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Hedy Reviews “Founding Mothers”

By Library Staff

This was a terrific book to discuss on the July 4th weekend.  I learned so much about the women behind the men: Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Eliza Pinckney, Deborah Read Franklin, Mercy Otis Warren, Sarah Livingston Jay, and many more.  They weren’t just wives–they were also sisters, mothers, daughters, and mistresses.  There were certain things that were universal about these women–they all exhibited a strong sense of duty.  Under the prevailing 18th century system called couverture, the wives were also all “owned” by their husbands.  And they could expect to be pregnant, nursing babies, or caring for sick family members most of their lives.  The chance of dying in childbirth was pretty high too.  In the meantime, they also wrote propagandistic poetry, organized the Daughters of Liberty, ran plantations and businesses, figured out how to make a profit planting indigo,  helped invent the cotton gin…

It was interesting that politics in colonial times was just like it is in modern times in that a campaign couldn’t be won without propaganda; the slightest indiscretion could be magnified into a crime; corruption ran rampant; Congress was deadlocked; and women stood by their men despite their misconduct.

I was especially interested in one of the men I knew little about: Gouverneur Morris.  It turns out he wrote the famous words for the Preamble of  the Constitution: “We the people of the United States in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America”.  Roberts adds that those words “give you goose bumps”.  She periodically inserts herself at the ends of paragraphs with some wry quip, making the book more personal and fun to read.  It’s not straight history–the author has opinions.  Still, the reader learns a lot and, if you’re a history buff,  it’s all fascinating.

See also J920.72 RO Roberts, Cokie. “Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies” which is a delightful picture book version of her adult nonfiction illustrated by Diane Goode.

973.3092 RO (also LARGE PRINT and CDBOOK) Roberts, Cokie. “Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation”, 2004, 359 pages