Monday, January 25, 2010

Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts

iconiconIt took me, sadly, three full weeks to read this book — a long time for me, but nonfiction usually does take me longer. I borrowed Founding Mothers and the sequel, Ladies of Liberty, from a friend after I saw them on his shelf.

There is a lot of interesting stuff in this book, which is part of why it took so long for me to read it — I wanted to absorb it all. Most of us have heard of the letters Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, John Adams, during the Revolutionary War and the forming of our country — especially the most famous one, where she implores him to "remember the ladies." (Did you know that his response to her request was very condescending? Overall, the women of the period seem to have been much more liberal than their menfolk.)

But there were many more women involved in the politics and even the war than just Abigail Adams. Cokie Roberts talks about women who wrote political commentary, ran their husbands' businesses in their absence, advised men on politics, raised money to pay for the troops' expenses, defied the British to protect the army, single-handedly maintained the soldiers' morale, fought for the United States, and even spied for the British.

And the men — on both sides — knew full well the pivotal role the women played. Lord Cornwallis, the British general, wrote, "We may destroy all the men in America, and we shall still have all we can do to defeat the women."

Whether you like history, or women's rights, or both, this book is a fascinating read. You'll be amazed at how much your public school education left out!

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