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Coming Events

Reserve Now for Nov. 9 Overbeck Lecture: Don Ritchie on Emily Edson Briggs of The Maples

In the late nineteenth century, visitors at The Maples, the grand old home on South Carolina Avenue S.E. that later became Friendship House and, now, a multi-unit residential development, would have been greeted by the indomitable Emily Edson Briggs. A leading hostess of the day, Briggs won fame and fortune by writing a colorful, irreverent newspaper column under the pen name "Olivia." She presented the Washington political scene as social entertainment, skewering inflated egos and pushing for women's suffrage some fifty years ahead of its achievement.

On Monday, November 9, at 7:30 p.m., U.S. Senate historian emeritus Donald Ritchie will present an Overbeck History Lecture on Briggs's life and times. Ritchie is the author of several books, including Reporting from Washington: A History of the Washington Press Corps and Press Gallery: Congress and the Washington Correspondents, which includes a chapter on Briggs.

The event will be held at Hill Center and admission is free, thanks to the Capitol Hill Community Foundation, which founded the Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project to give local residents a deeper understanding of their neighborhood. TO RESERVE SEATING, go to HillCenterDC.org or call 202-549-4172. Hill Center is located at 921 Pennsylvania Avenue S.E., one block from the Eastern Market Metro station.

During the Lincoln administration, Emily Edson Briggs became the first woman to report directly from the White House, and later she was among the first to be admitted to the congressional press gallery. She was elected founding president of the Women's National Press Association in 1882, and in 1906 a collection of her columns was published as The Olivia Letters.

The Maples, at 630 South Carolina S.E., was Briggs's home during her last decades in Washington. It was built in 1796 for the wealthy tobacco planter William Duncanson, who entertained George Washington and Thomas Jefferson there, and was later owned briefly by Francis Scott Key.

Donald Ritchie joined the Senate Historical Office in 1976 and served as U.S. Senate historian until his retirement last spring. He is a former president of the Oral History Association and also served on the councils of the American Historical Association and the Society for History in the Federal Government. His historical commentaries have been heard frequently on C-SPAN, NPR and other news outlets.

The Overbeck History Lectures are a project of the Capitol Hill Community Foundation. Please remember CHCF in your charitable giving.

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    The Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project, Washington, D.C.