Veteran political commentator and journalist Cokie Roberts enthralled a tough crowd while speaking about women, early American history, research, and writing during an appearance on March 6 to mark Women’s History Month.
Talking to a group of third graders at the Library of Congress Young Readers’ Center, Roberts described her research process while writing her two books for children, Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies and Ladies of Liberty: the Women Who Shaped Our Nation (HarperCollins, 2014, 2016).
Roberts took questions from kids in the room, visiting from a Washington, DC elementary school, along with others in Arkansas and Pennsylvania who were watching remotely.
Roberts described the bravery and leadership of some of the women she wrote about, from First Lady Dolly Madison to Sacagawea. She noted the challenges of researching the lives and achievements of early women, because there is little written documentation about them, as opposed to the founding fathers. Roberts pointed to early women’s anti-slavery efforts and highlighted the abolition of slavery and the right for all Americans to vote as landmark events in American history.
Watch Cokie Roberts speak at the Young Readers Center.
Asked why she wrote the books, Roberts said, “If you only know about half the human race, it’s not accurate,” and she also pointed to the racial diversity of her subjects. Taking a question about how these early women inspired her, Roberts said, “They inspired me not to say, ‘I can’t do something.’ I can’t say, ‘that’s too hard.’” Referring to the challenging but ultimately rewarding research that went into the book, Roberts said that her illustrator, Diane Goode, wanted to include the signatures of all the women mentioned. That meant tracking down handwriting samples for all of them, which Roberts, who was initially skeptical, did.
Each child at the reading left with a copy of Ladies of Liberty. The event was shared via livestream on the Library of Congress site, which will also livestream upcoming visits with children’s literature ambassador Gene Luen Yang and other authors.
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