Honoring the Life & Legacy of Cokie Roberts

Working with the National Archives over the course of 2019, we enjoyed creating gifts for events that celebrated members of Congress, thanked donors, and showed appreciation for their 3,000 employees. One event stood out as the most memorable.

The challenge was to create a thoughtful gift for Cokie Roberts. Cokie was being honored as the 2019 recipient of the National Archives Records of Achievement Award in recognition of her commitment to chronicling the American story as an award-winning journalist, historian and political commentator. Cokie was also a best-selling author. One of her passions was documenting the contributions of the 'Founding Mothers' of the American Revolution.

Abigail Adams was one of Cokie's favorite Founding Mothers. Nearly 150 years before the House of Representatives voted to pass the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, Abigail took a private first step in the fight for women's rights. In a letter dated March 31, 1776, Abigail wrote to her husband, John Adams: “I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

Between 1933 and 1936, Barry Faulkner, an American muralist, was commissioned to execute two large murals in the Rotunda of the Archives for the Charters of Freedom. One was an allegorical scene depicting the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. In Faulkner's allegorical imagery . . . no women were present. Brainstorming with Angela Catigano (Director of Retail & eCommerce) we decided Cokie would like to see a few exemplary Founding Mothers finally join the Fathers.

The ladies were drawn and processed to best fit the media and style of the existing mural. The initial dimensions for the final image was 16 x 4.5 inches. So the ladies were to be printed very small - only 2 inches tall each. An unexpected challenge arose when Archives Events surprised us with the idea of projecting the artwork onto the actual mural (which is the size of a city bus - 14 by 37.5 feet). Due to this change, we made adjustments in the scale of our production to find a balance between very big and very small!

The reception to the final artwork was enthusiastic. Gifts from the art were developed for all of the attendees, and the Achievement Award itself featured the 'adjusted' mural image. Sadly, Cokie suddenly died because of complications from breast cancer and didn't see this expression of affection and appreciation for her work. But those of her family, friends and admirers celebrated her night and 'remembered the ladies'.


"Times do keep changing - thank God." Cokie Roberts





January 15, 2020 by Laura King

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