Professor Norton (History, Cornell) describes ""the universals of female lives""--courtship, marriage, pregnancy and...

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LIBERTY'S DAUGHTERS: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women 1750-1800

Professor Norton (History, Cornell) describes ""the universals of female lives""--courtship, marriage, pregnancy and childbirth, child rearing, household work--as women experienced them in the late 18th century and assesses the impact of the Revolutionary War on the ""Republican woman's"" image of herself and her place in society. In the process, Norton joins other revisionist voices (Sklar, Cott, Smith) in arguing that questions of ""feminine identity"" (a rudimentary ""domestic feminism"") were ""uppermost in women's minds."" Women did not have it better in pre-Revolutionary America (as previous historians have argued), but instead, Norton says, came into a sense of their own ""public"" power through wartime boycotts and sewing circles. From there it is only a step to Republican woman's insistence on better education and greater autonomy, though the new importance she attached to her place in the world would become--in the 19th century--an argument for confining her to her ""sphere."" Norton's extensive research in original sources (368 collections of family papers, etc.) is more impressive than her thesis, and scholars will find her bibliographical essay valuable. Her generalizations tend to be platitudinous (""It would be incorrect to assert that there was never any friction between mother and child. . .""), yet this is a readable history, however debatable, as jammed with hints of other women's lives as any kitchen cupboard.

Pub Date: April 1, 1980

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1980