Friday, July 11, 2008

Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts

I recommend this book!

What an interesting read! This book is about just what the title suggests, "The Women who Raised our Nation." Most of the information presented is from letters between women and their husbands and friends. Martha Washington, Abagail Adams, Mercy Otis Warren, Kitty Greene are just a few of the central women.

I loved getting a little different historic perspective. I'm overwhelmed by what these women sacrificed to make the work of their husbands and sons possible. It is also so sad to realize that these mothers lost so many of their children. They basically had babies then got pregnant again over and over. Both moms and babies died in childbirth, and children died often from whooping cough, small pox, all kinds of things. I guess I knew all this stuff but to see the pattern in real women's lives was very humbling. It makes me so grateful for modern medicine!

I enjoyed reading this book, I wish I had kept better notes, because some of the stories overlap and begin to blur in my mind. I'm not sure I could recall to you specific chronological details. I did learn at book club that there is an alphabetized index in the back, so you could easily look up and flip back if you forgot who someone was. But I didn't know it in time.

I didn't even know that Ben Franklin was married. He wrote a nice thing about his wife posthumously, "I always discovered that she knew what I did not know."

Some other cool quotes:

Abagail Adams, "If we mean to have heroes, statesmen and philosophers, we should have learned women."

"We have done evil or our enemies would be at peace with us. The sin of slavery as well as many others is not washed away."

"I can hear of the brilliant accomplishment of any of my sex with pleasure....At the same time I regret the trifling narrow contracted education of the females of my own country."

Martha Washington, "The greater part of our happiness or misery depends up on our dispositions, and not up on our circumstances."

I was a little surprised at how readily these women left their children to be with their husbands. I guess I don't entirely understand their reasoning. But several children were left with aunts, grandparents, even sent away to school. Because these were mostly more affluent families, I'm guessing that a lot of the child rearing was being done by servants, nurses or slaves. So maybe it wouldn't be as different. The women seem to take a lot of pride in their children, and heartache when they lost them. It just seemed weird to me that they didn't always raise them.

This book took me awhile to read because it is so packed with information. The narrative does jump around people and forward and backward in time. Sometimes this is distracting, but I think it's unavoidable with the information she is trying to present. You can't really cruise through it, but it is a worthwhile read!


ColbyWarnock said...

I was glad to hear your review. As you know, I've been on a little 1776 kick and am a huge fan of John Adams now, one reason being his fabulous wife Abigail.

I heard Cokie on the Diane Ream show discussing this book. She talked about how bland history unfortuanately can be in the schools and how she wanted to make a book for the girls. One that would be interesting, informative and accessible. So I'm glad you enjoyed it. If i can ever get through the Truman (which is good-just thick!!), I will pick it up.

Kammy said...

Yep. I think it's given me the courage to re-read John Adams which I started years ago, but never finished. It was also a great month to read it and I felt especially patriotic at our flag raising.

Kelly said...

I started this book over a month ago and am having a hard time sticking to it. It's just not really my thing. I love the stories and the parts that I've read, but I need a little more to encourage me to keep picking it up. I'll be nursing again here in a few weeks (!!!), so maybe that will do it. I know Betsy loved it too. And Richard is also a huge Abigail Adams fan after reading John Adams, which is another book I just couldn't get through. But you've encouraged me to keep trying. I can. I will. :)