Television's much-awarded broadcast reporter Cokie Roberts might intimidate us ordinary souls if she weren't so personal, warm, and insightful. Her book, We Are Our Mothers' Daughters part memoir, part social history demonstrates these qualities. Roberts's title makes her chief point: no matter how political and social changes revise women's lives, women's nature remains the same.
"Women," she says, "have always been multiple-minded." Rather than regarding multiple-mindedness as a handicap, Roberts sees it as a strength. Women by necessity, she claims, will always focus on many things at once, jobs and family, professional life and personal life. Roberts, herself a highly successful professional woman, notes that "women are connected throughout time and regardless of place." Our Mothers' Daughters develops this theme in 13 chapters organized around women's various roles. The anecdote-filled chapters illustrate women's toughness, tenderness, and flexibility at home as well as in more public arenas. Chapters on "Sister," "Aunt," "Wife," and "Mother/Daughter" draw on Roberts's personal life. Daughter of Hale Boggs, the Louisiana congressman lost in a plane crash in Alaska, and Lindy Boggs, herself a member of Congress and now Ambassador to the Vatican, Cokie says "Politics is the family business." "Sister," a moving prose elegy, deals with Roberts's sister Barbara's death from cancer. "Mother/Daughter" praises her mother's strength, wisdom, good sense, and sense of humor. When Roberts's children were young, Grandma Lindy lived on Bourbon Street. "I used to jokingly chant [to my kids], Ã”Over the hills and through the woods to grandmother's house we go,' as we tripped our way past the denizens of that naughty neighborhood." "Aunt" registers appreciation of the network of southern women Roberts grew up in, while "Friend" expresses appreciation for the network of professional women that fostered Roberts's career. For women's more public roles, Roberts draws on experiences gleaned fromher years as a reporter. "Politician" points out the importance of womenbeing active in politics despite the difficult, sometimes tawdry, worldpoliticians inhabit. "Consumer Advocate" profiles Esther Peterson, the woman responsible for truth-in-advertising package labeling. "First-ClassMechanic" chronicles the inspiring story of Eva Oliver of Baton Rouge, a mother who got off welfare and now counsels other women. "Civil Rights Activist" traces the career of 85-year-old Dorothy Height, President of the National Council of Negro Women. Roberts has unearthed fascinating tales of women in business, women in theservice, women in reporting. She weaves them together in clear, informalprose well-spiked with her own warm personality.
Reviewed by Joanne Lewis Sears.