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FLOTUS Showdown

Greatest film of all time? Vertigo, according to the Sight and Sound poll. Greatest album? Sgt. Pepper, says Rolling Stone. Best college men's basketball team? AP has Syracuse at the top (for now). We live in an age of lists. While list-making is to a certain extent just a parlor game, as well as a handy way to sift through information overload, such a list can be a fairly reliable yardstick for fluctuations in reputation.

The Siena Research Institute periodically polls historians to assemble their rankings of the U. S. Presidents, but many people probably don't know that Siena also ranks the First Ladies. The latest edition of the First Ladies rankings has just been released, and it has inspired considerable commentary (including this CNN piece). In the rankings' top spot is Eleanor Roosevelt, who, apart from her famous marriage, was one of the great public figures of the twentieth century. In fourth place, almost exactly 200 years after she and her husband left the White House, is Dolley Madison, often credited with creating the role of the First Lady as we know it.

Vermont Authors on NPR

Buildings of Vermont coauthors Glenn Andres and Curtis Johnson appeared on Vermont Edition,  produced by public radio affiliate WVPR. You may listen to the broadcast on the WVPR web site.

The Unlikely Activist

The odds were against Ed Peeples growing up to be an activist who would inspire countless others. Raised in what he describes as a systematically racist South, Peeples transcended his roots to become a committed soldier in the Civil Rights Movement. This fascinating and unlikely story is the focus of his new memoir, Scalawag: A White Southerner's Journey through Segregation to Human Rights Activism. Peeples recently answered a few questions about his beginnings in activism and the changes he has seen over a half century.

Outstanding Academic Titles

At the American Library Association's Midwinter meeting, Choice magazine announced its complete list of Outstanding Academic Titles from the year just ended. Included on the list are two titles from our Rotunda electronic imprint: The Digital Temple and The Papers of Eliza Lucas Pinckney and Harriott Pinckney Horry.

50 Years On: LBJ's War on Poverty

Fifty years after Lyndon Johnson declared his War on Poverty, NPR is beginning a series on the legacy of this initiative. The first installment, which revisits the Kentucky county where the iconic front-porch photo of LBJ was taken, may be found here. Half a century later, many residents could not survive without services such as food stamps and energy assistance, which date back to LBJ's administration. Still, times remain very tough in this Appalachian community, due partly to a scaling back of the coal mining industry that was the region's lifeblood for generations.

Observing Vermont

The photographs of Curtis B. Johnson are an integral part of our new Buildings of Vermont. Beginning January 7, the Middlebury College Museum of Art will present Observing Vermont Architecture, which features one hundred of Mr. Johnson's images. The exhibit will run through March 23. Complete details are here.

How Best to Lead?

The Wall Street Journal recently reviewed Sons of the Father: George Washington and His Protégés, a "stimulating collection" of essays that "explores Washington's relationships with a series of younger men" including Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, the Marquis de Lafayette, Henry Knox, and Nathanael Greene. Its editor, Robert M. S. McDonald, is associate professor of history at West Point. In the following essay, McDonald reminds us of the very full range of Washington's leadership.

A Place for Each Season

Many people picture Vermont with handsome barns overlooking rolling pastures, white country churches punctuating hillsides of blazing maples, and small villages clustered around gracious greens. While not inaccurate, this image does little justice to the architectural richness of a state that retains so significant a variety of building types, landscapes, and historic environments that it was declared a national historic treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Here is a seasonal sampling of places worth a look, drawn from Buildings of Vermont by Glenn Andres and Curtis Johnson (whose photographs also enhance the text), the latest volume in the Buildings of the United States series published by the Society of Architectural Historians and the University of Virginia Press.

ALI Publishes Book #100

Regular visitors to our web site have seen its logo on our home page but may not know what the American Literatures Initiative actually is. The University of Virginia Press is proud to take part in this Mellon-funded program with the goal of publishing books by first-time authors in the field of literary studies. Recently the 100th title in the ALI imprint was published, so this seems like a good time to reflect on this unique, award-winning project

A School That Would Be Different

Rot, Riot, and Rebellion: Mr. Jefferson's Struggle to Save the University that Changed America is the fascinating history of the early days of the University of Virginia and how the institution's survival was hardly a foregone conclusion. The book has recently received good reviews from both the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal and is now the subject of a feature in the University of Virginia Magazine. In the following piece, coauthor Carlos Santos considers how Thomas Jefferson's insistence on separation of church and state extended to the university he founded, a radical idea in a time when religious instruction was central in higher education.

Critics considered Thomas Jefferson’s unorthodox views of Christianity evil as hell fire. Political enemies dubbed him an “audacious howling Atheist.” Ministers called him a tool of French secularism, while others argued that declaring for Jefferson was declaring for no God.

Elected president in 1800, tradition holds that the women of New England hid their Bibles in wells, convinced that Jefferson, aided by his atheistic allies, would fuel bonfires with the Good Book.