Form and Content
Since half of the American population in the revolutionary era were women, it is fitting to study the roles that they played and how they influenced the formation of the country. In Founding Mothers: Women of America in the Revolutionary Era, Linda Grant De Pauw has supplemented extensive historical research with excerpts from primary source material, such as diaries, newspapers, and books. Working from the premise that women of this tumultuous era had more opportunity to participate in various occupations and roles than those who followed in the nineteenth century, De Pauw dispels the notion of women in the revolutionary era as “the weaker sex.” Founding Mothers presents the stories and words of women of different lifestyles, ethnic backgrounds, social classes, and political affiliations. It is a major step in looking at the past without gender biases.
The first three chapters of the book look at women’s world in general: marriage and the responsibilities of caring for the domestic triad of home, husband, and children. This examination includes women’s financial contributions, as they stemmed primarily from household industry. Women’s legal rights, especially pertaining to marriage and property, are also outlined. Chapters 4 and 5 show some of the ethnic diversity of the population in the revolutionary era. Black women (mainly slaves) and American Indian women (a vital element to their societies) were a part of this era, but they are usually discussed collectively with their white sisters. Political beliefs underscore the lives of Loyalist women and Daughters of Liberty in the next two chapters. The book concludes with the impact of the war itself on women and their rights, which ironically seemed to fade following the American victory. A detailed index and table of contents help the reader locate specific data. A supplemental reading list of books and articles, divided by chapter topics and fairly contemporary to De Pauw’s work, is included. No references are provided for the material cited in the text itself. Wood engravings, skillfully crafted by Michael McCurdy, introduce each chapter. This artistic medium was common in the revolutionary period and visually supports the content of the text. There are no drawings, paintings, or engravings of the women themselves.