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First Generations: Women in Colonial America

First Generations: Women in Colonial America

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by Carol Berkin

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Indian, European, and African women of seventeenth and eighteenth-century America were defenders of their native land, pioneers on the frontier, willing immigrants, and courageous slaves. They were also - as traditional scholarship tends to omit - as important as men in shaping American culture and history. This remarkable work is a gripping portrait that gives


Indian, European, and African women of seventeenth and eighteenth-century America were defenders of their native land, pioneers on the frontier, willing immigrants, and courageous slaves. They were also - as traditional scholarship tends to omit - as important as men in shaping American culture and history. This remarkable work is a gripping portrait that gives early-American women their proper place in history.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This academic study by Berkin (Women of America: A History), a history professor at Baruch College in New York City, examines the lives of 17th- and 18th-century women from a feminist perspective that focuses on gender and class. Employing excellent research skills, the author documents the lives of white as well as Native American and African American women in their diverse roles as wives, mothers, widows, employed workers and slaves. Although the complexity of the subject often yields more questions than answers about how women negotiated their lives, Berkin has made a notable contribution by utilizing recent scholarship to address family life in the mid-Atlantic and Southern colonies as well as in the much studied New England settlements. Her analysis of Native American and African American women, as well as of how the American Revolution affected female roles, is enlightening. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Berkin (history, Baruch Coll.) intends with this scholarly work to broaden our knowledge of women in Colonial America. Focusing not on famous women like Anne Hutchison but ordinary women from all walks of life, she examines some of the earliest settlers, including European and African American women. She discusses different geographic regions and offers excellent insight into everyday life and the role of women in the American Revolution. Along the way, Berkin explores immigration to the Colonies and the multiple roles played by women as "housewives" during the era. The final chapter is a bibliographical essay. In sum, this is a specialized, well-researched work that will appeal to collections in Colonial America and American studies.Dorothy Lilly, Grosse Pointe North H.S. Lib., Mich.
An impeccably researched history of European American, African American, and Native American women during the 17th and 18th centuries. Berkin (history, Baruch College) doesn't leave anything behind as she examines class, race, and religion in Colonial society developing a prismatic effect by considering the period through the eyes of the women who helped to shape the revolution and beyond. Differences between Mid Atlantic, New England, and Southern settlers underscoring differing Dutch and English property laws, Native American matriarchy, and "free" African American communities are some of the topics weighed by this fine contribution to historical studies. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Edmund S. Morgan
A revision, amplification, and synthesis of a rich succession of studies about every aspect of colonial society and culture. [Carol Berkin] brings her subject down to earth…and shows sensitivity to the experiences of individual women.
The New York Review of Books
Joni Clarke
Vivid portraits of seventeenth— and eighteenth—century women as active participants in the creation of their societies…Takes readers beyond the academic journal and rewards them with a number of delights.
The Women's Review of Books
Kirkus Reviews
A marvelously readable yet scholarly history of women's social, economic, religious, and political roles in America from the founding of the Chesapeake Bay colonies through the Revolution.

Berkin (History/Baruch Coll.) admits in her chatty preface that this book took her years longer to write than she originally intended, and the result was more than worth the wait. First Generations is a careful, detailed study of colonial life with something more—a personal touch, an easy narrative style, and a comprehensive approach. Not that this slim volume offers the last word on the subject. What it does provide is a vivid, sympathetic, fascinating introduction to a rich field demanding further study. Berkin reveals some of the realities of life for women in colonial America by focusing on a number of remarkable individuals both famous and unknown, among them Wetamo, a Wampanoag leader who fought mightily against the English colonists who invaded her home; Margaret Hardenbroeck, a successful Dutch businesswoman in New Amsterdam who lost her economic rights when the English conquered the colony in 1664; Mary Johnson, a captive African who eventually became a free and fairly prosperous farmer; and Eliza Lucas Pinckney, a member of South Carolina's aristocracy, who successfully ran her father's plantation in his absence when she was only 15 years old. These and other women form the foundation of Berkin's narrative, which goes on to illuminate how these individuals fit into the general patterns of colonial life. And while Berkin admits that the historical records favor some groups over others, she herself focuses her attention equally on all, while never appearing to sacrifice the integrity of the work for political correctness.

A wonderful introduction to this fascinating subject.

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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What People are Saying About This

Mary Beth. Norton
The best available introduction to the lives of women in colonial and revolutionary America…this lively volume will quickly become the standard against which subsequent narratives are measured.
—(Mary Beth Norton, Cornell University)
Linda K. Kerber
Carol Berkin imposes order on the complexity of early American history in this gracefully written book. Her incisive biographical sketches beckon the reader through a narrative packed with fresh information and interpretation. First Generations is the easiest way to catch up with the new scholarship in gender, class, and race relations.
—(Linda K. Kerber, University of Iowa)

Meet the Author

Carol Berkin is Professor of History at the City University of New York Graduate Center. She is the author of A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution, Women's Voices/Women's Lives: Documents in Early American History, and coeditor, with Mary Beth Norton, of Women of America: A History.

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First Generations: Women in Colonial America 2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She spends more time on the men than she does the women! I was expecting more.