From Publishers Weekly
In this scholarly yet animated and thought-provoking, analysis, Allgor presents her groundbreaking research on the critical role that women played in the early days of Washington politics. Any connection whatsoever between women and government had been firmly opposed by Thomas JeffersonDthe first president to make Washington his permanent residenceDbecause a female presence reminded him of decadent European court life and offended his republican sensibilities. However, when Dolley Madison became first lady, she initiated a social life in Washington that enabled the political players to gather at "lev es" (large parties) and dinners, presided over by Washington matriarchs, which not only redefined the social dimension of politics, but also gave women more freedom to participate in public life. In fact, during Andrew Jackson's administration, a scandal over the virtue of Margaret Eaton, who was married to his secretary of war, forced the resignation of the entire cabinet because their wives refused to speak to Eaton, much to Jackson's fury. Allgor, an assistant professor of history at Simmons College, combines excellent research, which draws on primary archival material, with a flair for expressive writing. (Dec.) Forecast: One of the new first lady's first official engagements in January will be a luncheon sponsored by the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association and the First Ladies' Library, where Allgor is scheduled to be the guest speaker. A selection of the History Book Club, her book is bound to draw attention in Washington, as well as in New York and Boston, where publicity appearances should bring her work to the attention of readers interested in women's studies, U.S. history and politics.
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Parlor Politics is a stimulating, lively, and subtle book that enlarges our understanding of how, in just half a century, Washington City became an important world capital.
(Alan Pell Crawford Wall Street Journal
For those whose knowledge of early Washington and its politics is in need of repair, Parlor Politics provides a fresh perspective and rich details— history at its most readable.
(Jeff Sharlet Washington Post
What Ms. Allgor's history suggests is that the nation that dares to criticize its first lady's fashion sense may be a very healthy one indeed.
(Emily Eakin New York Times
In this scholarly yet animated and thought-provoking analysis, Allgor presents her groundbreaking research on the critical role that women played in the early days of Washington politics.... Allgor... combines excellent research, which draws on primary archival material, with a flair for expressive writing.
(Publishers Weekly, *starred review
An extraordinary piece of work, easily one of the most intellectually original and stylishly elegant first books I have ever read. Allgor's treatment of the role of women brings them into the center of the story of America's early political history and demonstrates that the republican values so central to the ideology of the post-Revolutionary era actually required the presence of women to permit the federal government to function. It's the kind of argument that seems utterly self-evident but in fact no one has made it before in anything like this persuasive way. Throughout the text, one encounters a truly lyrical presence, cajoling, whispering, taking us aside (as at an elegant dinner party) to talk interestingly about what the evidence means.
(Joseph J. Ellis, author of Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation and American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson
Parlor Politics is an absolute gem of historical research and writing. Again and again—and yet again—it opens fresh views on the political culture of the early Republic. Moreover, its sprightly, sparkling prose will delight scholars and general readers alike.
(John Demos, Yale University, author of The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America
Parlor Politics is cultural history at its best. Showing how style and substance merged into social power, Catherine Allgor has recovered the fascinating political role of women in the Washington of Jefferson and his successors.
(Joyce Appleby, author of Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans
Allgor's concern with the blurred lines between official and unofficial politics, government and society, image making and power sharing, resonates loudly in our own time.
(US News & World Report
Ms. Allgor's argument is more than a new twist on the history of high society. Parlor Politics, her first book, has opened not just a new window on the past, but floodgates.
(Chronicle of Higher Education