When I was a child, my mother and I had a few ‘mother/daughter’ outfits—dresses that were similar and/or the same, but sized accordingly. While it was fun to have these matching clothes, wouldn’t it be more illuminating to have ‘mother/daughter’ books, so they could be read simultaneously? Perhaps Cokie Roberts had this in mind when she wrote the newly published children’s book, Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies.
In 2004, Roberts published the ‘adult’ version, Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation. Her book masterfully documents the women behind the men. She traces the forming of America, chronologically from British colonies to the newly established democracy, through the roles of women, both known and unknown —Deborah Reade Franklin, Mary Otis Warren, Abigail Smith Adams, Sarah Franklin Bache, Sarah Livingston Jay, Mary White Morris, Phyllis Wheatley, and Martha Washington—to name just a few.
Why, one wonders, is it still necessary to write a ‘children’s’ version in today’s world? Roberts states in her NPR interview with Steve Inskeep:
“The National Archives are the closest thing we have to a cathedral of the country. There are these fabulous murals up on the walls above the Constitution, the Declaration and the Bill of Rights. And they’re all white men in white wigs with tights, and I don’t think they’re recognizable to a lot of Americans. But they weren’t the only people who did it. They were incredibly important — I’m not taking anything away from our Founding Fathers — but they didn’t do it alone.”
Spies, activists, poets, writers, postmasters, printers, cannon operators, farmers shopkeepers, cooks—these are a few of the jobs held by women during colonial times, and without their work, Roberts rightly asserts, the revolution would not have been successful. Stories need to be told and re-told, and women’s history especially, and thus one finds Roberts’ distillation of these revolutionary women an act of beneficent wisdom. Of course, a book for young girls needs to be accompanied by illustrations, and the pages are graced by the masterful pen and watercolors of Diane Goode. For an insight into her working methods—translating both facts and images into illustrations–please refer to a photographic documentation on her website.
Venture forth to your local book store, purchase a copy of Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies, then pull your copy of Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation off your bookshelf and invite your daughter or granddaughter to sit on the couch for a read-along. You don’t have to be wearing similar clothes, but it may help.
Remember the Ladies, indeed.