. The book starts at the time of the death of George Washington and sweeps over six presidencies, beginning with John Adams’s election in 1797 and ending with his son’s John
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Quincy Adam’s election in 1825. Using the personal correspondence of the women depicted, these women’s personal sacrifices are exposed along with their contributions to the success of an expanding nation.
The First ladies are not the only women represented in this book. Even though the primary women are Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, and Louisa Adams, other notable women recognized are Sacagawea, Mother Seton, and Margaret Smith.
I was a little apprehensive when I realized that Cokie Roberts, the author, was actually going to be doing the reading (this book was on audio.). I was extremely pleased by her delivery and the enthusiasm with which she delivered the material. My only problem were with two small pronunciations but since they were quite frequent, it was a little irritating. (Cokie Roberts cannot pronounce New Orleans or Sacagawea properly. Both have a "ya" in her pronunciations.)
Nevertheless, this was an extremely enjoyable experience.
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LibraryThing member debnance
The first book I read on my Kindle. I was so fascinated with my new toy that I missed some of the narrative. Ladies of Liberty takes up where Roberts’ previous book on famous early American women leaves off. John Adams’ wife continues to run the lives of both her husband, now a retired
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president, and her son, now an active politician. Dolly Madison shone in this book, as a negotiator and as a social network organizer. One gripe: I was dismayed to read about table settings and ladies’ dresses so frequently.
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LibraryThing member jayde1599
Cokie Roberts picks up where she left off in her previous book Founding Mothers, which I did not read. Using surviving correspondence letters, she weaves biographies of the women who helped shape our nation, beginning with Abigail Adams. She provides an enormous amount of detail which gets jumbled
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up with her habit of jumping from discussing one woman to another without a clean transition. Roberts also jumped time periods - for example she would detail one woman's life achievements until that woman's death and then go back to the year she was discussing. This led to confusion and periods of dullness in an otherwise informative book.
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LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
News commentator and author Cokie Roberts, who has previously explored the history of American women in her Founding Mothers - both an adult and children's version were produced - returns to that topic in this follow up, which looks at the lives of notable women in the early days of the American
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republic. After a brief introduction and chronology, Roberts profiles ten women, including:

Lucy Terry Prince, an African-American who bought her own freedom, married fellow freedman Abijah Prince, who was a soldier in the Revolution, and worked and lived in Vermont and Massachusetts in the 18th century. Prince was the author of the first known poem by an African-American, "The Bars Fight," which chronicled an Indian attack on the settlers of Deerfield.

Judith Sargent Murray, an author who published numerous magazine articles which argued for the equality of men and women at a time when women could not vote, or own property once married. In her article "On the Equality of the Sexes," she argued that women were as intelligent as men, and would show the same abilities, if properly educated. Initially published under the pseudonym 'The Gleaner,' Murray's work was released under her own name when she decided to bring out a book.

Isabella Graham, a Scots-American widow who, knowing what it meant to be an impoverished woman struggling to raise children alone, founded a number of schools for girls, as well as The Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children, an organization still in operation in New York City today.

Sacajawea, a Shoshone Indian woman famous for guiding explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their westward expedition. Her knowledge of local terrain, bravery in the face of danger, and Shoshone connections all proved very useful to Lewis and Clark, who credited her with helping them to reach the Pacific.

Martha Jefferson Randolph, Thomas Jefferson's elder daughter, who was his life-long confidante, hostess and comforter. She ran the White House for her father during his presidency, and managed the plantation at Monticello for many years afterward. Martha's eighth child was the first White House baby, born while she was in residence.

Elizabeth Bayley Seton, a New York woman who married a wealthy merchant and had numerous children, before her husband's illness and financial losses greatly altered her circumstances. Seton converted to Catholicism after the death of her husband, opened a girls' school in Baltimore, and founded the first American order of nuns, The Sisters of Charity.

Louise D'Avezac Livingston, a French woman who fled her home on Hispaniola during the Haitian Revolution, eventually finding her way to New Orleans. Whilst there she met and married New Yorker Edward Livingston, who would go on to become Secretary of State under President Andrew Jackson, as well as serve as America's ambassador to France. Livingston described the Battle of New Orleans in her letters, and was one of the country's first campaigners for the environment.

Rebecca Gratz, a beautiful and wealthy Jewish woman from Philadelphia, who worked to found numerous organizations to help the poor. Concerned when she realized that Jewish children were being taught Christianity in mainstream orphanages, she opened the first Jewish orphanage in the Americas, accepting children from all over the United States and Canada. Legend has it that Gratz was the inspiration for the character of Rebecca, in Sir Walter Scott's famous novel, Ivanhoe.

Elizabeth Kortright Monroe, a beautiful young socialite who, at the age seventeen was married to James Monroe, who would go on to become the fifth president of the United States. Whilst the Monroes were living in Paris, Mrs. Monroe is famous for having had a hand in freeing Mme. de Lafayette, driving to the Bastille where she was imprisoned and asking to see her.

And finally, Louisa Catherine Adams, a young English woman who married John Quincy Adams, son of second president John Adams and his wife Abigail, who was then living in England. Louisa followed her husband throughout his diplomatic career in various European countries, and once in the United States, actively worked, through her social engagements, to make him the sixth president.

As the brief profiles above make clear, these "Ladies of Liberty" were a fascinating bunch, many of them accomplishing important things and effecting lasting change through their various charitable activities. Roberts adapted this picture-book history from her longer work, of the same name, for adult readers, and she is to be commended for presenting such an array of mostly unknown women to her young readers, who might otherwise never have encountered them. The accompanying artwork by Diane Goode, who also illustrated the children's edition of Roberts' Founding Mothers, is engaging, bringing to life the historic figures under discussion in the text. Highly recommended to all young history lovers, and to anyone looking for juvenile titles dealing with women in history, or the early days of the American Republic.
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LibraryThing member buffalogr
This book is about honoring the heroic women that have helped create the United States. There are many stories of different women. Great story of our history.
LibraryThing member bunny0055
Involving, facinating, and informative
LibraryThing member ValerieAndBooks
“Remember the ladies”, Abigail Adams famously exhorted her husband.

Cokie Roberts did just that, in Ladies of Liberty, history that spans the time period from when Abigail Adams was First Lady to when her daughter in Law Louisa Adams took that same role. In between, covered are women as diverse
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*Sacajawea, guide to Lewis & Clark,

*Rebecca Gratz who was Jewish and did much philanthropy in Philadelphia

*Theodosia Burr, Aaron's daughter. I learned that Aaron Burr was so affected by Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women that he carried around her portrait for the rest of his life he vowed to raise and educate Theodosia as an intellectual equal.

*Dolley Madison. I'm now convinced she probably could have been President in her own right, had women been able to run and cast votes. As it was, her nickname was Presidentess.

Time-wise in history, this is a follow-up to Roberts" also excellent Founding Mothers.
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LibraryThing member AnnieSeiler
Great history of our founding mothers. :D


Audie Award (Finalist — 2009)


Original language


Physical description

512 p.; 5.31 inches


0060782358 / 9780060782351
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