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Parlor Politics: In Which the Ladies of Washington Help Build a City and a Government
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Parlor Politics: In Which the Ladies of Washington Help Build a City and a Government

3.54  ·  Rating Details ·  92 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
When Thomas Jefferson moved his victorious Republican administration into the new capital city in 1801, one of his first acts was to abolish any formal receptions, except on New Year's Day and the Fourth of July. His successful campaign for the presidency had been partially founded on the idea that his Federalist enemies had assumed dangerously aristocratic trappings--a sw ...more
Paperback, 312 pages
Published March 1st 2002 by University of Virginia Press (first published 2000)
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Aug 23, 2011 Lindsay rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. I thought it was incredibly well written and a totally new look at history and a time period that is pretty well documented. It's not easy to bring a new perspective to the table, but this book does an amazing job.

The author focus on a thirty year period, 1800-1830, that gave birth to the Washington, D.C. we are familiar with today. In particular, the women behind the scenes that structured the social scene in D.C. and served as partners to their husbands and agents
Mar 17, 2008 Jennifer rated it it was ok
This book is written more like a thesis than a nonfiction book. It's scholarly tone definitely made the subjects of the book more dry than then needed to be.

The concept of the book is very interesting. I was disapointed to read that even back then politics and political leaders played "dirty." I think I would have gotten more out of the book if the author provided more background information of each time period. She describes the city of Washington fairly well but leaves out key information to b
Sep 08, 2013 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
Parlor Politics is a fascinating look into the politics of early Washington, DC. The author posits that the women of Washington had a huge influence on politics, one that has gone mostly unnoticed and unexamined. She states that these women created spaces that allowed politics to function, through calling, parties, and other gatherings. In these informal spaces, men and women could meet and talk politics in a way they could not anywhere else. She goes through the presidencies from Jefferson to J ...more
An academic history about the early years of Washington DC that is easily accessible to a broader audience. The author was an actress for years before she went back to grad school, and it shows - to great advantage - in her prose style. It's also a very important book in terms of the role of social and ceremonial activities in the conduct of politics and diplomacy.

I've used this in the intro US history survey, and those students who actually bothered to open the book liked and understood it.

May 18, 2011 Craig rated it really liked it
Very interesting look at the first 30 years of Washington D.C. and the women who helped shape the make-up of the early stages of America's government under the leadership of Jefferson to Jackson.

Focuses on the better-known political women of this time period (if anyone can fit that description) such as Abigail Adams (briefly) and Dolley Madison, but also offers fascinating looks at lesser-known individuals such as Catherine Adams (the wife of John Quincy Adams) and Margaret Bayard Smith.
Jul 01, 2013 Nicki rated it liked it
Stuffed between library shelves is where I found this little volume which was, at least what I consider, a pretty good find.

Informative and enlightening? Yes, of course. Engaging? Not particularly. It was a bit of a chore to finish, but the stories of these women are absolutely captivating. The writing style, not so much.
While I like how Allgor focused on a lot of things women did during this time to help their husbands politically, I think sometimes she focuses so much on them that she makes the men seem like they sat back and let their wives do all the work, instead of writing about how the husbands may have appreciated their wives' work, or that they too worked so they might rise in the world of politics.
Mary-Michelle Moore
Apr 20, 2010 Mary-Michelle Moore rated it really liked it
This book was an eye opener. I am not used to thinking of Washington DC as being built out of nothing and I liked reading about the contributions of Washington's ladies helping to build up an important city in our government. It's a little dense, hard to read if there's too much going on in the room but worth the effort.
Jul 07, 2008 Debbie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
The first time I read this book, I thought it was all style over substance. Turns out, on second reading, that was exactly what Allgor was talking about: style is substance, in a very real way. She shows how women shaped the political culture of Washington DC, and how things really got done then (and probably still do).
Andee Nero
Aug 09, 2016 Andee Nero rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I think this would make a very good Showtime series, along the lines of the Tudors. Overall, it was an interesting book, but I felt like she might have relied too heavily upon a single source, Margaret Bayard Smith.
Dec 07, 2008 Ben rated it did not like it
oh god. what an irrelevant book. Allgor completely ignores the actual struggles of women and tries to emphasize how by being good supportive wives, rich white women helped make the US the most perfect country on earth. the peggy eaton chapter is ok, resulting in the single star i gave it.
Jan 06, 2011 Ann rated it did not like it
How could anyone take such an interesting topic and completely muddle the writing. I felt like taking a red pen to it. Good information completely buried in unnecessary wordage.
Sean Chick
Aug 12, 2011 Sean Chick rated it really liked it
A very fresh perspective on how politics was conducted in the early American Republic. Books like this prove that there is new work to be done on well tread historical subjects.
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