Allgor, Catherine 1958–

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Allgor, Catherine 1958–

PERSONAL: Born November 26, 1958, in Trenton, NJ; daughter of Clifford and Mary Allgor; married Jonathan Lipman, June, 1996 (divorced, December, 2001). Education: Bucks County Community College, A.A., 1978; attended North Carolina School of the Arts, 1979–81; Mount Holyoke College, A.B. (summa cum laude), 1992; Yale University, M.A., 1994, M.Phil. (with distinction), 1995, Ph.D. (with distinction), 1998.

ADDRESSES: Home—Riverside, CA. Office—Department of History, University of California—Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521-0204. Agent—Christy Fletcher, Fletcher & Parry, 78 5th Ave., 3rd Fl., New York, NY 10011. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: Actress, historian, and educator. Teacher of acting, voice, speech, and pantomime at colleges, theater companies, and camps, 1978–90; professional actress, 1986–93; Princeton Repertory Company, Princeton, NJ, performer, producer, and member of board of directors, 1988–90; Bucks County Community College, Newtown, PA, teacher, 1988–90; Plimouth Plantation, Plymouth, MA, living history interpreter and research assistant, 1991; Simmons College, Boston, MA, assistant professor of history, 1998–2001; University of California—Riverside, began as assistant professor of history, became associate professor of history, 2001–. Visiting professor, Harvard University, 2005. Decatur House Museum, member of board of directors of interpretive planning committee, 2000–; Massachusetts Historical Society, editor of "Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams Papers," 2000–02. Workshop presenter; public speaker.

MEMBER: American Historical Association, Society for Historians of the Early Republic, Actors Equity Association, Phi Beta Kappa.

AWARDS, HONORS: Quarterly Paper Prize, Association of Living History Farms and Agricultural Museums, 1991; Webb-Smith Essay Competition winner, University of Texas—Arlington, 1998; grants from Simmons College, 1999 and 2000; Lerner-Scott Prize for best dissertation in U.S. Women's History, Organization of American Historians, 1999; James H. Broussard First Book Prize, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, 2000, for Parlor Politics: In Which the Ladies of Washington Help Build a City and a Government; Annual Book Award, Northeast Popular Culture/American Culture Association, 2000; fellow of Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, 2002–03.


Parlor Politics: In Which the Ladies of Washington Help Build a City and a Government, University Press of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA), 2000.

A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2006.

Adaptor, A Christmas Carol (stage play; based on the novel by Charles Dickens), produced in Princeton, NJ, by Princeton Repertory Company. Contributor to books, including Women and the Unstable State in Nineteenth-Century America, edited by Alison M. Parker and Stephanie Cole, Texas A & M University Press (College Station, TX), 2000; The Presidential Companion: Readings on the Political Significance of First Ladies, edited by Robert P. Watson and Anthony J. Eksterowicz, Northern Illinois University Press (DeKalb, IL), 2002; and Created Capitals: Congress Moves to Washington DC, edited by Kenneth Bowling, Ohio University Press (Athens, OH), 2003. Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals, including Washington History and Diplomatic History. Member of editorial board, White House Studies, 2000–.

ADAPTATIONS: A Perfect Union was adapted to audio cassette, Audio Renaissance (New York, NY), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS: Though not the first historian to point out the importance of the role of women in early American politics, professor Catherine Allgor has drawn considerable attention for her first two books that address this topic: Parlor Politics: In Which the Ladies of Washington Help Build a City and a Government and A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation. "Ms. Allgor's discovery is not hers alone," remarked Jeff Sharlet in a review of the former title for the Chronicle of Higher Education. "The last decade has seen a small but growing group of historians of the early American republic whose work will have a much broader impact on how scholars of all eras understand gender." However, Sharlet asserted that "Allgor's argument is more than a new twist on the history of high society. Parlor Politics … has opened not just a new window on the past, but floodgates."

Parlor Politics highlights for readers just how critical women such as first ladies Dolley Madison and Louisa Catherine Adams were in early American politics. Historians have characterized their presidential husbands, James Madison and John Quincy Adams, as socially inept, and so these first ladies stepped in to the role of making the social liaisons so necessary in forming political alliances. The scholar is careful to explain that these women were not feminists, by any sense of the modern word, but they were certainly strong personalities who were unafraid to do what they felt necessary to advance the presidents' agendas. Allgor also devotes sections of her book to political insider Margaret Bayard Smith and to Margaret Eaton, who was the wife of the U.S. Secretary of War under Andrew Jackson and, according to the author, caused such a scandal by her maneuverings into the political scene that it led to the resignation of the entire Cabinet. R. Sam Garret, writing in White House Studies, felt that Allgor overemphasizes the importance of the social scene in the role of politics, ignoring the important work of policy making, which remained strictly under the men's purview; nevertheless, he described the book as a "lively and thoroughly researched account of an important but often overlooked source of political power." Journal of Southern History critic Charlene M. Boyer Lewis similarly felt that with Allgor "men are too fully relegated to the sidelines," but asserted that the "analysis of the Peggy Eaton affair is brilliant and provides the best example of her arguments." A Publishers Weekly writer labeled Parlor Politics a "scholarly yet animated and thought-provoking analysis."

With her follow-up work, A Perfect Union, Allgor focuses solely on Dolley Madison, whose role in the White House led many to call her "Queen Dolley," though not always with flattering intentions. Madison, according to Allgor, set the standard for first ladies to follow all the way until the days of Eleanor Roosevelt. The parties she organized became events that the Washington elite all needed to attend, and her social skills were vital in helping to bridge the feuds of Republicans and Federalists of the time. Booklist critic Brad Hooper labeled A Perfect Union "a sensitively perceived and historiographically important biography," and Michelle Kung called it a "smart, lively account" in her Entertainment Weekly review.



American Historical Review, February, 2002, Jean Baker, review of Parlor Politics: In Which the Ladies of Washington Help Build a City and a Government, p. 190.

American History, August, 2001, Jennifer Barger, review of Parlor Politics, p. 69.

Booklist, March 15, 2006, Brad Hooper, review of A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation, p. 19.

Choice, June, 2001, P.D. Travis, review of Parlor Politics, p. 1851.

Chronicle of Higher Education, December 15, 2000, Jeff Sharlet, review of Parlor Politics.

Entertainment Weekly, April 14, 2006, Michelle Kung, review of A Perfect Union, p. 92.

History: Review of New Books, spring, 2001, Elizabeth E. Dunn, review of Parlor Politics, p. 109.

Journal of American History, December, 2001, Mary Beth Norton, review of Parlor Politics, p. 1058.

Journal of Social History, winter, 2002, Nancy Isenberg, review of Parlor Politics, p. 473.

Journal of Southern History, August, 2002, Charlene M. Boyer Lewis, review of Parlor Politics, p. 688.

Journal of the Early Republic, fall, 2001, Cynthia A. Kierner, review of Parlor Politics, p. 523.

Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2006, review of A Perfect Union, p. 215.

Kliatt, September, 2006, Susan Offner, review of A Perfect Union, p. 60.

Library Journal, March 1, 2006, Linda V. Carlisle, review of A Perfect Union, p. 99.

New York Review of Books, March 29, 2001, Gordon S. Wood, review of Parlor Politics, p. 17.

Publishers Weekly, November 27, 2000, review of Parlor Politics, p. 66; February 6, 2006, Sarah F. Gold, "PW Talks with Catherine Allgor," p. 52.

Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, winter, 2001, Pamela Tyler, review of Parlor Politics, p. 99.

Wall Street Journal, December 26, 2000, Alan Pell Crawford, review of Parlor Politics, p. A9.

Washington Times, August 20, 2006, Michael P. Riccards, "Vivacious First Lady Who Became an Icon," review of A Perfect Union.

White House Studies, summer, 2001, R. Sam Garrett, review of Parlor Politics, p. 433.

William and Mary Quarterly, July, 2001, Elizabeth R. Varon, review of Parlor Politics, p. 764.


University of Virginia Press Web site, (November 3, 2006), Catherine Allgor, "Catwoman or Nun? A Short Autobiography of Catherine Allgor" and "An Interview with Catherine Allgor: Author of Parlor Politics."

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Allgor, Catherine 1958–

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