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The American Revolution is a war that continues to be the subject of unending discussion of historians and intellectuals of our society. The Founding Fathers is a group that played a critical role during the colonial rebellion that unfolded for nearly two decades, between the years of 1765 and 1783. The Founding Mothers, as the Carol Berkin will describe them in her book Revolutionary Mothers, too played an essential role during the war and its aftermath that reached beyond keeping their families together and their domestic roles. Berkin focus on women of all stature, from the poor to those in the rural and urban areas, the enslaved and recently freed women; and it looks at their struggles and challenges they had to withstand during the years of war. While most of the credit for the successful outcome of the war has consistently gone to men, the role that women played during the war had not been dissected at length in the past. On a positive note, Carol Berkin’s work of literature Revolutionary Mothers, offers much-needed enlightenment on this matter. In Revolutionary Mothers, the author, a United States historian, as well as a writer, seeks to provide an enhanced comprehension of the role that women played throughout the ground-breaking war.
Revolutionary Mothers finds Berkin exploring several diverse roles that women from a vast array of cultures, ethnicities, as well as classes, played in the course of the period in which colonial America was struggling to attain its independence from Great Britain. Berkin makes it clear that there is an innumerable sum of forgotten women whose contributions to the cause of the revolutionary war had a prominent impact on the ultimate outcome of the war. Succinctly, numerous women acted as companions, organizers of political campaigns, caretakers, while some even became soldiers and fought on the battlefield. The women who showed great bravery during the war included both loyalists and patriots, black people, as well as Native Americans. First off, Berkin notes that in affluent families, women tended to be excused from the majority of production tasks and instead started to carry out undertakings such as “beautification of their homes and genteel upbringing of their daughters” and properly raising their daughter. On top of this, Berkin makes the point that women who lived in rural areas were mainly tasked with the responsibility of bringing forth as many children as possible. This is particularly noteworthy owing to the fact that children assisted in doing different kinds of jobs, like farm work and overall assisted in ensuring the survival of the family. In addition, women were involved in political undertakings in the era under dissection. For instance, patriot women are said to have linked with their husbands with an eye on organizing the initial elective boycotts. As a result, the initial political deed “of American women was to say, ‘No'”. The roles of several women in this regard are elaborately laid out. Berkin uses various sources in describing the times and giving the viewer a historical perspective of the revolution. She relies a great deal on Elizabeth Ellet’s book “Women of the American Revolution” together with a variety of letters, newspapers, and diaries that provided the accounts of those unsung heroines of the War. The author’s account was able to provide a fresh perspective considering that some of the primary sources that she relied on like Elizabeth Ellet’s book were written in the mid-19th Century and the family histories and recollections were still fresh. However, the descriptions provided by the Ellet’s work portray the women as playing second fiddle and playing proper roles as helpmates in nurturing their husband, Berkin, on the other hand, celebrates their role as vital to the Revolution war played in part by heroic efforts of the “Revolution Mothers”. The other material used such as the letters were obtained from correspondence between spouses and describe their fears during the war.
In each of chapters, the author offers a comparative perspective of the contrasting roles that women in the 17th century had from those in the 18th century and how the revolution changed them. The former being obedient, submissive, and industrious, while the latter was the same except more modest; however, the revolution changed them to become more rational, assertive, while still being decorous according to as noted by the author, “the ideal woman of the eighteenth-century parlor? Obedient, charming, chaste, and modest…”. The book demonstrates that the women of the revolution were heroines who not only assigned to the womanly roles but played vital roles in the Revolution war. The report will give more analysis of the book and delve deeper into the roles of the Revolutionary Mothers to shed more light on the book that introduced a new twist to the American Revolution. Examples of women whose political contributions are clarified include Abigail Adams, Lucy Knox, Mercy Otis Warren, as well as Martha Washington. Earlier, “in the decade of protest before the Revolution and during the war itself, women entered a sphere largely unfamiliar to them the world of politics”. Apart from this, irrespective of whether women, implored men in their respective families to fight in war, women swiftly realized that they had to fulfill another important responsibility that is, taking care of the financial matters of the household.
The second chapter by the title “They say it is tea that caused it” looks at the changed roles of the women which made them more politically active by taking more active and assertive roles in boycotts protesting unfair policies by the British. They asserted their positions by refusing to indulge in some of the British products like tea, and weirdly they were supported since they aligned with the causes that the husbands supported. They even raised funds to support the soldiers and became more active when it came to civic duties. The third chapter revolves around the challenges which were a result of the war, food became scarce, their daily activities are also heavily paralyzed. Men to leave for the war and the women are left behind to fend for themselves; they took up roles that were traditionally done by men such as running the farms and other enterprises around the home and at the same time taking care of their families. With the ever-advancing war, the women became were prone to dangers of such as rape by the soldiers because of their political stands, their livestock and other properties were confiscated by the regiments and a host of other challenges. As the war carried on it took the shape of a civil war pitting neighbors against each other, the band of Loyalists versus the Patriots leading to heavy causalities that led to the loss of spouses subsequently leading to financial difficulties.
Chapters four and five focused on camps followers and the general’s wives respectively. The former was the women that did lower level roles in the camps for the soldiers and armies, others even more pivotal roles as nurses and other conjugal roles for their husbands. Their lives were difficult dressing in rags; they did not have enough food for them and their children, and it was not uncommon to see them retrieve valuables and pieces of clothing from the dead. On the contrary, the general’s wives were the custodians of the home and played host to their husbands during the winter breaks when there was little to no fighting. They played a critical role of championing on their men, raising their morale and those of other soldiers. They were a perfect derailment that would offer respite for their spouses away from the war; they could organize balls and parties for the soldiers.
Chapters six “A journey a Crosse ye wilderness” and seven titled “The women must hear our words, ” focused on loyalist and the native women respectively. The former group suffered great loss for siding with the British even being shunned away, while the latter focuses on their roles siding with the Loyalists which also led to intermarriages.
Chapter eight focuses on the African-American women both free and those enslaved. Their lives were filled with hardships before the war and became even worse during the Revolution and in the aftermath. Many that had sided with the British and used in their regiments were forced to relocate to urban areas of New York, some surrendering to the British at Cornwallis in the late 18th Century hoping for a better life and some even sailing to Canada.
Generals perceived the majority of “camp followers” as just necessary annoyances except for the wives of top-ranking officers who were primarily tasked with the role of maintaining not only social status but also morale. What is more, a few numbers of women, for instance, Deborah Sampson, made the decision to disguise themselves as men and went on to fight until they were discovered or usually not until they had sustained an injury. On top of this, other women, for example, Margaret Corbin, assisted in supplying water that was used for cooling the cannons and moved into action in case their husbands ended up being disabled. Indeed, Corbin was given a pension following the conclusion of the war because of the injuries that she sustained, which clearly underscores the fact that she played a very important role in the course of the revolutionary war. Further, loyalist women usually had no option but to run away from their land and go toward Canada or England where they could safely reside. Numerous loyalist women were surprised to come to the discovery that their property, in fact, even their personal safety, was not secure anymore. Moreover, some of them soon found out that even being friends with other people would not be helpful in case their husbands were known to be loyalists and in case the attacking parties were known to be patriots. Notably, by the time the war ended, more than 50, 000 loyalist women were forced to make new permanent settlements in Canada. Additionally, the vaster proportion of the Iroquois Six Nations decided to fight with the loyalists since they were of the belief that victory for Great Britain would aid in protecting not only their lands but also their independence. Since women had immense power, they helped in mobilizing their people to fight for the King and, as a result, aided the cause of the British. As a final point, Berkin is of the belief that black women placed a great deal of emphasis on freedom and attempted to decide on the side of the war that could have advanced their cause best. However, this approach was never effectual because neither side of the war, Congress nor the King, afforded them proper treatment and did not promise them freedom for their backing. What is more, African-American women who ran away from the nation came to discover that racism also existed in Canada.
Overall, only a trivial sum of blacks fared well in the course of or following the conclusion of the war. After the war ended, women were not perceived as being “morally and mentally inferior to men” anymore owing to the important contributions that they made. Indeed, it is even noted that “A well-educated wife…would expand her intellectual horizons in order to nurture her sons”, which demonstrates that women went on to overcome several stereotypes that existed before. Berkin’s book is immensely critical because it sheds light on the effort that women exerted during the American Revolution. As such, just as men are usually given immense credit for the outcome of the revolutionary war, women can now be recognized for the important part they played thanks to Berkin’s work. She was able to present us all these stories through a lens not of racial identity, political ideas, social status, not even taking sides, stating who was wrong or evil, or who was right and good. Berkin does a superb job, in my opinion, because she teaches us about our history through the struggles of these women and their families, whose statues was difficult and challenging, however under question and legal status but had just planted a seed for the fight of greater equality for years to come.
Overall, the author did an outstanding job by digging into the past to lay bare the lengths that women went to ensure that they did not act as mere watchers but rather as active partners during the American Revolution.
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