Friday, October 07, 2005

Conservative Revolutionary Mothers?

Ellen Hartigan-O'Connor explains in her review of Carol Berkin's Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America’s Independence
. . . Berkin focuses on wartime realities, not the ideological causes or implications of the American Revolution. After a succinct summary of the prevailing mid-eighteenth-century view of white women as first and foremost men’s helpmates, she explores how these women struggled to survive wartime scarcity, murderous home-front fighting, the grim realities of life with the army, relocation and abandonment. Politics are secondary because, in Berkin’s view, although the Revolution may have eventually inspired movements for white women’s and African Americans’ rights, the experience of war bred short-term social conservatism. The 'Daughters of Liberty' nobly arose only to sit back down again. 'No sweeping social revolution followed in the wake of the political revolution; indeed, like women and men after many wars, white Americans seemed more eager to return to the life that had been disrupted than to create a new one' (x). The transformations of the war, she argues, tended to be personal and often temporary.

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