Skip to content Skip to navigation

"Imperfect Union": A Book Talk with Steve Inskeep

Tuesday, February 2, 2021 - 2:00pm

*New Date* This event has been postponed to February 2 from January 12

Steve Inskeep, radio host and author, stops by the Lane Center to talk about his new book, Imperfect Union: How Jesse and John Frémont Mapped the West, Invented Celebrity, and Helped Cause the Civil War.

About the Book:

Steve Inskeep tells the riveting story of John and Jessie Frémont, the husband and wife team who in the 1800s were instrumental in the westward expansion of the United States, and thus became America’s first great political couple.

John C. Frémont, one of the United States’s leading explorers of the nineteenth century, was relatively unknown in 1842, when he commanded the first of his expeditions to the uncharted West. But in only a few years, he was one of the most acclaimed people of the age – known as a wilderness explorer, bestselling writer, gallant army officer, and latter-day conquistador, who in 1846 began the United States’s takeover of California from Mexico. He was not even 40 years old when Americans began naming mountains and towns after him. He had perfect timing, exploring the West just as it captured the nation’s attention. But the most important factor in his fame may have been the person who made it all possible: his wife, Jessie Benton Frémont.

With rare detail and in consummate style, Steve Inskeep tells the story of a couple whose joint ambitions and talents intertwined with those of the nascent United States itself. Taking advantage of expanding news media, aided by an increasingly literate public, the two linked their names to the three great national movements of the time—westward settlement, women’s rights, and opposition to slavery. Together, John and Jessie Frémont took parts in events that defined the country and gave rise to a new, more global America. Theirs is a surprisingly modern tale of ambition and fame; they lived in a time of social and technological disruption and divisive politics that foreshadowed our own. In Imperfect Union, as Inskeep navigates these deeply transformative years through Jessie and John’s own union, he reveals how the Frémonts’ adventures amount to nothing less than a tour of the early American soul.

About the Author

Steve Inskeep
Inskeep is a cohost of NPR’s Morning Edition, the most widely heard radio program in the United States, and of NPR’s Up First, one of the nation’s most popular podcasts. His reporting has taken him across the United States, the Middle East, Latin America, Africa, Pakistan, and China. His search for the full story behind the news has led him to history; he is the author of Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi and Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab, both published by Penguin Press.

 

 

 

 

 

Participants

Emily Greenfield
Emily is a PhD candidate in history at Stanford University, where her research focuses on slavery, race, and memory in the United States. She is particularly interested in the construction of public narratives about slavery and the American nation – at historic sites, as well as in textbooks, museums, and memorial spaces. Emily was previously director of strategic communications at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, and an Emmy Award-winning producer at CBS News’ Face the Nation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David M. Kennedy
A founding co-director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West, David Kennedy is the Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History Emeritus at Stanford University. Professor Kennedy received the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1988. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in history in 2000 for Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War. He received an A.B. in History from Stanford University and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact Email: 
marcomtz@stanford.edu