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Founding Mothers

The Women Who Raised Our Nation

Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts
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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.

HarperCollins; April 2009
384 pages; ISBN 9780061867460
Read online, or download in secure EPUB
Title: Founding Mothers
Author: Cokie Roberts

Chapter One

Before 1775:

The Road to Revolution

Stirrings of Discontent

When you hear of a family with two brothers who fought heroically

in the Revolutionary War, served their state in high office, and emerged as key figures in the new American nation,

don't you immediately think, "They must have had a remarkable

mother"? And so Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and Thomas Pinckney did. Today Eliza Lucas Pinckney would be the subject of talkshow gabfests and made-for-TV movies, a child prodigy turned into a celebrity. In the eighteenth century she was seen as just a considerate young woman performing her duty, with maybe a bit too much brainpower

for her own good.

George Lucas brought his English wife and daughters to South Carolina in 1734 to claim three plantations left to him by his father.

Before long, however, Lucas left for Antigua to rejoin his regiment in

fighting the war against Spain, leaving his sixteen-year-old daughter

in charge of all the properties, plus her ailing mother and toddler sister.

(The Lucas sons were at school in England.) Can you imagine a

sixteen-year-old girl today being handed those responsibilities? Eliza

Lucas willingly took them on. Because she reported to her father on

her management decisions and developed the habit of copying her

letters, Eliza's writings are some of the few from colonial women that

have survived.

The South Carolina Low Country, where Eliza was left to fend for

the family, was known for its abundance of rice and mosquitoes. Rice

supported the plantation owners and their hundreds of slaves; mosquitoes

sent the owners into Charleston (then Charles Town) for summer

months of social activities. Though Wappoo Plantation, the Lucas

home, was only six miles from the city by water, seventeen by land,

Eliza was far too busy, and far too interested in her agricultural experiments,

to enjoy the luxuries of the city during the planting months.

The decision about where to live was entirely hers (again, can

you imagine leaving that kind of decision to a sixteen-year-old?), as

Eliza wrote to a friend in England in 1740: "My Papa and Mama's

great indulgence to me leaves it to me to choose our place of residence

either in town or country." She went on to describe her arduous

life: "I have the business of three plantations to transact, which

requires much writing and more business and fatigue of other sorts

than you can imagine. But least you should imagine it too burdensome

to a girl at my early time of life, give me leave to answer you: I

assure you I think myself happy that I can be useful to so good a father,

and by rising very early I find I can go through much business."

And she did. Not only did she oversee the planting and harvesting of

the crops on the plantations, but she also taught her sister and some

of the slave children, pursued her own intellectual education in

French and English, and even took to lawyering to help poor neighbors.

Eliza seemed to know that her legal activities were a bit over

the line, as she told a friend: "If you will not laugh immoderately at me I'll trust you with a secret. I have made two wills already." She

then defended herself, explaining that she'd studied carefully what

was required in will making, adding: "After all what can I do if a poor

creature lies a dying and their family taken it into their head that I

can serve them. I can't refuse; but when they are well and able to

employ a lawyer, I always shall." The teenager had clearly made

quite an impression in the Low Country.

The Lucases were land-rich but cash-poor, so Eliza's father

scouted out some wealthy prospects as husband material for his delightful

daughter. The young woman was having none of it. Her father's

attempts to marry her off to a man who could help pay the

mortgage were completely and charmingly rebuffed in a letter written

when she was eighteen. "As you propose Mr. L. to me, I am sorry

I can't have sentiments favorable enough of him to take time to think

on the subject ... and beg leave to say to you that the riches of Peru

and Chile if he had them put together could not purchase a sufficient

esteem for him to make him my husband." So much for her father's

plan to bring some money into the family. She then dismissed another

suggestion for a mate: "I have so slight a knowledge of him I

can form no judgment of him." Eliza insisted that "a single life is my

only choice ... as I am yet but eighteen." Of course, many women

her age were married, and few would have brushed off their fathers so

emphatically, but the feisty Miss Lucas was, despite the workload, having too much fun to settle down with some rich old coot.

Eliza loved "the vegetable world," as she put it, and experimented

with different kinds of crops, always with a mind toward

commerce. She was keenly aware that the only cash crop South Carolina

exported to England was rice, and she was determined to find

something else to bring currency into the colony and to make the

plantations profitable. When she was nineteen, she wrote that she

had planted a large fig orchard "with design to dry and export them."

She was always on the lookout for something that would grow well in

the southern soil. Reading her Virgil,she was happily surprised to

find herself "instructed in agriculture ... for I am persuaded though

he wrote in and for Italy, it will in many instances suit Carolina."

By her own account, Eliza was always cooking up schemes. She

wrote to her friend Mary Bartlett: "I am making a large plantation of

oaks which I look upon as my own property, whether my father gives

me the land or not."

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