Heather Cox Richardson is one of USA TODAY’s Women of the Year, a nationwide recognition of women who have made a significant impact. The annual event is a continuation of Women of the Century, a 2020 project celebrating the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. Meet this year’s honorees at womenoftheyear.usatoday.com.
When the pandemic hit, Heather Cox Richardson, a prolific author, embarked on a book journey for her latest work, “How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America.” Was.
Like everything else, her tour was called off. Despite the despair, he had an idea—one that would eventually change the landscape of America’s political discourse.
Cox Richardson writes the wildly popular Substack daily newspaper “Letters from an American”, where she links the news of the day to events of the past. She is a historian and professor of American history at Boston College. He was recently invited to the White House to interview President Joe Biden.
“I was talking to my preacher, and she was raising her hand in the air: ‘What are we going to do?’ Cox Richardson said. “My answer was simple. ‘Listen, the one who reads to me is sitting at home, and they’re bored, and they’re scared. And I’m just going to have fun.’ ,
Cox Richardson began doing Facebook videos that were initially designed to serve as virtual book tours. As the pandemic broke into its second year, she embarked on another tour, but her loyal audience told her that they didn’t really care about the book. They were concerned about COVID-19, the political landscape and news events – they wanted him to quietly start sharing his daily thoughts and comments in 2019.
USA Today Woman of the Year awardee Heather Cox Richardson gives historical context to the news
Heather Cox writes the Richardson newspaper “Letters from an American”, where she links the news of the day with the events of the past.
“So every Tuesday, I started a video where I started explaining modern politics, here’s what’s in the news,” she said. “And then on Thursday, I’d say, ‘Here’s a few things about history.’ So now, I guess it’s been almost two years, I’ve tried to entertain people twice a week with good solid content. It’s been amazing. We’ve built a real community, and the incredible enthusiasm that people have. feel, first of all on understanding their world.”
Cox Richardson’s work empowers readers, especially members of marginalized groups such as women and people of color. And while he agrees with some experts and academics who believe that democracy is in a moment of crisis, Cox Richardson finds unparalleled optimism in the American response. People are questioning the Constitution. People are engaged in foreign affairs. People are taking note, a fact Cox Richardson said he didn’t experience five or 10 years ago.
“My theory is that you can’t make good choices about your life until you understand the facts of your life,” she said. “I firmly believe in the incredible importance of many different perspectives in democracy and on different issues. But unless people are acting based on the same facts, they are not going to make good decisions about their lives or their country. If you don’t understand what’s going on and what’s happening, your only answer is to shrink and hope that someone makes good decisions for you. And that’s a real burden.”
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
There are a few things that seem really interesting about the moment that we’re going through right now. And one of them is that American women are in a unique position this time again.
We are now seeing a new generation of women who have worked outside of the home all their lives, who have strong support networks, who are used to having their say in the world and who may be in a position to have some space of their own. are in. for a change. Maybe their children have left home, or they have a base of knowledge and a sense of ability to do something. And instead of turning off the clock, many of us are looking forward to 20-30 years more being able to talk and change the world.
I think it’s a very, very powerful force. Another is that women and people of color have been accustomed to recognizing for at least a generation now that they have something to contribute to the world and are beginning to be able to find a place to do so.
Yes absolutely. People are people. I wonder, really, if we’re moving more towards it. It’s a different kind of community than my generation. I think television has changed the way people interact, because instead of going out, people can sit at home and have fun. And we have different technologies. But I think we’re going to continue to have the same human relationships that we’ve always had – they’re just going to be different human relationships.
It is always worth remembering that perhaps every single generation from the first indigenous person who scribbled a handprint on the wall has lamented how messed up the next generation really is. And this is a kind of truthfulness. I think it’s good to stand back and see what the next generation does.
Not a mantra, but certainly a guiding principle. And that is why I believe a lot in human self-determination. I firmly believe that humans have the right to decide how they are going to live their lives, and that democracy is the system of government that enables us to do so. Is this perfect? No way. Do people make good decisions all the time? No way.
But I believe that we have the right to make these decisions. And what is most important to me is to preserve people’s right to make decisions about their lives based on reality, and to support democracy as part of that system to enable people to self-determination. To try.
That’s how heroes become or show courage. Keep one foot in front of the other. And really, sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do. Simply putting one foot in front of the other can be such an incredible victory. And it’s always worked for me – just one terrible step at a time. One word at a time. One project at a time. That’s how you go through anything.
Here’s what I could never do, even though I’m 59 now, and that’s the faith of time. I have a friend who always tells me when I’m like, “No, no, I need this now.” They encourage me – believe in timing. Then I would say live; You really only get one shot.
The things that have been the best for me in my life are the things I’ve done that were quirky, weird. I started doing what I do now because a friend offered me a chance to write for a children’s magazine. I was on my way to tenure at a university, when you were supposed to focus on your scholarly work all the time. And I said, “Sure, I’d love to write for a children’s magazine.” And people were like, “Why are you doing this?” I said, “Well, that sounds fun.”
I think that as you age, if you’re lucky enough to be one of those people who get older, it creates a different way of looking at the world and maybe a different skill set. Makes you feel like you really are you.
Showcase the inspiring lessons from USA TODAY’s Woman of the Year
USA TODAY’s special Women of the Year show will premiere on USA TODAY’s YouTube and Facebook channels on March 29, and on the USA TODAY channel, available on most smart TVs and devices.
To think, I need repetitive motion. So I walk a lot, and as soon as I can find a boat in the water — I wear a wetsuit so I do it most of the year — I kayak. Because being outside is a really creative time for me. I always walk with paper and pen, and I often kayak with paper and pen too.
When I’m working on a project, I have a certain kind of music for each book, different playlists. It pretty much plays on the classic guitar – Mark Knopfler and all great. Billy Strings is too big for me right now. I love really good, classic Americana or rock music, and I know I’m writing really good if I can’t hear it. But it has all the best, vintage stuff from Motown and Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne, through Led Zeppelin and Cream—all things that anyone born in 1962 would have heard.