Write Team: From a woman’s point of view

Robert Cotner, Write Team

Some of our finest scholars in America today are women. They write histories, important science studies and biographies.

Let me share with you my favorite books written by women, which I have had the pleasure of reading recently.

I begin with my favorite presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. I have read all of her books and recommend them highly. But let me share three which I especially liked.

The first is “No Ordinary Time,” a study of the Franklin D. Roosevelt years and the Roosevelt leadership during the depression and World War II. The second is a study of Abraham Lincoln’s leadership, “Team of Rivals,” the basis of the recent motion picture on Abraham Lincoln’s life. The third is “Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream,” which grew out of her collaborative work with Johnson as they built his presidential library and prepared his personal memoirs.

Among the finest science writers of our time is Dave Sobel, whom I met and became friends with in Oak Park, when she was on tour promoting her extraordinary book on Copernicus, “A More Perfect Heaven,” in 2011. Her book “Longitude,” a study of navigational developments making possible safer travel at sea, was made Into a highly successful television documentary. My favorite of all of her books is “Galileo’s Daughter.” This is a twin biography of both Galileo and his daughter, Sister Maria Celeste, a scientist in her own right at the Florence convent.

British historian Sonia Purnell, has produced two remarkable books, one of which is a “must read’ book for aspiring women: “A Woman of No Importance.” This is a study of Virginia Hall, a Baltimore woman who became the greatest spy of WWII. The other is Purnell’s biography of Clementine Churchill, “Clementine,” portrays a partner with her husband, Winston Churchill who, together, led England through the turbulent years of WWII.

Let me cite additional books:

Catherine Grace Katz’s, “The Daughters of Yalta.” This book is a study of the interactions of the daughters of FDR, Winston Churchill and Averell Harriman, during the Yalta Conference in 1945.

Jennifer Chiaverini’s, “Enchantress of Numbers.” The study of British poet Lord Byron’s daughter, Ada Lovelace, a brilliant mathematician often called the world’s first commuter programmer.

Delia Owens’ “Where the Crawdads Sing.” A moving real-life story of Kya, who was abandoned as a child by her family in a shack on North Carolina’s outer bank and uses her chance-meeting of a young man on his way to becoming a Marine biologist to learn to write and study her habitat. This is a powerful story of individual achievement against the worst odds possible.

Kirstin Downey, “The Woman Behind the New Deal.” A vital study of Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labor, who single-handedly developed “for the president, for Americans, and for God” the Social Security program now in place. A beautiful book!

Helen Lark Hall, “Vernon Lewis Parrington: Through the Avenue of Art.” The finest study of Vernon Lewis Parrington, native of Aurora, Illinois, first American intellectual historian, and winner of the 1928 Pulitzer Prize for History.

Do you understand why my favorite sweatshirt says, “So Many Books, So Little Time”?

Robert Cotner spent 25 years as an English teacher that include serving as Fulbright lecturer in English at the University of Liberia. He concluded his career as an executive at The Salvation Army and Shriners Children’s Hospital-Chicago. He now lives in Seneca.

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