Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America's Independence

Carol Berkin, Author . Knopf $24 (224p) ISBN 978-1-4000-4163-3

Confronting "the gender amnesia that surrounds the American Revolution," historian Berkin (A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution ) offers a lively account of women's various roles in the long, bloody conflict. Early forms of resistance included boycotting British cloth—and thus dusting off retired spinning wheels—and tea as women used "their purchasing power as a political weapon." As the conflict became a war in city streets and the neighboring countryside, houses became war zones; ordinary women often served as spies, saboteurs and couriers. Camp followers (often soldiers' wives) provided logistical support (cooking, washing, sewing, nursing, finding supplies) and occasionally even fought; prostitutes kept up soldiers' sexual (and social) morale. Generals' wives, "admired while the ordinary camp followers were often scorned," accompanied their husbands in different style; they boosted morale with dinner parties and dancing. Berkin reaches beyond white "American" women to chart the experiences of Loyalist women ("targets of Revolutionary governments eager to confiscate the property of... traitors"), Native American women (for whom "an American victory would have... tragic consequences") and African-American women (whose "loyalties were to their own future, not to Congress or to king"). First-person accounts lend immediacy and freshness to a lucidly written, well-researched account that is neither a romantic version of "a quaint and harmless war" nor "an effort to stand traditional history on its head." Agent, Dan Green. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 01/31/2005
Release date: 02/01/2005
Open Ebook - 120 pages - 978-0-307-42749-6
Paperback - 194 pages - 978-1-4000-7532-4
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