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Monday, February 16, 2009

Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts~★

Author: Cokie Roberts
Title: Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation
Release Date: April 13th, 2004
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Historical Non-fiction

Book Jacket: "While the men were busy founding the nation, what were the women up to? Aside from Betsy Ross, I don't remember ever hearing about women as a child. (By the way, some of Ross's descendants still insist that she did, in fact, sew that first flag.) My courses in American history provided me with a glimpse of Martha Washington's bravery at Valley Forge, and gave a brief account of Dolley Madison's daring rescue of the portrait of George Washington as the British marched on the White House. When the modern feminist movement bloomed in the 1960s, women started passing around Abigail Adams's famous advice to John and his colleagues in Philadelphia to "remember the ladies." That was about it.
As I read through the letters of John and Abigail Adams and became more and more fascinated with her life, I grew curious about the other women who had the ears of the Founding Fathers. These women lived through extraordinary times and must, it seemed to me, have extraordinary tales to tell. Now I know they do. It's safe to say that most of the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, fought the Revolution, and formed the government couldn't have done it without the women. And it was women who, by insisting that the men come together for civilized conversations at dinner parties in the early republic, helped keep the fragile new country from falling into fatal partisan discord. The women made men behave."

Taryn's Review: As a student of history, my first problem with Cokie Roberts's hodgepodge book is that she doesn't *really* cite her sources. Educated historians cite their sources in the book via footnotes or endnotes and have a bibliography at the end of the book. Roberts's book has no footnotes or endnotes and she simply listed her sources at the back of the book with numbers that I am guessing were meant to correspond with something, but there's nothing to match up.

Another problem with Roberts's writing was that she was constantly interjecting her own opinions about things in the book via parentheses. I don't need running commentary from the author if she is supposed to be objective. She wasn't making an argument, thus her comments were irrelevant. Roberts's book also created the illusion that the elite, wealthy, white women from the United States and England were the only women that helped create the country. Roberts's herself made a note about how all these women and men seemed related and made a joke that it was a small country. Actually, the white, wealthy, elite group were prone only to marry within their own group, thus the large collection of related people. She only mentioned one black woman, Phyllis Wheatley, but it is a very brief mention.

Roberts's should let historians write history. If you have any interest in any of the women in the book, read a biography written by a true historian about each woman. Roberts's book is a waste of time and quite frankly, an embarrassment.

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