Women in the Struggle for Americas Independence
Berkin proves that women played a great part in the Revolution by writing a social history that focuses on women of the time; Colonial white women, Native Americans, and African-Americans. She focuses on women of both high and low social classes; as well as women who supported the Patriot and Loyalist cause during the long period of struggle between England and her North American colonies. In short, she has written a book that tells realistic tales of how ordinary women and famous women were involved in and affected by the Revolutionary War, and does not romanticize their roles. (Carol, 2006) “The first political act of American women was to say ‘No. ’” (Berkin, page 13) When the Stamp Act of 1765 was passed in England, the American colonists protested loudly and organized a boycott of British-made goods.
Violence erupted as radical men and women tried to pressure their neighbors into supporting colonial resistance. ” (Berkin, page 24) Soon Lexington Green was the setting as “the shot heard round the world” was fired and colonial men were recruited or enlisted while their womenfolk faced the challenge of keeping homes, farms, plantations, and businesses afloat. They improvised when faced with shortages and tried to keep going when inflation and scarcity made purchasing many items impossible. “Women’s efforts to save the family resources were made more difficult by the demands of the military. Whether they were victorious armies or armies on the run, they could destroy in a moment what women of all social classes had labored to preserve. Elizabeth Burgin managed to get food and supplies to captured patriots while Benjamin Franklin’s daughter, Sarah Franklin Bache, joined with others to launch a massive fundraising campaign and then to make shirts for the struggling patriot army.
Other women followed the armies. These women served as cooks, washerwomen, nurses, seamstresses, and camp wives. Although they were often considered nuisances by the generals who tried to provide them with food, minimal shelter, and meager pay; their labor was needed if not valued. More women gravitated to the better equipped and supplied British Army then the struggling Continental Army. Some women like Anna Maria Lane and Margaret Corbin wore men’s clothing so they could enlist and fight along with their husbands. Their deception was admired while those who masqueraded as men to get the enlistment bounty were usually condemned. One exception was Deborah Sampson who served for several years before her sex was discovered and she was honorably discharged.
Sally St. Clair was another successful imposter whose sex was not known by the troops until after she was killed in battle. Although some primary sources are quoted, the vast majority of sources are secondary. Given the tone of Revolutionary Mothers, this is certainly appropriate. Carol Berkin noted in the introduction that: “It is important to tell the story of the Revolution and its aftermath with the complexity it deserves. But it is also important to tell it as a story of both men and women. “ (Berin, page xi) “The Revolution did lend legitimacy to new ideas about women’s capacities and their proper roles. That was a quest for future generations. Conclusion In conclusion, I would like to enthusiastically commend this book, REVOLUTIONARY MOTHERS, Women in the Struggle for America’s Independence by Carol Berkin.
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