Veteran journalist and author Cokie Roberts has a bone to pick with Mount Vernon. "I am at Mount Vernon a lot and I just endlessly bug them about the fact that it says, 'George Washington's Mount Vernon,' " Roberts said. "What? Was he there all by himself? Did Martha do nothing?"
Roberts and historian Catherine Allgor talked to a group Monday night at the Arts Club of Washington for an event on behalf of the National Women's History Museum, a museum supporters hope will someday be built on the National Mall. The topic of the hour was "First Ladies: Hidden in Plain Sight."
"It remains remarkable to me how hidden they still can be, and that's been true all the way through; even, for instance, Laura Bush," Roberts noted. "She's the only first lady to have gone to the White House briefing and taken the microphone ... and used it to call for the overthrow of the Burmese government." Yet, Roberts argued, most Americans have a very different sense of her. "They think of her as some nicey nicey librarian," Roberts said. "It is really something ... when you consider how public everybody is and how onstage people are all the time and everybody's twittering and we know what everybody's doing every second of the day, but first ladies can still not get the kind of recognition they deserve because they are women."
Roberts has tried to remedy this by writing books like "Founding Mothers" and "Ladies of Liberty" and she has shown a certain persistence with local museums including the National Archives. "They do have -- because I'm on the board and insisted on it -- in the cases in the rotunda of the archives something about women of that period and Abigail Adams and all that," Roberts said.