‘Founding Mothers’: Our Forgotten Foundations

‘Founding Mothers’: Our Forgotten Foundations


Award winning journalist and political commentator, Cokie Roberts will hold a discussion and book signing at the Alfred & Adele Davis Academy on Feb. 5 from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

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Roberts is the author of “Founding Mothers: Ladies of Liberty,” the untold-stories of female patriots of the American Revolution. Her newest release is an educational children’s book of the same name.

This will mark Roberts’ sixth published work. She is also the author of “Our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions for Interfaith Families.”

Davis’s upcoming event serves as an opportunity to meet a pioneer in the field of journalism.

Roberts has exhibited her ability to balance both a high-profile career in the industry, as well as make time for marriage and motherhood.

In doing so, she follows in the footsteps of another remarkable woman – her mother – the late Lindy Boggs, who served as a member of Congress and an Ambassador during an era when women primarily stayed at home.

Roberts, who is Catholic, and her husband Steven, who is Jewish, are known for their choice to rear their children with both the Jewish and Catholic traditions. Her children are adults now, but Roberts does not discuss their faith and beliefs out of respect for their privacy.

Copies of “Founding Mothers: Ladies of Liberty,” may be purchased at the event, after which Roberts will hold an autograph session. This event is free and open to the general public.

The Atlanta Jewish Times had the chance to interview her about the release of her new book and her recent trip to Atlanta.

The Atlanta Jewish Times: Which woman in the book stands out to you the most as a role model for young women today?

Cokie Roberts: I never have answers to questions like that, because every- body is so different from each other. These women are all fascinating, powerful influential women. Each child can pick the one that they like best.

AJT: What age group is your book geared to?

CR: What it says inside the flap is 7-12, now I think that’s a very broad range. But obviously children are very different from each other in their stages of development, so I suspect that’s a way of saying to older kids this is okay for you.

The children’s book business is really interesting and it’s one I know nothing about. I’ve learned on the job in the course of doing this book. But they’re very knowledgeable people and really know their readers.

After “Founding Mothers” came out, the publisher asked me to do a children’s book.

AJT: Is it the kind of book mothers would read to their preschoolers?

CR: It’s too advanced for that. The only time I read it out loud was to my just-turned 8-year-old granddaughter. And she was fascinated to the point where the next morning she grabbed her mother and took her on to the couch and read it to her.

She could pick it up and read it in snatches because it’s a page per woman, but to read it out loud requires a child sitting and being still for a period of time. Even that was a fascinating experience; because I didn’t know what vocabulary was acceptable, but fortunately these children look at it as they do.

AJT: So you’ve learned a lot, because you’ve written books but never for this age group.

CR: Absolutely. [My editor] said here’s what we’d like, and I produced it.

AJT: What inspired you originally to write about the founding mothers?

CR: Well, I cover politics and Congress, and when you do that, you have to spend a lot of time with the founding fathers. You go back, look at debates over things like the right to bear arms and religion in the public square.

So I was getting to know them awfully well and started wondering about the women, because I also, as you said, grew up with parents in Congress and saw how incredibly influential the political wives were in my childhood.

I started wondering about these women, and I went back to learn about them and found that it was incredibly hard to do because very little had been written about them. So in order to learn about them, I had to write about them.

AJT: How did you do your research?

CR: With a great deal of difficulty, because people did not consider these women important. In many cases their papers were not saved or were not well saved. In most cases, a biography had not been written (Abigail Adams is the big exception) or if a biography had been written it was a 19th century biography that was so flowery and unsubstantiated that you didn’t know how much of it was true. So it was a lot of detective work, but I’m a journalist so you’ve got to learn how to do that.

AJT: When did “Founding Mothers” first come out?

CR: 2004. And there’s a sequel that came out in 2008.

AJT: Are you working full time?

CR: I’m contributing to both NPR and NBC.

AJT: How would you estimate that the founding mothers would react to modern feminism?

CR: I think they’d be all for it. I think they’d be amazed that it took as long as it did for women to get the vote, because when you think about it, it is amazing, particularly when you read these women’s letters [and see] how deeply, deeply political they were in the 18th century— and then it takes until 1920! It is shocking.

AJT: Will you be spending a lot of time doing book tours?

CR: Not a lot for this book. For the other books I’ve done a huge amount of touring, but this is a kid’s book. But I’m very excited to come to Davis Academy; it’s wonderful to go to a great school like that.

AJT: Who would be the “founding mother” roles model in your life?

CR: Always my mother, it’s so easy. She was such a remarkable person and remains an incredible role model to me. She just died in July and my New Year’s Resolution is to be more like my mother.

AJT: What are some qualities that you’re still striving for that she attained?

CR: Being so incredibly good to everybody, while still doing a remark- able job of whatever job she had, but always taking care of everybody no matter who they were and whether she knew them or not. The sense that every human being deserved her attention and care is something quite wonderful. She was also a lot of fun.

AJT: Are we correct in assuming that [you didn’t have doubts about your future possibilities due to your family life]?

CR: The times were the times, so the expectations of women were very much that you would get married and have children and do good things for the community, which is a wonderful life, I have no problem with that, but the world turned topsy-turvy. Now there is nothing but women in journalism classes!

Meet Cokie Roberts in person at An Evening With Cokie Roberts, held in The Davis Academy in the Lower School, Feb. 5. To reserve a seat, RSVP to rsvp@davisacademy.org.




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