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Book Clubbing

Introduction

Founding Mothers
by Cokie Roberts

Title

Author

Cokie Roberts

Cokie Roberts

Book Trailer

About the Book

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. #1 New York Times bestselling author Cokie Roberts brings us women who fought the Revolution as valiantly as the men, often defending their very doorsteps. Drawing upon personal correspondence, private journals, and even favoured 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 have never survived.

About the Author

Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs was born on December 27, 1943 in New Orleans, Louisiana. She received the nickname "Cokie" from her brother Tommy, who could not pronounce Corinne. Cokie Roberts is the third child and youngest daughter of former ambassador and long-time Democratic Congresswoman from Louisiana Lindy Boggs and of the late Hale Boggs, also a Democratic Congressman from Louisiana who was Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, who was on a plane which disappeared over Alaska in 1972.

Roberts attended the Academy of the Sacred Heart, an all-girls school in New Orleans, and then Wellesley College in 1964 where she received a BA in Political Science. She has been married to Steven V. Roberts, a professor and fellow journalist, since 1966, whom she met in the summer of 1962, when she was 18 and he was 19. They currently reside in Bethesda, Maryland. She and her husband have two children and six grandchildren.

Discussion Questions

  1. What inspired you to read Founding Mothers? Why do you suppose the contributions of women in the Revolutionary era have been largely overlooked by historians? Would the founding of the nation have occurred without these women?
  2. Which woman would you say had the single greatest impact during the Revolution? How about during the first years of the new government?
  3. Despite a lack of legal and social rights, including the right to own property and receive a formal education, how did the women presented in Founding Mothers assert their authority and exercise their intelligence?
  4. How did life differ for women depending on where they lived—the North versus the South, the city versus rural areas? How else did geographical circumstances impact their lives?
  5. Women often accompanied their husbands to army camps during the war, including Martha Washington, Kitty Greene, and Lucy Knox. Were you surprised they chose to do this? How did these three women in particular contribute to the often harsh life of a military camp and foster the war efforts?
  6. By telling the stories of our Founding Mothers, this book also sheds light on the men of the time. Did you learn anything new about these men, including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton, seeing them from the perspective of their female contemporaries?
  7. How important was the "civilizing" role that women played in the years leading up to, during, and after the Revolution? Can you reference examples from the book that show how integral it was for the women to be able to step in and "calm down the men," or even to act as intermediaries, as Abigail Adams did in the dispute between her husband and James Madison?
  8. Catharine Macaulay supported the American Revolution and was a vocal proponent of democratic governments in general. Why did Macaulay, an Englishwoman, take such an interest in the American cause? How did she contribute to it?
  9. How did Martha Washington define the role of First Lady? Are her influences still evident today? Her political savvy was remarkable, but is there anything that can be learned from Martha Washington on a personal level?
  10. Only a limited number of women could have accomplished what Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren did — those who had access to the men shaping the future of the nation. What about the women who didn't have the advantage of providing direct counsel or publishing their discourses? How did they contribute to the Revolutionary War and the founding of the nation?
  11. Cokie Roberts intersperses her thoughts and commentary throughout the book. Does this enhance the narrative? In what ways?