When I went to the University of Texas many years ago, I was impressed with the variety of U.S. history classes, which all took the same eras and portrayed them in different ways. There were social histories, diplomatic histories, ethnic histories, etc. I enjoyed studying colonial and early U.S. history over and over again and met my academic requirements without ever getting past the Civil War. Later I realized that the same variety lives in U.S. history books, and some of those classes that I took were versions of my professors' books. With that in mind, I listened to Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised the Nation by Cokie Roberts, which tells what women were doing for the cause during the American Revolution and early years of the nation.
The women were very busy. Abigail Adams was running the farm and dealing with John's legal affairs. Mercy Otis Warren was ghost writing pamphlets and plays in support of liberty. Eliza Pickney was managing cotton and indigo plantations. Martha Washington was feeding and comforting the American troops. Many were advising their husbands on national affairs. They were all raising children.
Some women in New Jersey were even voting. The New Jersey constitution passed in 1776 made no reference to gender in requiring voters to be worth 50 British pounds. Single women and widows who owned property discovered that they had the right to vote and no one stopped them until 1807 when the members of the state legislature passed an act to limit voting to men.
Founding Mothers is somewhat chronological, so each woman's story is started, suspended, and continued in the many chapters. Readers who know their names well already will have no trouble, but other readers might benefit by keeping a list of characters.
Being a National Public Radio fan, I felt very comfortable listening to Roberts read. Though the chapter are longer than any of her radio reports, they had the same "this is what I've learned and it's a really good story" quality. Listeners can tell that she is enjoying reading the book.
Library Thing members are not as positive about the book as I am, giving it only a 3.23 out of 5 rating. I give it 4 stars.
Librarians should recommend Founding Mothers to readers of history, biography, and women's studies. The audiobook is a good companion in the car or the garden.
Roberts, Cokie. Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation. New York : William Morrow, 2004. ISBN 0060090251
6 compact discs. New York, NY : HarperCollins Publishers, c2004. ISBN 0060527870