Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts

We tend to hear a lot about the founding fathers and not so much about the founding mothers. Sure, it could be argued that their contributions were much greater and more significant for the time, but that does not mean that the women were sitting around. Like the wives and mothers of today’s military and world leaders, they were certainly not waiting for their husbands and sons to come back from changing the world while they did nothing themselves.

It’s easy to forget these women and how the world works when we are sitting in history classes, learning about their men. The women of WWII are among the only women we get to hear about when it comes to women’s contributions in time of war and that history tends to act like it was the first time that women were required to do more than wait. As this book, and others that I have read, point out, these women had much to do.

For starters, they were running their husband’s businesses while they were away. One mother developed one of the most important cash crops of South Carolina while running three plantations. There were women who organized welfare funds for the troops while others were known as camp followers and provided different types of care for them. (Yes, I’m aware that some of the camp followers were prostitutes but many were also wives and they did more for them than provide sex.) There were even some women who were part of the troops, but exact numbers cannot be known. Of those women, there is one who is documented as having been a soldier and her husband even received survivor benefits when she died. There were also women who wrote propaganda for the war.

My favorite section of this book talked about Abigail Adams. She appears to have been an early feminist, constantly urging her husband to “remember the ladies” when discussing policy and wanting him to argue for American women to have more rights than those in England. She also believed in the abolition of slavery, mentioning in one of the letters that the slaveholders of the South couldn’t be as passionate as the northerners about liberty because they denied others liberty. She didn’t believe in unlimited power in the hands of anyone, be they slaveholders or husbands. The plea to remember the ladies included what could be taken as a threat that there would be a rebellion of women one day if the men were to make laws in which women had no voice or representation. Unfortunately for women, her husband took it as playful instead of serious.

This is a great book for anyone interested in history, herstory, or women’s history. It also inspired Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies, which is a picture book based on the women mentioned in this one.

Next up is Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity!

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