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

Carol Berkin
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 14, 2006 1400075327 978-1400075324 Reprint

The American Revolution was a home-front war that brought scarcity, bloodshed, and danger into the life of every American. In this groundbreaking history, Carol Berkin shows us how women played a vital role throughout the conflict.

The women of the Revolution were most active at home, organizing boycotts of British goods, raising funds for the fledgling nation, and managing the family business while struggling to maintain a modicum of normalcy as husbands, brothers and fathers died. Yet Berkin also reveals that it was not just the men who fought on the front lines, as in the story of Margaret Corbin, who was crippled for life when she took her husband’s place beside a cannon at Fort Monmouth. This incisive and comprehensive history illuminates a fascinating and unknown side of the struggle for American independence.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Historian Berkin begins with the premise that American women's participation in the struggle for independence was not restricted to such celebrated figures as Abigail Adams, Martha Washington, Betsy Ross, and the apocryphal Molly Pitcher. Although conventional histories have traditionally been limited to chronicling the heroic exploits of a handful of women as opposed to masses of men, in truth the creation of a new nation required the active involvement of countless numbers of females. The author has subdivided these many stories into chapters recounting the experiences of women who protested against English policy, women who toiled on the homefront, women who followed the army, generals' wives, Loyalist women, Native American women, and African American women. What eventually emerges is a splendid overview of the remarkable contributions made by a cultural cross section of women during the course of the American Revolution. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (February 14, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400075327
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400075324
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
52 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A well-written and deftly executed narrative February 5, 2005
Ask most people about women's involvement in the American Revolution and you are likely to hear about Betsy Ross or Molly Pitcher. But Ross may not have been the person who made the first American flag, and Molly Pitcher, says historian Carol Berkin, never existed --- she was an imaginative construct, comparable to World War II's Rosie the Riveter.

Berkin, a history professor at Baruch College and the City University of New York, has sought out the stories of lesser-known but more authentic women --- people like Esther Reed, who organized a fund-raising drive among the women of Philadelphia in support of the Continental Army; Catharine Greene, who endured the rigors of Valley Forge in company with her husband, General Nathanael Greene; and Molly Brant, a Mohawk Indian and British sympathizer who performed skillfully in delicate diplomatic negotiations during the war.

Martha Washington too wins an honorable place in Berkin's female pantheon for her annual trips to be with her husband and his troops even during the war's darkest days.

Berkin is even-handed, devoting space to the activities of Loyalist women as well as American patriots, and not neglecting the lives of black and Indian women. In fact, the single most arresting story in her book is that of Frederika von Riedesel, the wife of a Hessian general who was present at the pivotal battle of Saratoga (where her husband commanded his men on the British side), later endured captivity and long, harsh, forced travels with her husband and small children, was befriended by Thomas Jefferson during a stay in Virginia, and eventually returned to Europe, seemingly with the good will of major players on both sides of the conflict.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it! June 23, 2005
Never in my history lessons have I heard these stories. The struggles of women during the American Revolution were many. I'm embarrassed that I never considered what they went through; partly because we have always been taught only about the hardships on the battlefield. But, in this book, you will read about the many woman who followed the soldiers (camp followers), women who had no other choice but maintain the farms during their husband's absence, women who volunteered in support of the war (spinners, etc), and general's wives who helped boost the soldiers' moral. There are many interesting facts about Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, and many other "celebrity" wives contributions during the war. A great book that I will talk about for a very long time.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Women in the Revolution February 24, 2006
By Judy N
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book captured the time period of the American Revolution and the role women played in it like no other book I have ever read. I appreciated the focus on particular individuals which really helped bring it to life for me. I recommend this book to anyone wanting to know more about what part women played during the American Revolution. I'm sure you will be both surprised and delighted at your findings.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every woman should read this January 9, 2008
Carol Berkin has written a book so interesting that I can cite the women's names and tell their stories to my friends. An outstanding author who has the ability to bring real women of the past into the present by describing the lives and the actions of these women. I've since ordered Berkin's other books. I've recommended this book to all my friends. The creativity and persistence of women to survive and lead productive, heroine lives out of the most extreme of situations amazes me.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Book December 31, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I enjoy personal stories of the Revolutionary War. This was a good book, but not as detailed about the women's stories as I thought it might be. It was more detail about the state of American and gender roles with personal stories thrown in. What prompted me to look for more Revolutionary times books about women was Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts. Founding Mothers was a wonderful detail of how these women were raised and their roles in the revolution.
The book Revolutionary Mothers did cover more than the white upper-crust, it covered Native American roles, African American roles, and both sides of the war, patriot and loyalist. Overall, I am glad I read it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview -- well written, well organized February 2, 2012
By Chris
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the second book I've read by Carol Berkin ("Brilliant Solution"), and the pattern that emerges in those two is that she isn't unnecessarily long-winded and her writing is very easy to follow. "Revolutionary Mothers" isn't a 5-star book because it's a brief survey of the topic that breaks no new ground. But it's a book that can be read in a couple of days, and because of how well it's organized, you'll have a strong understanding of the various roles women played during the American Revolution.

Berkin provides nice background to gender roles and expectations prior to the conflict with Britain, and then she discusses the stories of women living in the colonies during the war -- housewives, loyalists, spies, African-Americans, native Americans, etc. It's clear from the length of the book and the amount of context she provides that primary-source materials from women of that era are not readily available. In fact, the chapter on African-American women is almost entirely context, but then, slave women in the 1770s weren't keeping diaries or writing letters.

This book included some stuff I knew and plenty that I didn't know about women during the Revolutionary period and put all of it in one easy-to-read place, compiled by a respected historian. It would appeal to almost anyone with any interest in history. Highly recommended.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Book
I loved this book. It gives a true perspective of all women from that time. Carol Berkin is amazing.
Published 2 days ago by Jac
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 7 days ago by d.b.
5.0 out of 5 stars Abigail Adams was right: don't forget the women.
Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for American Independence, by Carol Berkin, tells the story of women's participation in many facets of the Revolutionary War. Read more
Published 12 days ago by Annette Ranald
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy Read and Interesting
This book demonstrates how women took on a variety of roles during the American Revolution. Chapters could be read independently of one another. Read more
Published 2 months ago by PSReviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Review
It was very clearly organized and written and gave a comprehensive account of all aspects of the part woman played in the war effort and survival struggles at home. Read more
Published 3 months ago by bernadette callister
4.0 out of 5 stars I would highly recomment
I would highly recommend this book.I purchased this book to add to my collection of historical references in my home library. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Jacqueline Klueh
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book
This book was very informative and educational. So glad I got it. It was also very easy reading. I didn't want to put it down.
Published 4 months ago by Jan
5.0 out of 5 stars The Other Side of the Revolutionary War
You get a detailed view on the Revolutionary War from the eyes and experiences of women. There were many interesting facts and stories. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Alisha
5.0 out of 5 stars Struggles of these brave wonderful women were outstanding...?.
Do you think that women today would have the courage, physical and moral strengths?. What they went through, keeping the home fires burning, fighting, farming and many every day... Read more
Published 5 months ago by BADR
5.0 out of 5 stars great
I know it is just a text book for my class but I have found it it be a great read.
Published 5 months ago by Rondell Carson
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