Liberty's Daughters

by Mary Beth Norton

Paperback, 1980




Little, Brown and Company (1980), Edition: 1st, 384 pages


From the Blurb: Liberty's Daughters, the first book to explore the impact of the American Revolution on women, dramatically refutes the widely held belief that colonial women enjoyed a golden age of equality with men before drifting off into Victorian helplessness. Citing the letters, diaries, poems, and other writings of eighteenth-century Americans, prize-winning historian Mary Beth Norton reveals that colonial men and women actually disparaged feminine duties. In the latter part of the book Norton concludes that the Revolution had significant consequences for women-the American notion of womanhood broadened, and Republicanism bestowed a new patriotic importance on women's domestic labors. Comparing the private papers of more than 450 American families-black and white, urban and rural, Northern and Southern, rich and poor-Norton documents the status of women before, during, and after the Revolution. Women tell how they felt about their subjugation to men and how they viewed the fate to which society had consigned them-betrothal, pregnancy, motherhood, and a life of monotonous and exhausting household labor. Colonial women translated their inferior status in society into low self-esteem, frequently using femininity as an excuse for moral and intellectual failings. Norton contends, however, that the American thrust for independence also helped advance the status of women. Pre-revolutionary ferment incited women to take a more active role in public life. Patriots adjured the ladies to participate in boycotts; women began to read widely and express political opinions. Slowly, men began to value female involvement in the revolutionary cause, thus boosting women's sense of their own importance. As the men went off to battle, women were forced to handle traditionally male responsibilities of financial and family management. Gradually, many husbands became accustomed to relying on their wives' judgment and gained new respect for the strength, intelligence, and patriotism of women. While no sweeping feminist reforms followed the Revolution, Norton shows that the war was a turning point for American women. The circumstances tested their talents and abilities, and women's response won them important recognition, which was made concrete in reforms in female education in the early days of the republic.… (more)


½ (25 ratings; 4)


Original publication date


Physical description

384 p.


0316612529 / 9780316612524
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