Public Programs

Book Talks

The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West

By Megan Kate Nelson

Thursday, November 18, 2021 | 7:00 p.m. (EST) | Virtual
Book cover of The Three-Cornered War featuring a paining of a canyon

Pulitzer Prize finalist Megan Kate Nelson will discuss her highly acclaimed book “The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West.”

Nelson reveals the fascinating history of the Civil War in the American West by exploring the connections among the Civil War, the Indian wars, and western expansion. She re-frames the era as one of national conflict—involving not just the North and South, but also the West and its peoples. Nelson tells the story through the lives of nine charismatic individuals who fought for self-determination and control of the region, and shows the importance of individual actions in the midst of a larger military conflict. “The Three-Cornered War” is a captivating story—based on letters and diaries, military records and oral histories, and photographs and maps from the time—that sheds light on an overlooked chapter of American history.

Megan Kate Nelson is a historian and writer, with a Bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. Dr. Nelson was recently elected as a fellow of the Society for American Historians, “in recognition of the narrative power and scholarly distinction of her historical work.” Scribner will publish her next book, “This Strange Country: Yellowstone and the Reconstruction of America,” in March 2022.

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Code Name Arcadia: The First Wartime Conference of Churchill and Roosevelt

By John F. Shortal

Thursday, December 16, 2021 | 7:00 p.m. (EST) | Virtual
Book cover depicting military figures and men in suits sitting around a conference table

The First Washington Conference, codenamed Arcadia, was a secret meeting held in the days immediately following the entrance of the United States into World War II. It was the first meeting between the United States and Great Britain to determine their military strategy. Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and their top military advisors spent hours making major decisions that would determine the direction of the Allied war effort. The main achievement of the conference was the “Europe first” decision, declaring that the defeat of Germany was the highest priority.

In “Code Name Arcadia,” Dr. John F. Shortal skillfully unravels the inside story of this pivotal meeting. He shows how the working and personal relationships between Roosevelt and Churchill, as well as their military chiefs of staffs, first took root and then blossomed during the conference. “Code Name Arcadia” makes a major contribution not only to the history of World War II, but also to our understanding of the power structure of the postwar world.

Dr. John Shortal is the author of “Forged by Fire: Robert L. Eichelberger and the Pacific War.” He retired from the U.S. Army as a brigadier general and subsequently served as Director for Joint History for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He resides in Washington, D.C.

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Her Cold War: Women in the U.S. Military, 1945-1980

By Tanya L. Roth

Thursday, January 20, 2022 | 7:00 p.m. (EST) | Virtual

While Rosie the Riveter had fewer paid employment options after being told to cede her job to returning World War II veterans, her sisters and daughters found new work opportunities in national defense. The 1948 Women’s Armed Services Integration Act created permanent military positions for women with the promise of equal pay. “Her Cold War” follows the experiences of women in the military from the passage of the Act to the early 1980s.

In the late 1940s, defense officials structured women’s military roles on the basis of perceived gender differences. Classified as noncombatants, servicewomen filled roles that they might hold in civilian life, such as secretarial or medical support positions. Defense officials also prohibited pregnant women and mothers from remaining in the military and encouraged many women to leave upon marriage. Before civilian feminists took up similar issues in the 1970s, many servicewomen called for a broader definition of equality free of gender-based service restrictions. Historian Tanya L. Roth shows us that the battles these servicewomen fought for equality paved the way for women in combat, a prerequisite for promotion to many leadership positions, and opened opportunities for other service people, including those with disabilities, LGBT and gender nonconforming people, noncitizens, and more.

Dr. Roth received her Ph.D. in history from Washington University. She teaches history at Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School.

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