The Founding Mothers?
Photo credits: St. Francis International School
Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs Roberts.
You might not recognize that name, but a good number of you – and now ACE 24’s Maggie Blake’s students – would know her as Cokie Roberts, renowned journalist and New York Times best-selling author.
Roberts is shedding light on some other names you ought to recognize, such as Mercy Otis Warren, Phillis Wheatley, and Sarah Livingston Jay. These ladies, whose exploits stand out alongside Sacagawea, Abigail Adams, and now St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, often worked behind the scenes or under the radar, influencing the course of events at crucial moments in our history.
Roberts shared those stories from her new book, Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies, with Blake’s fifth-grade and eighth-grade social studies at St. Francis International School classes earlier this month. Roberts writes about these patriotic women and many others who were some of the unsung heroes of the founding of America.
“When (Roberts) was growing up she loved history and looked at history books but she didn’t see women there, so she wanted to change that,” Blake says. “One of her goals in writing this was to think about who the women were behind the scenes. That was cool to hear her talk about that discovery and thought process when she was little. ‘I don’t see this here, maybe I can fix it.’”
Roberts’ visit was born out of the work of Blake’s school librarian, Carolyn Johnson, who Blake says does awesome work teaming with D.C.-based literacy nonprofit called An Open Book Foundation. “They bring authors and illustrators to kids. They organized it all, so I take no credit for any of it, but it worked out great! That whole week the (kids) were so excited. ‘When’s Cokie Roberts coming? When’s Cokie Roberts coming?’ They were definitely excited to meet her," says Blake.
Blake says seeing Roberts was a highlight of her students’ year. “Meeting Cokie Roberts, reading her book, and hearing her talk to my kids about it was just incredible. They were really excited, too,” says Blake. “There was a buzz around school that she was visiting. It was really sweet.”
Blake says the visit showed her students how history can be relevant. “I get the question a lot: Why do we have to study history? So, in presenting to my students someone who uses history in her job . . . she’s experiencing history, and essentially writing it.” Blake explains that Roberts’ stories may be used as an historical record one day, and that just as she is creating history, so can her students. “The decisions they’re making now are going to become history one day. It’s just another reason to make good decisions and work hard.”
Roberts told the students that the women were better letter writers than their male counterparts. Blake said Roberts said, "Men were very aware that they were doing something extraordinary and if they succeeded, they would be heralded. They were very careful in their writing. But women wrote about everything. Politics, babies, economy, fashion." “The wealth of knowledge gleaned from the letters these women exchanged helped tell the story behind the story,” Blake said.
Blake says many of her boys are really into writing and drawing, so they were fascinated by having a real-life author in their midst. They asked a number of questions about the process of being an author. Blake then posed a more theoretical question to Roberts. She asked if Roberts had any advice for the women in particular. Roberts replied, “Just keep going. Work hard, follow in the example of a lot of these women in terms of fighting for social justice, and make the world a better place.” Blake says, “I thought that was just a beautiful message for all of the children.”