The title of Carol Berkin’s book clearly introduces the important facets of her work. One is the reminder that where and when there were. The American Revolution was a home-front war that brought scarcity, bloodshed, and danger into the life of every American, and Carol Berkin shows us that. Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for Independence, authored by Carol Berkin, presents a multi-faceted view of the women who affected, and were .

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Women in the Struggle for Independence.

Revolutionary Mothers by Carol Berkin | : Books

A Book Review by Kay Grabow. Women in the Struggle for Independenceauthored by Carol Berkinpresents a multi-faceted view of the women who affected, and were affected by, the Revolutionary War. Moving far beyond the stories of familiar patriot women, Berkin finds a series of lenses through which to examine the time period.

She chooses to show the war through the eyes of patriot and loyalist, rich and poor, American and British, Indian and African American women. In doing so, she allows the mothres to see the war not as black and white, good versus evil, but rather as a gray-toned struggle, which affected a kaleidoscope of women and their families. It is clear that Berkin admires the women about whom she writes, for qualities such jothers physical strength, courage, mental toughness, intelligence, and resourcefulness.

However, she leaves the reader wondering why these women, who proved their capabilities over and over during the war, did not rise up and demand equal rights as the Constitution was crafted at the end of the war. The women of the Revolution–with the notable exception of the female Indian tribal leaders– were mostly tied to the notion that their efforts, while valiant and necessary, were merely in support of the men whose job it was to run the country.

They offered only the faintest attempts to reach out and grasp their rights as equals in the male dominated society of the eighteenth century. Berkin proficiently weaves a multitude of sources into a social history of Revolutionary times. Often citing Women of the American Revolution by Elizabeth Ellet, Berkin taps a wealth of material from diaries, letters, newspapers and recollections about familiar, as well as unsung, heroines of the War.

Revolutionary Mothers

Ellet uses the material to support her premise that the women of the Revolution were fulfilling their proper roles as helpmates and nurturers of their husbands. Berkinhowever, uses the source material from Women of the Revolution in such a way as to show that the women were heroic in their own right, not merely in their assigned womanly roles. In addition to the Ellet work, Berkin makes good use of primary source material, quoting from such documents as the Edenton Resolves, directives from the American command, the Philipsburg Proclamation, and The Book of Negroes.


These sources help the reader darol the motives of women and their reasons for supporting either the British or the Americans.

The author makes an effort to show cause for the actions of women of all types, both patriots and loyalists, with neither being portrayed as in the right. The author additionally sheds light on the ambiguity of the War by using letters. These letters show that some women were berkij distressed by their poverty and difficult times while their patriot husbands were fighting that they begged their husbands to come home.

Many of the letters used are those sent by spouses to each other, but several are woman-to-woman missives, such as the correspondence between Martha Washington and her sister and friends These letters lay out the fears of women, caroo loyalist and patriot, and describe the conditions under which they lived. Few of the cited letters from American or British women were sent to men other than their husbands, but Molly Brant, the Mohawk leader, wrote from her position of power and respect to officials such as Daniel Claus, superintendent of Indian Affairs There are no examples of correspondence between African Americans, although other individuals relate the stories of Mumbeta slave who sued for her freedom in Massachusetts inand poet Phillis Wheatley.

Quotes from newspapers and broadsides are used extensively. The author has sought out articles which document the lives of women, even though it was not the custom of the time to name or discuss women in newspapers, with the exceptions of runaways, brides and merchant advertisers Unfortunately, several of the newspaper quotations, such as those from the Pennsylvania Evening Post and the New York Journal deal with the cruel treatment of women by soldiers.

The author revolutionay writing by female patriots such as Mercy Otis Warren and poet Hannah Griffitsbut she notes that their writing, though popular, was published anonymously.

She delineates the several points of view of the war— female patriot activists, patriot women on the home front, women who followed the armies, the wives of generals, the loyalist women who were forced into exile, Indian women, African American freed and slave women, and women who served the armies peripherally as spies and couriers—and devotes a chapter revolutionady each of the groups.


Footnotes and bibliography information for each of the chapters are grouped together at the end of the book, followed by an extensive index. The author notes in her acknowledgements that her research associate scavenged for articles and primary documents at the New York Public Library and a variety of local archives.

The huge number of references, sources, and documents makes the book rich and lively. Even when the women are unnamed or unfamiliar, Berkin brings them to life with quotes and anecdotes.

However, I regularly use trade books with my upper elementary students in their study revolutiionary American history. While I have actively motners out information about women of the Revolutionary War for my students to read, most of the trade books focus on the same few women. Some of these women are famous mainly for being married to their more famous husbands Martha Washingtonothers played rather minor roles but have somehow become idealized Betsy Rossand yet others are really composites who are presented as individual women Molly Pitcher.

Very few of the women written about in trade books were loyalist women, and I believe it is important for children to hear the voice of these women, too.

Csrol about the roles played by African Americans and Indian women is very hard to come by, but fascinating and vital. I am very excited to learn about so many real women who were strong and intelligent, and who will inspire me to dig harder for more information for my nerkin. I will also be inspired to look for the ghosts of these women in the streets of Boston and the surrounding countryside.

I hope that by reading Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for Independence and exploring the byways these women followed I will be able to give my students a well-rounded view of the Revolutionary War. Women in the Struggle for Independence is probably out of reach gerkin the reading level of my students, it is a wonderful reference caol resource for me. It gives me hundreds of roads to follow and paths to send my students on as they search for the real people who lived in Revolutionary times.