Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation

by Cokie Roberts

Hardcover, 2004




Wm Morrow (2004), 690 pages


Cokie Roberts's number one New York Times bestseller, We Are Our Mothers' Daughters, examined the nature of women's roles throughout history and led USA Today to praise her as a "custodian of time-honored values." Her second bestseller, From This Day Forward, written with her husband, Steve Roberts, described American marriages throughout history, including the romance of John and Abigail Adams. Now Roberts returns with Founding Mothers, an intimate and illuminating look at the fervently patriotic and passionate women whose tireless pursuits on behalf of their families -- and their country -- proved just as crucial to the forging of a new nation as the rebellion that established it. While much has been written about the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, battled the British, and framed the Constitution, the wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters they left behind have been little noticed by history. Roberts brings us the women who fought the Revolution as valiantly as the men, often defending their very doorsteps. While the men went off to war or to Congress, the women managed their businesses, raised their children, provided them with political advice, and made it possible for the men to do what they did. The behind-the-scenes influence of these women -- and their sometimes very public activities -- was intelligent and pervasive. Drawing upon personal correspondence, private journals, and even favored recipes, Roberts reveals the often surprising stories of these fascinating women, bringing to life the everyday trials and extraordinary triumphs of individuals like Abigail Adams, Mercy Otis Warren, Deborah Read Franklin, Eliza Pinckney, Catherine Littlefield Green, Esther DeBerdt Reed, and Martha Washington -- proving that without our exemplary women, the new country might never have survived. Social history at its best, Founding Mothers unveils the drive, determination, creative insight, and passion of the other patriots, the women who raised our nation. Roberts proves beyond a doubt that like every generation of American women that has followed, the founding mothers used the unique gifts of their gender -- courage, pluck, sadness, joy, energy, grace, sensitivity, and humor -- to do what women do best, put one foot in front of the other in remarkable circumstances and carry on.… (more)


½ (216 ratings; 3.5)

Media reviews

''Founding Mothers'' is essentially a series of entertaining mini-biographies and engaging vignettes.
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In addition to telling wonderful stories, Roberts also presents a very readable, serviceable account of politics—male and female—in early America. If only our standard history textbooks were written with such flair!

User reviews

LibraryThing member marshapetry
arrgh... why didn't this save my review!?! anyway, I'll try again:

I loved this book. Great book. Interesting to hear about historical events from a different view.

One drawback : listening to this in the car was hard. The narrator's voice oscillated back and forth from soft to loud and, with all the
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road noise, I missed bits of the story. Listen to this in a quieter environment.
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LibraryThing member MarthaHuntley
This book is well researched but is boring to read. I didn't feel like I learned very much from it.
LibraryThing member jlapac
I was reminded of this book when my friend, Kathy, posted her Bliss Initiative on Moxie. There is the story of one girl (15 or 16YO), which really sticks in my head when I think I can't do something. Her father went to the Carribean to be governor or on business and left her in charge of their
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indigo plantation. The author knows the story because of the detailed letters father and daughter sent back and forth. I am amazed by her courage. I could do that and wonder why we don't treat our teenage girls like they could do that?
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LibraryThing member smclawler
I looked forward to reading this book, but I felt the arrangement of the information was disjointed and poorly organized.
LibraryThing member cmbohn
General Cornwallis of the British Army once lamented that even if he destroyed all the men in America, he'd still have the women to contend with. This book by Cokie Roberts profiles some of those amazing women of the Revolutionary era. Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Deborah Franklin, Mercy Otis
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Warren, Katy Green, and Eliza Pinckney are just a few of the women in this book.

Pros: The women! I enjoyed learning about their lives and struggles.

Lots of stuff I never heard before. History class tends to focus on the generals, the presidents, etc. But their wives and mothers were no less interesting, and in some cases, were even more influential.

Cons: The format. Roberts uses a chronological format, which helps tie each woman into her place in history, and gives you a feel for how they are related to one another, but it got confusing and yes, boring at times. I mean, I know who won the war. It's the women I wanted to read about.

Not enough pictures. In fact, the only pictures are one on the first page of each chapter. That's it. I wanted more.

The writing itself. In some places, she let her own opinions come out, but not often enough. It was a little impersonal.

Recommended for history buffs, especially female ones.
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LibraryThing member shazjhb
Very interesting history of the women of the early founders. Having never done any early American history this is an interesting complement to other books. I know I need to read more about this period of history and the people who made it so.
LibraryThing member hillcrestgarden
Biographical sketches of several women from the Revolutionary War era present the hardships, dangers, and influence they carried in the early years of our nation. These women were not passive onlookers from afar, but rather strongly passionate patriots, and in some cases becoming soldiers in that
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war. Roberts' commentary on excerpts from written correspondence of the time, compiled with additional research, give the reader an intimate view into the thoughts and ideals of these courageous Americans. This book includes a brief history of "The Sentiments of an American Woman" and its role in serving the Revolutionary War soldier.
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LibraryThing member zellertr
I found this book to be very interesting. Who knew that the ladies of the Revolution raised monies for the soldiers and wanted to buy them nice things? General Washington still got his way on how the money was spent, but it was nice to know we have always been a generous country!
LibraryThing member avidreaderlisa
This was a fascinating book about some of the women that helped forge America.

It just took me awhile to read it, and finally I switched to the audiobook, which I found to be really good. It was read by the author and it was a fine narration.

I found about women that I didn't know anything about and
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some I did. It is interesting to read if you like American history.
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LibraryThing member 50MinuteMermaid
Roberts strives to fill in some of the most glaring gaps in the history of Revolution-era America, and her effort is well-spent if limited. She acknowledges that her subjects are a very narrow and elite study, but there's nevertheless much to be enjoyed when the topic is Abigail Adams and her often
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equally witty cohort. The book unfortunately reads sometime like an early graduate school research paper -- Roberts' excitement about the topic unfortunately trumps her editing and often throwaway anecdotes leave the reader wondering about their relevance to the book's project. However, she humanizes the Founding Mothers (and by that token, the Fathers too) and though she might paint them with too rosy a brush once in a while (it's hard to believe that they were lead constantly by purely patriotic sentiments or commitment to their husbands) it's a relaxing, revealing read with a hefty dose of historical empowerment to go along.
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LibraryThing member mldavis2
This is a well-written, well researched historical account of women of consequence behind the founding fathers of the United States from the days of the drafting of the Constitution and early presidencies. Much of the information was gleaned from writings of the men, well-known and well documented,
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as many of the women either did not write or had their writings destroyed for various reasons. History is what it is, and aside from some of the myriad interactions among these early characters, much of which has escaped historical note is indeed interesting if not particularly important.

Roberts would have treated each woman as a separate biography except that there is an amazing amount of overlap and interaction among the cast of characters which often causes some chronological displacement. Nevertheless, this is a book that had to be written and is a good read for those interested in female historical figures as well as the all too often lack of moral and ethical conduct of the men of their lives.
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LibraryThing member dms02
Had an interesting premise...but I could not get past the way the book was organized and written.
LibraryThing member AuntieClio
What I was expecting was a series of biographies of the women who worked alongside the men who were founders of America. What I got was an history of the founding of the country as told through the stories of the women. I enjoyed it a great deal and happier with the history lesson than the
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biographies I expected.
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LibraryThing member MarysGirl
I enjoyed this overview of the fascinating women who directly and indirectly shaped the Revolution and our founding principals. My only (ironic) complaint is that there were so many wonderful characters, it was hard to keep track.
LibraryThing member Angelic55blonde
This is a great book about some of the founding mothers. There are many history books out there that focus on our founding fathers but nothing on the women. Women's history is fairly new (began in the 1970s) and this is a great addition. I have read some of this but plan to finish it in the future
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and thus far, I love it.
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LibraryThing member mzonderm
An interesting, though not particularly deep, look at the female relations of the men who get written about in the history books. Unfortunately, although Roberts makes much of the historical context when discussing how the women broke out of the mold, she does not give the historical context much
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thought when it comes to the men, leading her to be a bit harsh on the men sometimes.

Perhaps a bit more problematic is that approximately the entire second half of the book is really the same story about the men that we already know, with just brief glimpses of the women. What are we supposed to take away from this? That there's only enough about the "Founding Mothers" to write half a book? Or that, in the end, as interesting as they were, it wasn't the women who made the history after all? Well, we probably already knew that. But this book does give a brief glimpse into the trials and tribulations of the women behind the men.
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LibraryThing member Fernandame
Audiobook - This was an interesting book with facts about the women behind our Founding Fathers.
LibraryThing member crmp6855
I'm torn between this is terribly boring and it's also interesting. I'm falling asleep every time I pick it up. This is difficult to follow, it seems the information jumps around too much.
LibraryThing member steve02476
Not in the mood for it, I guess. The writing seems magazine-ey and it seems a little too detail oriented. I only got 36 pages in so maybe I would have liked it more after a bit.
LibraryThing member AliceaP
This book was just what was needed to pull me out of a reading slump. Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts is an account of the women who supported and helped shape the development of the democratic government in the United States. While I initially thought that this
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would yield minimal new information considering how heavily this period of time was covered during my schooldays I discovered just how wrong (and ignorant) I was especially in regards to the women. I realized that it had never occurred to me to wonder just how long the absences of these women's husbands were during the creation of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution (including the Articles of the Confederation), and the U.S. government as a whole. Not to mention how absolutely strong-willed and informed these women were about the affairs of state (which was beneficial as they passed on the latest news to their husbands through extensive letter writing). Best couple award goes to George and Martha Washington who were the most well-adjusted and steadfast couple of the lot. Martha went everywhere George went including Valley Forge where she was instrumental in keeping the morale of the men up (and getting them to stay at all) as well as organizing other women into organized sewing groups to keep the troops clothed. Favorite woman of the many discussed was hands down Abigail Adams who not only had the keenest mind but also the sharpest tongue. She had no problem telling John where to go and letting him know that just because he was away didn't mean that the romance in their relationship needed to suffer. In fact, theirs was the most strained relationship of all as John was in high demand and for the majority of their marriage they were separated as he worked tirelessly in his work as a member of the Continental Congress and then later as the Vice President. If you, like me, love reading about confident women and relish learning new things about a slice of history you thought you had thoroughly mapped then I must point you in the direction of Founding Mothers. 10/10

PS Benjamin Franklin was the worst.
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LibraryThing member eduscapes
This book provides an interesting look at the mothers of the founding fathers. Although poorly organized, the book provides insights into the lives of well-known as well as lesser-known women.
LibraryThing member kaulsu
A fun, quick, listen! As Roberts wrote [paraphrased], "if John Adams had left a grocery list, it would have been saved, but women's writings weren't saved." These are wonderful vignettes of women saving their farms, fending off the British, saving their father's papers, and many other sorts of
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heroic measures. Good for Roberts, and thanks for her "asides," too.
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LibraryThing member prudencegoodwife
A must read for anyone interested in Colonial History, the Revolutionary War, and Women's History. The insights given to the involvement of our founding mothers - in many cases using their own words - enhances the body of knowledge about the contributions of women and importance of their work to
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establish our new nation.
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LibraryThing member tkcs
I've had my eye on this book for a while and since a good friend just loaned it to me I'm looking forward to reading it. (Thanks, Kathy!)
LibraryThing member wagner.sarah35
The women connected to the American Founding Fathers don't often receive much attention. While I had encountered women like Martha Washington and Abgail Adams in histories of the revolution, I knew next to nothing about women like Catharine Littlefield Greene (wife of Nathanael Greene) or Sarah
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Livingston Jay (wife of John Jay) or even Anne Randolph Morris (wife of Gouverneur Morris). Each of them deserves a full-length biography of her own, but I appreciate the themes emphasized by telling their stories together. This book has broadened my knowledge and understanding of the American Revolution and I hope to find more books about these remarkable women.
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Original publication date

2004 (copyright)

Physical description

690 p.; 8.4 inches


0739443682 / 9780739443682

Local notes

Large Print Edition
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