Monday, April 28, 2008
The Women Who Raised Our Nation
By Cokie Roberts
Publisher: William Morrow / HarperCollins
Release Date: April 13, 2004
Format Reviewed: Hardcover
Genre: Nonfiction / Historical (Colonial America and American Revolution)
Reviewer: Janine Peterson
Cokie Roberts’ book presents a fascinating perspective of the women before and during the American Revolution. The book presents interwoven biographies of many women including Eliza Lucas Pinckney, Abigail Adams, and Martha Washington. The stories are presented in chronological order, and Roberts paints a convincing and lifelike portrait of each woman by explaining the historical context. Some women display traces of modern feminism, some are content to let the men shine, and some act behind the scenes to work their influence through the men. Roberts quotes extensively from letters the women wrote to each other and to the men of the time and from essays and plays some women published. Well researched, well documented, and with a clear subject, this book is a great reference and a surprisingly original study of a much-studied time period. The book contains a valuable “Who’s Who” list linking the women to their more famous husbands, brothers, and sons as well as an appendix of recipes from the women’s own kitchens.
However, the author seems unaware of who her audience is. Much of the history is so specific to the American women that it assumes a basic-to-moderate understanding of the day-to-day history of the American Revolution. My history was a bit rusty, but I was certainly able to follow the narrative and research elsewhere details that intrigued me. However, the author breaks this historical tone with interjections like “Phew!” and “Wow!” that are more appropriate to beach reading than a historical analysis. Either presentation would work – the author knows her history well enough to write a great historical reference, and the topic is fascinating enough to make for great beach reading, the changes in tone as she attempted both were jarring.
All in all, Roberts has written a book that is informative and interesting to read. Her difficulties in setting a tone are overshadowed by the depth of her research and understanding.