Catherine Allgor talks about A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation. Dolley Madison, by her death in 1849, was the most celebrated person in Washington. Why so much adulation to a lady so little known today? Allgor reveals that while Dolley's gender prevented her from openly playing politics, she has left us a model for a modern form of politics emphasizing cooperation over coercion, building bridges instead of bunkers.
After a career in the theatre, Catherine Allgor attended Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA, as a Frances Perkins Scholar and graduated summa cum laude in History. She received her Ph.D. with distinction from Yale University, where she also won the Yale Teaching Award. Her dissertation on women and politics in early Washington garnered prizes both for the best dissertation in American History at Yale and for the best dissertation in U.S. Women's history in the country. Professor Allgor's book, Parlor Politics: In Which the Ladies of Washington Help Build a City and a Government, published by the University of Virginia Press recently won the prize for the best first book by the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic. Pulitzer Prize Winner Joseph J. Ellis calls it, "An extraordinary piece of work, easily one of the most intellectually original and stylishly elegant first books I have ever read." Professor Allgor has also written on politics, women, and religion for national publications, and her newest project is a political biography of Dolley Madison. In 2002-2003, Professor Allgor was a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Last year, she was a Visiting Professor of History at Harvard University.