Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies

Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies

Cokie Roberts
Illustrator:   Diane Goode 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 9
HarperCollins, 2014   ISBN: 978-0060780029

All too often history books tell the stories of the men who shaped the history of a nation and they rarely mention the women. For example, when we read about the founders of the United States, we read about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin and others. We do not read about the wives, mothers, sisters and other women who stood behind those men. Journalist and writer, Cokie Roberts, says: “Without the women doing what they did, it would have been very hard for men to “found” a nation.” So, what did the women do behind the scenes?

    Though the letters and journals of these women from the past “were often destroyed or stuffed in a box somewhere and lost for years,” Cokie was still able to find out about the women who were patriots in their own way. Some of them penned letters, plays, poems and other documents to further the revolutionary cause, while others supported the soldiers by cooking and caring for them. Then there were those who were more active, serving as soldiers, spies, gunners, and messengers.

   In this carefully researched and beautifully presented book, Cokie tells us about the roles that the women in Revolutionary War America took on, and she also focuses the lives of ten women who dared to speak their minds and who did what needed to be done for the revolutionary cause. Some of the women whose stories are told may be familiar to readers; such as Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, and Dolley Madison. Others, such as Eliza Lucas Pinckney, will be new to readers. Eliza showed how strong minded she could be early on when she decided to diversify the crops on her father’s southern plantation. Instead of growing only rice, she tried growing indigo plants and it became “the biggest money-making crop in South Carolina before the American Revolution.” In addition she planted oak trees so that timber would be there for ship building, and she also raised silkworms.

   Mercy Otis Warren was another determined and opinionated woman. Since she had had a good education, and was a good writer, Mercy was encouraged to write plays and poems in support of the revolutionaries. She also attacked the British in her writings. Mercy wrote letters to congressmen and others to tell them was what was really going on, and to encourage them to support the patriot cause.

   Esther DeBerdt Reed also used her pen to support the revolutionary cause. She wrote a newspaper article called “Sentiments of an American Woman” in which she appealed to women to do what they could to give the soldiers the supplies they needed. She organized a fund-raising event in Philadelphia  and thanks to her, hundreds of shirts were made for soldiers who had nothing decent to wear.

   Throughout the book the beautifully written narrative is accompanied by Diane Goode’s lovely illustrations. She used pen and ink to create images that beautifully capture the feel of the womens’ times. To add an element of authenticity she reproduced the signatures of many of the women mentioned in the book, and excerpts from their writings can be found at the front and in the back of the book.