Berkin - Revolutionary Mothers

March 20, 2006

Carol Berkin
Revolutionary Mothers: women in the struggle for America's independence
New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 2005.

This is a nice light and readable book about the experiences of women during the American Revolution. Berkin has several intentions here, including pointing out that the American Revolution was not a mere matter of a couple of bloody noses but was instead very much a destructive war, especially along the Canadian border and in the South.

She tells her story through anecdote piled on anecdote, all of them compelling, some detailed and others a simple harrowing paragraph - like the woman who fled British foragers only to watch her infant daughter die in her arms from exposure as they hid in the woods.

Berkin takes care to mention both patriot and loyalist, white, black and indian women, to tell stories of heroism and deprivation together, and especially, to focus on the marked class difference between the camp followers who did the armys' laundry and the officers wives who provided moments of gentility and refinement during winter camp.

This is a great book for undergraduate or even for high school students. I know that I found a heck of a lot of great details that I will work into my classes in the future. Berkin hides her scholarship - no notes, no visible impedimentia of theory or structure other than an introduction that explains why she chose to arrange her chapters as she did. This makes it a very accessible book for the students, and we professional types can always go digging until we find the footnotes.

Good stuff!

Posted by Red Ted at March 20, 2006 08:38 PM | TrackBack
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