Steve Inskeep, host of NPR's Morning Edition, discusses extraordinary-- and sometimes overlooked-- figures in American history: John and Jessie Fremont
We hear his voice every morning on NPR's Morning Edition, the most widely heard radio program in the United States. Before we became so accustomed to his voice, we heard him every weekend when he co-hosted NPR's Weekend Edition. Steve is a journalist who is driven by his need to know the backstory, the details, of what and who we are. American history is more than an armchair hobby for him.
In his new book, Imperfect Union: How Jessie and John Fremont Mapped the West, Invented Celebrity, and Helped Cause the Civil War, Steve resurrects the almost incredible story of John C Fremont and his wife Jessie, extraordinary characters in American history. Ruthless ambition, self-invention, and infinite belief in their ability to chart the course of America through western expansion right to the White House, the Fremonts were, in Steve Inskeep's estimation, the first real modern American celebrities who exploited their fame for political influence. Politician, abolitionist, frontier explorer, military officer, California gold speculator, John Fremont's story, alongside that of his wife, is the definition of American invention. Not always one to respect authority or display political savvy, Fremont's career was not short of stumbles-- including issuing his own Emancipation Proclamation before President Lincoln could issue his own. Jessie, his wife, was a woman years ahead of her time; she served as her husband's closest political advisor and spokesperson. She wrote books as well as stories in popular magazines about the family's adventures on the western frontier, that supported the family during times of financial hardship.
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