Title: Founding Mothers

Date Completed: 1/30/10

Author(s): Cokie Roberts

Copyright: 2004, William Morrow

# pages: 282

Genre: History

ISBN: 0-06-009025-1

This book should be required reading in high school.  Cokie Roberts has written the history of the American Revolution through the eyes of the women who supported our Founding Fathers.  Although I found this angle interesting, the thing that I really enjoyed about the book was that it gave me a real feel for what it was like to live during the revolution.

I’ve read a lot of history books.  Every one I’ve read has been focused on the key players – which, of course, were all men.  A by-product of this focus is that we have learned a lot about both the battles and the politics of the very early years of the United States.  But, we’ve never learned a lot about the non-military, non-political life the people of the Revolutionary years led.  This is what I found most fascinating about the book.  Not to take away from the main purpose of the book, which I also found interesting and learned a lot from.

One funny fact that I learned from the book is how many Martha Washingtons there were.  It seems that every female child born immediately following the Revolution were named Martha Washington.

An interesting part of the culture in these early years was the very common practice of sending your children to live with other people in other cities.  The husband goes off to battle in Philadelphia.  The wife, who lives in Rhode Island, decides to spend the winter months (when the battles were on hold) in Philadelphia with her husband.  She sends her children to live with a friend in South Carolina for six months.  And, if the wife dies while on her trip, the kids just stay with the friend.  Potentially until they get married and start their own family.  The book had many examples of children and parents being separated for the majority of the child’s life.

There are also a lot of stories about how the women were really business owners (although they would never call themselves that) while their husbands were off at war, or in later years, off forming the new government.  In the decades that it took to gain our independence and set up our government, many of the men were living somewhere other than home.  While they were gone, it was up to the women to earn enough money to cover the expenses at home and the expenses incurred by their husbands.  These women were enterprising – something that I’ve really never seen in the books that I’ve read.  They set up import/export businesses, were responsible for identifying new markets for existing crops, and knew how to be as frugal as possible when necessary to make ends meet.

If you read this book, let me make one suggestion.  Keep a piece of paper near-by so that you can make a little family tree type chart.  About halfway through the book, I was wishing I had such a chart to keep track of all of the people.  It is hard to keep track of everyone when they are all named Martha!