The story of the American founding is typically told with a spotlight on the men who spoke in legislatures or fought in battles. "They were all men, all the time," says Professor Berkin before she asks, "Where were the women?" In reality, the Revolutionary War was a home-front war that disrupted most of the lives of the American colonists, including women.
Women were major participants in the political struggle for liberty. These politically engaged women called themselves "Daughters of Liberty," beginning with the Stamp Act. But, war eventually created desperate circumstances as trade embargoes generated scarcity and men left to fight in the army. Women shouldered greater responsibility as they maintained their farms alone and tried to prevent confiscation of their property. To escape rape and starvation, some women joined their husbands in the Continental Army. These women and others provided critical support for the army's maintenance. Other women married to Loyalist men experienced extreme hardships, persecuted as surrogates for their absent husbands. The achievement of American independence is the greatest story in America's history, but that story is often a tragic one.
Carol Berkin is Presidential Professor of History, Emerita, at Baruch College & the Graduate Center, City University of New York. She is the author and editor of several books, including First Generations: Women in Colonial America; A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution; Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America's Independence; and, most recently, Civil War Wives: the Life and Times of Angelina Grimke Weld, Varina Howell Davis, and Julia Dent Grant. Her new book, Wondrous Beauty: The Extraordinary Life of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, will be on the bookshelves by March of 2014. Her current book project is a study of how we got the Bill of Rights.
Professor Berkin is a frequent contributor to television documentaries on early American and Revolutionary Era history and a frequent presenter for the Teaching American History Grant programs. She currently serves on the Board of the Academy of New York History, the Board of the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History, the Board of the Society of American Historians, and the Board of Biography International.