Insights into the Book
An Interview with Elizabeth
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Born, raised, and educated in the public schools of Taunton, Massachusetts, a love of history was nurtured in me
very early. I grew up, we learned in elementary school, in the only town in the United States founded by a
woman! A statue of Robert Treat Paine, signer of the Declaration of Independence, stood in a prominent place
downtown, and a monument on the Common to the local men who served in the Civil War was regarded very
personally, as my great grandfather was killed in the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864. (No one talked very much
about the fact that Taunton was the birthplace of William Z. Foster, a founder of the American Communist
I furthered my intense interest in American history and its role in the world with studies at Wellesley College and
The London School of Economics and Political Science.
My career, spent largely in the production of public affairs programs and cultural documentaries for both public
and commercial television, began with a huge stroke of luck at CBS headquarters in New York City, where for
four years I served as chief television researcher, providing materials for the staff of Edward R. Murrow’s
ground-breaking programs “See It Now” and “Person to Person”, for CBS News, and others. (If you have seen
the Katherine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy film “Desk Set”, you will see a pretty accurate rendition of the CBS
Reference Department, where I worked, and on which the film was based. Katherine Hepburn came in one day
to absorb local color, and thanked us the following day with a huge white box containing hundreds of tiny pink
roses, so that each of us could have our own bouquet.)
Over the course of my career, I have been privileged to work as writer, researcher, and producer for some of
the distinguished, intellectually demanding figures in the medium: Lawrence Spivak , founder and producer of
“Meet the Press”, Eric Sevareid, Martin Agronsky, Adrian Malone (previously Cosmos, The Ascent of Man)
and Martin Carr, executive producer of the Smithsonian Institution’s first prime time television presence (on
PBS): SMITHSONIAN WORLD, on which I served as Director of Research. They all believed, as I do, in the
positive role television can and should play if it used with integrity.
I have been fortunate to be able to indulge my passion for travel, both professionally and personally. Since the
age of 18, I’ve traveled widely by foot, bicycle, bus and train, in the United States, Europe, and Africa. Research
for my first book, If This House Could Talk…Historic Homes, Extraordinary Americans, took me across
America for several years, visiting over 125 potential sites in twenty states for the book, which explored major
themes in American History using as metaphors the 28 houses I ultimately selected. This was published in 1999
by Simon & Schuster, and was warmly praised: Jacqueline Onassis called the book, "thrilling and inspiring."
David McCullough said, "Elizabeth has not only achieved something quite exceptional about the country but FOR
Abraham Lincoln’s Springfield, Illinois house, the only home he ever owned, was included in the book. Intensive
research on that site, together with the grounding I received as a child intrigued by my father’s small Lincolniana
collection, furnished the base from which I began working on Lincoln’s Other White House.