This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes", April 16, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Cokie Roberts has covered the world of politics for decades at ABC News, and National Public Radio. She's written a new book called "Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised a Nation." She joins us now.

Thanks for being here.


COLMES: Is it sexist that we keep saying Founding Fathers all the time?

ROBERTS: No, of course not. These men were the men who wrote the Declaration. Their names are on it. They wrote the Constitution. Their names are on it. They were generals. They were presidents. They were members of Congress. They were the Founding Fathers.

COLMES: Women didn't have much of a chance back then to have that kind of promise?

ROBERTS: Certainly not. They couldn't vote. Let's start there.

COLMES: That's right.

ROBERTS: And they couldn't vote for 150 more years.


ROBERTS: But these women, the women who influenced the Founding Fathers.

COLMES: One of the problems in research is that a lot of their letters were not saved like men's letters were.

ROBERTS: That's right. Well, it's wonderful how much of the Founding Fathers' lives were saved. They wrote to agents in England to send them clothes, and we have those lists.

But the women's -- some women's letters, of course, Abigail Adams being the most notable, were saved. But others, we learned about mainly through men's letters to them or...

COLMES: So you did this research.

ROBERTS: Yes, a friend of mine and I did it together. And we went and found -- anybody who had ever written anything about this period, we'd say tell us if you know of any woman.

COLMES: We know Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, but Katherine Green, apparently, who we never hear about, was instrumental in this.

ROBERTS: Well, she first of all financed it. But secondly, apparently, when he came down and showed a little prototype, he couldn't get the cotton off of the teeth of the gin.

COLMES: Right.

ROBERTS: And she pulled out a broom, and that was the time...

COLMES: The only thing I remember from learning history is that Dolly Madison introduced ice cream.

ROBERTS: I'm not quite sure that's true.

COLMES: Is that an old wives' tale?

ROBERTS: I looked up -- I kept trying to attribute ice cream to one of them. Actually, Martha Washington served ice cream at her levees, as they were called, and I always thought she introduced ice cream.

COLMES: But Dolly Madison always gets credit for that.

ROBERTS: Maybe there was an ice cream named Dolly Madison.

COLMES: Who is the most -- who do you find that really needs to be credited more, who's probably one of the most underreported?

ROBERTS: Martha Washington, I would say. She -- I can make the case that the Continental Army might have disbanded, were it not for Martha Washington.

COLMES: How so?

ROBERTS: Because they were dispirited. They were demoralized. They weren't fed, housed, clothed, paid. And every winter -- we know about Valley Forge. But every winter for the eight long years of that war, she went to camp. And George begged her to come to camp and leave behind the family in Virginia. And the soldiers adored her.

And she'd come, and they'd cheer her into camp. She'd feed them, clothe them, pray with them, nurse them. She -- she was just remarkable with them. And they, when after she was -- they named dragoons after her, after she became first lady, veterans would come to see her all the time. And she lobbied the first Congress for veterans' benefits.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Why do you think we haven't heard much -- this is the first time that somebody has done this. Why do we not pay more attention to these women?

ROBERTS: I think that people have paid attention to individual ones of them, and there have been biographies written. But it is hard, A, because there aren't many records.

And, B, I think that I had a special attachment to them, because I have covered politics for so long, and because I grew up in a political family. And I knew the roles that women played.

And so I figured that these women had to, in an extraordinary time like this, had to have played a very important role. And when I went back and did the work, I found out they had.

But I'll tell you something else. It was much easier to write it as a political reporter than it would have been as anything else, because it's stuff you're familiar with, you know?

HANNITY: Sure. I mean, who else would obviously stand out? And maybe if you'll tell us a little bit more about maybe Abigail Adams?

ROBERTS: Well, of course, she's extraordinary. And we know a good bit about her, because she did leave behind thousands of letters. And she kept telling people to destroy them, but they had the good sense not to.

Sally Jane most people have never heard of, was the wife of John Jay, who of course was the first chief justice and negotiated peace with Great Britain.

She was this spirited kid. She was a kid, a teenager when he married her. When you forget that American women were having to escape the British. They were on the home front, and she kept having to go from place to place to get away from them.

She accompanied him to Spain on a diplomatic mission. It was very dangerous, because these were marked men. They were traitors to the crown. The British could try to intercept the ships and capture them.

And one of the negotiators was in the Tower of London. She wrote the funniest, most delightful, most political letters home. And then when George Clinton stole the gubernatorial race from John Jay in 1794, she did the political reporting to let them know what was going on.

HANNITY: What do you -- we do -- America does pay attention to our first ladies, and you look at somebody like Teresa Heinz, would be a very controversial figure.

ROBERTS: Maybe, maybe not. She's very smart. And she's certainly -- everybody thought she would be doing the campaign, and she's not. And I would argue that Laura Bush is one of the most...

HANNITY: Well, the advisors have coached her well.

ROBERTS: Well, she's been off on her own without them. Laura Bush is one of the most influential first ladies ever.

HANNITY: You think so?

ROBERTS: Oh, thank goodness. She's wonderful.

HANNITY: What do you mean by that?

ROBERTS: She's just a real good person.

COLMES: Why do you say thank goodness?

ROBERTS: Because it's wonderful to have that voice in the White House.

COLMES: Thank you very much for being with us. Good luck with your book.

HANNITY: Congratulations.

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