DEMETER'S DAUGHTERS: The Women who Founded America, 1587-1787 by Selma R. Williams
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DEMETER'S DAUGHTERS: The Women who Founded America, 1587-1787

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Demeter's Daughters is sure to be compared with DePauw's Founding Mothers (1975), a work it augments and enhances without superseding. Williams, who wrote Kings, Commoners and Colonists and is especially conversant with 17th-century New England, marshals a wealth of examples of women active in land management, business, the arts, politics and the Revolutionary War itself. Individual chapters--such as one on the Salem witch trials and one comparing the writings of Patriot Mercy Warren and Loyalist Ann Hulton--are illuminating, and there are extended portraits of Abigail Adams, Anne Hutchinson and Phyllis Wheatley. Sociological changes, especially the decline in women's legal status after 1760, are treated in some depth. On the other hand, despite a slight chapter on American Indian women, Williams frankly concentrates on women of AngloSaxon descent and pays more attention to notable individuals than to the common lot of female colonists. For these and other, stylistic, reasons De Pauw's treatment may be considered more balanced, and it is certainly more accessible to young readers. However, the weight and authority of Williams' research makes this an outstanding contribution.

Pub Date: Jan. 28th, 1976
Page count: 376pp
Publisher: Atheneum