COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - When administrators at the South Caroliniana Library wanted someone special to headline its 175th anniversary celebration, they selected national news correspondent Cokie Roberts. The selection seemed appropriate because Roberts has used the library extensively to research her books on women in American history.
"The Caroliniana Library has things that nobody else has," Roberts said. "Of course that's mostly true about South Carolina but it's true about the entire South and about the entire country. It is an incredible resource for anybody wanting to do this kind of work."
"We have the finest collection of Southern history volumes in the United States," said University President Dr. Harris Pastides before Roberts' speech.
WIS got an exclusive interview with Roberts Thursday evening before her presentation.
"What it has is letters and diaries that are terribly important to me in my constant quest to reveal the other half of the human race -- women!" she said. "Women absolutely were essential to the creation of the country and its continuance."
Researching her books is a good use of the investigative skills she uses every day as a journalist.
"Doing research on women is very, very difficult," she said. "It's essentially detective work and the first challenge is finding something. Finding letters. Finding a diary...and Caroliniana has more of that than most libraries."
But she said it's important to tell the story of the women who shaped our nation's history.
"I think it's very important for young women to understand that history includes them. That the pictures that they see about the important things that happen in this country do not exclude women entirely."
Currently she's working on a book about the women who worked, sacrificed and endured indignities to earn the right to vote.
"I think the main thing that I'm interested in about the 20th Century suffragists is that people don't know them. They know Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and in some degree, Lucretia Mott, but they don't know the other women who really pushed the amendment over the top."
Roberts said the women of our history are stronger than the women of today.
"Women of today are sissies," she said with a smile. "If you look at women of the past and what they had to do just to get through a day, it was incredible. Not only was everything difficult, but a disease would come through and they would lose their 3-year-old and 10-year-old in the same week. Think of it! It's a horrible, horrible thought and yet it would happen and they were devastated but they would pick up and go on because they had to...all while caring about the outcome of the nation."
"One of the great privileges of being a journalist is that you have a front seat to history and I have, over many decades now, truly had that," she said. "Whether it's inaugurations of presidents or elections of popes or coups or whatever it is. And it's one of the great privileges of the job."
Now Roberts has a front-row seat to an election that she says will make history.
"We will make history either way. We've never had a woman president, obviously. But we've also never had a man who has never had any experience either in government or in the military. We have elected statesmen or politicians or generals."
Roberts was originally scheduled to appear in October 2015 but it was postponed because of the flood. Among the books she has written: Founding Mothers, Ladies of Liberty, Capital Dames and We are Our Mothers' Daughters.