It's Not All About Dead White Men

It's Not All About Dead White Men

Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts

When I read Founding Mothers, it was a life-changing book for me.  While it wasn't just about one woman, but many, it challenged many preconceptions that I think we as Americans have: that men alone shaped the formation of our country.  Founding Mothers is fascinating because it looks at how women, often the wives of our Founding Fathers, impacted the United States from the very beginning.

For instance, the book discussed in great detail Martha Washington's involvement during the war and afterward.  It was her money, essentially, that financed many of the great things George did in the name of American independence.  She was also a significant presence on the front during the Revolutionary War, and she and the other wives helped to keep spirits when things looked very, very bad.

An eye-opening section of the book talked a lot about Benjamin Franklin and his wife, Deborah.  While we think of him as such a hero in American history, looking at it from his wife's point of view gives us a very different picture of him.  He wasn't really the kind of person we would probably choose today for our children to worship in history -- he was a womanizer and pretty rotten to his poor wife.

And of course, you can't forget about Abigail Adams.  Most people know a lot more about her now, thanks to the TV miniseries and the biography it was based on, but she had a lot of influence on her husband and, therefore, impacted the foundation of our country quite a bit, all while raising a large family without the benefit of her husband's presence.  It's too bad he didn't listen to her when she admonished him not to forget the ladies!

Just like literature often ends up being the study of dead white men, so does history -- and more's the pity.  Women have had a lot of behind-the-scenes contributions to history, and I like reading about these brave, underappreciated figures in history.