Review: Capital Dames

June 3, 2015 History, non-fiction, Review 18

Review: Capital DamesTitle: Capital Dames
Author: Cokie Roberts
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Amazon|Indiebound |Goodreads
Rating: four-stars

Summary: This was such a fascinating look at women in history! I enjoyed it and learned a lot too.

I’ve always thought that history tends to focus on men because the sexism of the past meant that men really were the only ones doing things. Both I and the male-focused histories have been very wrong! Capital Dames tells the story of the women in Washington during the Civil War and the many varied and important roles they played in that conflict. Women involved in Washington society continued to influence politics throughout the war, while other women took on new professions, from journalism to making munitions.

I’ll start with my only complaint about this book (one which hopefully will be fixed in the final version) – it needed a cast list! I loved that the author found so many stories to tell and I particularly enjoyed how varied these stories were. Together they showed what the war was like for people in the North and the South, for rich and poor, black and white. Unfortunately, the author didn’t always use the same names or nicknames for people and there were so many of them, it did sometimes become hard to keep track. With a tiny bit of flipping back and forth, this was still a fun, easy read. I breezed right through, hardly able to put it down.

As I mentioned in the intro, I was pleasantly surprised at the many important roles women played in the Civil War. I think the author did an incredible job searching out these stories and finding primary sources to help bring these women to life. I wish more history books took the time to include their stories too! Not only were these women an integral part of the story of the Civil War, the fact that their stories include both public service and domestic life made this a very well-rounded history. Re-learning the big events of the Civil War was valuable, but learning about daily life during the Civil War was at least as interesting. Obviously, I have to recommend this to fans of Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy. Although the focus of this book is a little more politics and a little less adventure, I enjoyed both books for many of the same reasons.

Are there any books about women in history that you’re recommend?

18 Responses to “Review: Capital Dames”

    • DoingDewey

      I feel as though I probably should have realized that women had a larger role in history than they’re usually given credit for, but most of the books I’ve read about women in history are like Liar, Temptress, Soldier Spy – they’re clearly about women who were exceptions to the norm. This was one of the first books I’ve read that highlighted the role of women more generally, which made it particularly interesting. It’s definitely a different style than LTSS, but also very good 🙂

  1. Krysta

    This looks like such a fascinating book! I’m going to have to put in on my TBR list. I don’t know if it mentioned Elizabeth Van Lew at all since I think she operated out of Richmond, but she was a Union spy and her journal has been published. I read it long ago but can’t remember my thoughts on it. And I know there are biographies of her as well that might have more information. I’m sure her diary had to leave out the best parts. ;b

    • DoingDewey

      I don’t think this book mentioned Van Lew, but she is featured in Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy. I didn’t know/remember that her journal had been published. How cool!
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    • DoingDewey

      Definitely! It’s not as action-packed, so some people might like it less, but I loved them together. I felt like they gave two different sides of the story of women in the civil war – one focused on the crazy, action-hero types and one focused on the quieter, every day heroes.

  2. Catherine

    I recently read Neverhome and adored it. It’s fiction about a woman who fights as a man in the Civil War but it did pique my interest for nonfiction on women’s roles at the time. Adding this to my TBR!
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    • DoingDewey

      When Neverhome came out, I was feeling burnt out on stories about wars, but I’d like to pick that up too! I always enjoy reading fiction and nonfiction about the same topic.
      DoingDewey recently posted…Nonfiction FridayMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      I’ve been reading so much great nonfiction lately, I’ve been wondering I should be saving some for November too! I’m sure I can alway find more than though 🙂 Definitely a worthwhile read!
      DoingDewey recently posted…Nonfiction FridayMy Profile