Book details

Dolley Madison

The Problem of National Unity

By Catherine Allgor

About the Book

First Lady of the United States and America's "Queen of Hearts," Dolley Madison fashioned an unofficial role for herself in the new administration of the United States, helping to answer the nation's need for ceremony and leaving footprints for centuries of presidential wives to follow. Assisting her husband, James Madison, she helped to promote national unity, modeling a political behavior that stressed civility and empathy. Together, their approach fueled bipartisanship in a country still assembling a political identity.

About the Lives of American Women series:
Selected and edited by renowned women's historian Carol Berkin, these brief biographies are designed for use in undergraduate courses. Rather than a comprehensive approach, each biography focuses instead on a particular aspect of a women's life that is emblematic of her time, or which made her a pivotal figure in the era. The emphasis is on a "good read," featuring accessible writing and compelling narratives, without sacrificing sound scholarship and academic integrity. Primary sources at the end of each biography reveal the subject's perspective in her own words. Study questions and an annotated bibliography support the student reader.

About the Author

Catherine Allgor is professor of history at UC Riverside where she holds the prestigious UC Presidential Chair. She earned her PhD from Yale in 1998, where she also won the Yale Teaching Award. Her dissertation won prizes, including the best dissertation in U.S. Women's history in the country. Her book Parlor Politics: In Which the Ladies of Washington Help Build a City and a Government won the prize for the best first book by the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic. Her book, A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation, was published in 2006 and was a finalist for the George Washington Prize. In 2012, Allgor was awarded a presidential appointment to the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation. She is a popular speaker and consultant and has worked with many museums and institutions, including the White House.
Series Editor Carol Berkin is a well-known women's historian and the author of many popular and scholarly books, including Civil War Wives. She is Professor of History Emerita at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and she is a member of the Society of American Historians.


“For educators keen to include women in the American story, but hampered by the lack of thoughtful, concise scholarship, here comes ‘Lives of American Women,' embracing Abigail Adams's counsel to John—‘remember the ladies.' And high time, too!”
Lesley S. Herrmann, Executive Director, The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

“These books are, above all, fascinating stories that will engage and inspire readers. They offer a glimpse into the lives of key women in history who either defied tradition or who successfully maneuvered in a man's world to make an impact. The stories of these vital contributors to American history deliver just the right formula for instructors looking to provide a more complicated and nuanced view of history.”
Rosanne Lichatin, 2005 Gilder Lehrman Preserve America History Teacher of the Year

“Students both in the general survey course and in specialized offerings like my course on U.S. women's history can get a great understanding of an era from a short biography. Learning a lot about a single but complex character really helps to deepen appreciation of what women's lives were like in the past.”
—Patricia Cline Cohen, University of California, Santa Barbara

“Allgor digs deep beneath the surface of the ‘Magnificent Doll,' revealing the far-reaching impact Dolley Madison had upon the political landscape of the early nineteenth century and the collective psyche of the American public for generations to come.”

Praise for Lives of American Women

“Finally! The majority of students—by which I mean women—will have the opportunity to read biographies of women from our nation's past. (Men can read them too, of course!) The ‘Lives of American Women' series features an eclectic collection of books, readily accessible to students who will be able to see the contributions of women in many fields over the course of our history. Long overdue, these books will be a valuable resource for teachers, students, and the public at large.”
Cokie Roberts, author of Founding Mothers and Ladies of Liberty

“Just what any professor wants: books that will intrigue, inform, and fascinate students! These short, readable biographies of American women—specifically designed for classroom use—give instructors an appealing new option to assign to their history students.”
Mary Beth Norton, Mary Donlon Alger Professor of American History, Cornell University