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First Generations: Women in Colonial America Paperback – July 1, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0809016068 ISBN-10: 0809016060 Edition: 1st Pbk. Ed

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; 1st Pbk. Ed edition (July 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809016060
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809016068
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

This study of American women in the 17th and 18th centuries by historian Carol Berkin gives close attention to the lives of several women like Mary, who was brought to Virginia as a slave in 1622. She married another African, Antonio, and over the course of their 40-year marriage, they earned their freedom and established a 250-acre plantation before moving to Maryland in search of new land. Other black women were not so lucky and, as time progressed, laws restricting black freedom were codified. This study uses legal and other types of records to illuminate the lives and experiences of these and other black, white, and Native American women.

From Publishers Weekly

This academic study by Berkin (Women of America: A History), a history professor at Baruch College in New York City, examines the lives of 17th- and 18th-century women from a feminist perspective that focuses on gender and class. Employing excellent research skills, the author documents the lives of white as well as Native American and African American women in their diverse roles as wives, mothers, widows, employed workers and slaves. Although the complexity of the subject often yields more questions than answers about how women negotiated their lives, Berkin has made a notable contribution by utilizing recent scholarship to address family life in the mid-Atlantic and Southern colonies as well as in the much studied New England settlements. Her analysis of Native American and African American women, as well as of how the American Revolution affected female roles, is enlightening.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 45 people found the following review helpful By J. Meegan VINE VOICE on August 21, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
So many history books are dry and difficult to read. This was the exact opposite. Carol Berkin breathes life into the dim periods of early Colonial American history. Although she often has little more details than land records, birth, marriage, and death dates (and in some cases, not even that) Berkin is able to paint a vivid picture of what it might have been like for the strong women who, willingly or not, helped to create America. Berkin is an equal opportunity historian -- each chapter of her book focuses on a particular strata of female colonial society: Native America women, African American women, poor white immigrant women, and wealthy women. In this way, the reader gets a full picture of the diverse cultural groups that existed from the earliest days of Colonial America. There are also some real surprises (I wont spoil them for you) which leads the reader to believe that life in Colonial America was much more complex and unpredictable than you might have thought. This book was both educational and entertaining and I highly recommend it.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Brian O'Malley on March 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
Carol Berkin offers informative essays on women in different ethnic and regional cultures of colonial America. The life story of a woman from each of the groups considered lends character and definition to this excellent scholarly work. African-American women, Native American women, and Anglo-American women in New England and the Chesapeake are among those considered. As New Amsterdam became New York, women of Dutch descent experienced major changes in their legal rights. Berkin's treatment of this transition from Dutch to English law exemplifies her fascinating and informative style.
The study ends with a discussion of women's lives during the American Revolution, including the moving stories of women who lost their fortunes or their lives in that struggle. The biographies of martyrs, however, do not eclipse a good discussion of the everyday lives of women during the conflict. Berkin also examines how the logic of democratic revolution, strangely, did not extend to women's rights.
Berkin has made an indispensable contribution to colonial history, women's history and ethnic history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By C. Ellwood on July 14, 2012
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This book was a required text for a course at my University on the social history of American women. While the information contained in this book was interesting (there isn't a lot out there about women during the Colonial period, though there is plenty about men), it was very narrowly focused. A significant portion of the book talks about the women of the Chesapeake, which is interesting, but not as comprehensive as I would have liked. I understand that this is because more information survives about women of that area, but it still felt like that should have been taken into account in the title of the book, so readers would have a better idea of what they were getting.

I did enjoy the discussion of Native American women included in the text, though some passages felt dismissive of the culture and quickly returned to white women. The Native Americans seemed included only as far as they contextualized the lives of whites.

All in all, it was an interesting book with good information, though the tone and density of the text was sometimes difficult to slog through. I found myself skimming and skipping pages oftener than I did other texts on the same subject.
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First Generations: Women in Colonial America - So far I have only completed the first two chapters, but I found it to be very interesting.
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