Menu

5 things Cokie Roberts wanted you to know about women in U.S. history

“It’s important for girls—and boys—growing up to see the contributions of women to the founding of the country and the maintenance of the Republic.”

5 things Cokie Roberts wanted you to know about women in U.S. history

Legendary journalist Cokie Roberts died this week due to complications from breast cancer, NPR reports. She was 75 years old.

Roberts made a huge impact on America and will not be forgotten. The Emmy Award-winning broadcaster made her mark in journalism at a time when it was difficult for women to be taken seriously in the space. She was a pioneer who remembered the pioneering women who came before her.

As a historian and prolific writer who authored several bestselling works on the role of American women in U.S. history, including "Capital Dames," "Founding Mothers" and "Ladies of Liberty", Roberts was dedicated to reminding the public of the crucial role of American women in U.S. history.

Back in 2015, Roberts talked to Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety about what modern mothers should know about the amazing women who preceded them.

This is what she wanted us to know.


Excerpted from that interview with Roberts are five things to know about the history of American women:


1. History is inaccurate without the stories of women

Cokie Roberts: “I care about history. And I think that history is distorted and downright inaccurate if you only cover half of the human race. Telling the full story is very important. But also, it's important for girls—and boys—growing up to see the contributions of women to the founding of the country and the maintenance of the Republic."

2. America had “Founding Mothers," too

Women like Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Dolly Madison were the spouses of major political leaders, but also played very active roles politically. Abigail Adams, for example, famously exhorted her husband John Adams to “remember the ladies" when he was writing the founding documents of the United States. Martha Washington, wife of America's first president, spent time during the Revolutionary War in the bitterly cold warfront encampments with American soldiers, rallying the troops. First Lady Dolly Madison saved precious artifacts from the White House while it burned during the War of 1812.

“These women were particularly sensitive," to the idea of liberty, Roberts explains. “I think that part of it was that they wanted some liberty. Married women were the property of their husbands. They could own no property. The very jewelry and clothes on their bodies belonged to their husband. So I think there was some sense of that. But I also just think that they were caught up in the cause."

Roberts, also adds several other names to the list of Founding Mothers: “Women like Mercy Otis Warren, a great propagandist. Esther Reed, who in the middle of the Revolutionary War when the French had not yet arrived, and soldiers were threatening desertion by regiment because they were not paid or fed or housed, she organized a fundraising drive for the troops. The women of Philadelphia, in the space of a couple of weeks raised $300,000."

3. The American Revolution resulted in girls and women accessing better educations

“There's this concept of 'Republican Motherhood,'" Roberts explains. “America was an experiment. After the Revolutionary War was won, then there was this country to raise. The [political class] kind of looked around and said, 'Now what do we do?' They realized that this experiment in self-government would require the participation of virtuous citizens. Then the question was, well, where do you get virtuous citizens? Somebody has to raise them. Wait, that would be a mother!

“So this concept of Republican Motherhood was born. That was very, very useful for women in America. Because if you were going to be a woman who raised a virtuous son you had to be educated. So that's where, after the war, women's education just took off. They were to educate their sons to turn them into good citizens who could govern the country, because self-government was this experiment that was taking place. Now, of course, the effect of that was to make the women more and more involved themselves."

4. We should remember what earlier generations of women endured

Cokie Roberts: “In terms of today's mothers, to take a look at what the lives of these women were like makes you feel a whole lot better about your own life. . . What life was like just to get through a day in the 18th and early 19th centuries was really, really hard. Here were these people who were raising families and having to go through all of the just difficulties of living a life without any modern conveniences.

“Think about their lives: Just imagine there's no running water. There's no electricity. There's nothing that you just take totally for granted happening in their lives. So you're going to the well for water. You are lighting candles to try to see by. So you're living pretty much by the sun. But on the other hand, they would light those candles and sit up at night after the children were asleep, to write to their husbands or friends about what they thought was terribly important in terms of the nation.

“In terms of having children, there was no birth control, so the likelihood is that you were pregnant every couple of years. The danger of death in childbirth was enormously high. The danger of losing the baby was enormously high.

“So their lives were very, very difficult lives. Just think about everything you take for granted, and assume that doesn't exist.

“But even with all of that, their passion for independence was tremendous."

5. Women's history in America is still unfolding

"A friend of mine's mother, who is age 101, recently said she wants to stay alive long enough to vote for Hillary Clinton, because she really, really wants to see a woman president.

This woman was born before women were granted the right to vote in America. To her, this is just, it's the most exciting notion, that it's worth staying alive for."

Roberts did not live to see a woman as president, but her work lives on and reminds us that it is possible.

[This post was originally published November 19, 2015. It has been updated.]

You might also like:

This 'mama' necklace is a bestseller for a powerful reason

There's a lot going on in the world right now, but one thing that's certain? You're still mama.

There's a lot going on in the world right now, but one thing that's certain? You're still mama. No matter what is going on at work, what decision you make about heading back to school, or how you're caring for your family right now, we know you're the best mama for your family.

So in case you need a little reminder of just how incredible you are, we love this sweet necklace from Tiny Tags. And other mamas do, too, because it's been one of our top sellers for weeks.

Whether you're coveting it for yourself or want to gift it to your favorite mama, it's one of those gifts that'll keep on giving years later. It's dainty enough to easily layer with just about anything you have in your jewelry collection, but is just as beautiful as a standalone piece to wear daily. And in these tough seasons, it's honestly a gentle, much-needed reminder that you were made for this. You can do hard things. You are doing the best you can even when it feels like you can't make one more decision.

Tiny Tags script 'mama' necklace

tiny tags mama necklace

The charm is 1/2" long and the chain is 16", falling just above most mama's collarbones. All Tiny Tags personalized jewelry is laser engraved by highly skilled artisans to make the most elegant pieces.

$105

And, don't worry, it's totally low-maintenance. Simply polish with a polishing cloth every now and then for extra shine. Now to decide: gold or silver?

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

14 sweet 'just thinking of you' gifts for every mama

A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs.

Who says you have to wait for birthdays or holidays to give your bestie a great gift? A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs in these more-than-trying times. We've rounded up some of our favorite go-to gifts that are certain to be a bright spot in her week. But be warned, you may want to snag a few for yourself. (You deserve it, mama.)

Here are some our favorite "just because" gifts to give our hardworking mama friends.

New Mother face + body care duo

volition face + body care duo

This correcting oil and stretch mark minimizer is perfect for the pregnant mama looking to keep her pregnancy glow. The correcting oil brightens the skin while reducing dark spots, and the stretch mark minimizer works to smooth her ever-growing belly.

$70

Allover roller

esker allover roller

This jade roller goes beyond your typical face roller and can be used anywhere on the body. It works to increase stimulation and reduce puffiness and is perfect for applying any oils to the face or body. Plus, it feels like a mini spa treatment.

$65

Kombucha making kit

farmsteady kombucha making kit

What could be a more perfect gift for the health-obsessed friend? This kombucha making kit comes with everything you need to brew your own homemade green tea kombucha. They'll think this is the tastiest gift ever.

$45

Laetitia lipstick

cupid & psyche laetitia

This red lipstick is perfect for your makeup enthusiast bestie who is looking to spruce up her life in quarantine. Crafted in the United States, these bee and vegan-friendly and cruelty-free lipsticks are created to flatter all complexions. Cupid and Psyche Beauty makes finding the perfect red lip way too easy!

$23

Jigsaw puzzle

inner piecec jigsaw puzzle

Mamas need to destress now more than ever during quarantine. This adorable jigsaw puzzle is perfect for the mama who needs a brain break! The 500-piece puzzle designed by artist Ray Oranges features an abstract gradient design that fits a standard frame when completed. Bonus: It's printed on recycled paper and the company donates $1 from every puzzle sold to youth mindfulness programs.

$30

Matilda's Bloombox

matilda's bloombox

If we have to be stuck inside, we might as well have some gorgeous florals to brighten up the space. Matilda's Bloombox locally sources blooms, delivers them to her door and provides simple tips on how to arrange it into a beautiful bouquet.

$39

'I Am Enough' bracelet

I Am Enough bracelet

Let this dainty bracelet serve as a constant reminder to your bestie that she is enough. She'll wear this on her wrist and read this daily oath to herself, "I Am Enough."

$35

Glow assorted teas

vahdam low assorted teas

This tea gift box set covers the entire spectrum of flavors from sweet to spicy. Individually packaged in beautiful tins, your gal pal will feel like a queen sipping her morning tea. Originally $40, this set is currently on sale for just $24. We'll take two, please.

$24

Find your voice journal

find your voice journal

Journaling is a great way to ease anxiety and will slow your bestie's racing mind before bed. This gift is perfect for first time journalists and includes prompts, daily quotes and coloring pages to help her unlock her potential and find her voice.

$22

Premium frother

shore magic premium frother

This gift is fitting for your latte-sipping bestie who can't go a day without her coffee. All she has to do is add two scoops of collagen to her favorite drink, and she'll have a perfectly foamy drink ready in seconds. Skipping the drive-thru line has never been so easy!

$25

Bath soak infusion kit

maude bath soak infusion kit

Say hello to hydration! She'll be feeling smooth and relaxed as ever after a long bath soaking in these salts. This vegan + cruelty-free set incorporates dead sea salt and dehydrated coconut milk powder for an ultra hydrating experience.

$32

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

It's a hard-earned title she answers to a hundred times per day. Whether she's new to the club or a seasoned professional, this delicate script 'mama' necklace is guaranteed to be a perfect fit.

$105

Superfood honey

Beekeeper's Naturals B.Powered honey

With a lack of sleep and jam-packed days, getting through the afternoon can be a real challenge. Send her a powerful pick-me-up in the form of a therapeutic blend of royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis and raw honey. It makes the ideal companion for tea, smoothies, yogurt or even on its on.

$17

Calming midnight mask with melatonin

Who doesn't deserve a reminder to pamper themself every once in awhile? Even better, this mask does all its work at night while you're sleeping with no extra effort needed. It's an amazing plant-powered antioxidant-packed mask that has melatonin, wild dandelion leaf and hyaluronic acid to rehydrate, repair and reset facial skin. It's so good, you might want to gift it to yourself. We won't tell, mama.

$68

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

21 questions to ask your partner instead of, “How was your day?”

2. If you could do any part of today over again, what would it be?

After a long day of doing seemingly everything, when our partners get home it kind of becomes a habit to ask, "How was your day?" In between prepping dinner, handing off the kids, finishing your own work, we don't exactly get much value from this question. Sure, it may open up the opportunity to complain about that awful thing that happened or excitedly share that presentation you killed at work—but it usually stops there.

I could do a better job of really talking in my relationship. After 12 years and two kids, sometimes all we can come up with post bedtime routine is, "You good? I'm good. Fire up the Netflix."

Keep reading Show less
Love + Village