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Death by Petticoat: American History Myths Debunked
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Death by Petticoat: American History Myths Debunked

3.33  ·  Rating details ·  340 Ratings  ·  102 Reviews
Every day stories from American history that are not true are repeated in museums and classrooms across the country. Some are outright fabrications; others contain a kernel of truth that has been embellished over the years. Collaborating with The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Mary Miley Theobald has uncovered the truth behind many widely repeated myth-understandings in ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
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Mar 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012, nonfiction
Interesting information, though I'm not sure where some of it came from. I hadn't heard most of the myths before, so it was interesting to see the myths that are believed as well as the true information.
Jun 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
This history book has assembled the most often-repeated myths of US History and one-by-one debunks them.

Short (only 63 myths). No citations (except for images). A complete disappointment from this history buff's point of view.

The cover is cute though.

Check out my full review (Link will be live on June 10, 2012).

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Feb 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
Were long skirts and petticoats likely to catch fire thus being a leading cause of death in woman of Colonial America? In Death By Petticoat Mary Riley Theobald sets out to expose historical myths which are apparently still widely believed in today.
Presenting a wild collection of myths - all set in Colonial up to Victorian times on the North American continent - it was interesting to see how some of them are also familiar in European context while others have been completely new to me. While a q
Rebecca Reid
Jun 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: b-nonfic-history
I greatly enjoy American history so I was excited to read Mary Theobald’s Death By Petticoat: American History Myths Debunked (Andrews McNeel Publishing, June 2012). I ended up leaving it a bit disappointed because of the lack of depth behind the book. It was an amusing and quick read, and I did learn some trivial facts from American history, but because I had expected a more detailed examination of myths and reality, I was disappointed in the superficiality of Ms Theobald’s offering.

Note: I rea
Apr 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Death by Petticoat is a collection of myths that people have been led to believe over the years about our colonial ancestors. These myths, though one time thought true, have since been proven wrong. This book was put together with the help of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Its not categorized in subject matter or chapter, but rather, numbered by myth. There are 62 different ones. Some of them I remember learning, while some I thought were fairly obscure and may have only been known by his
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
I had a conversation recently with a living history interpreter who insisted that childbirth and burns from cooking accidents were the leading causes of death for women in the American colonies. It brought me back to this book, which is a fun collection of such "docent lore". No, it is not an academic text or a peer reviewed article with meticulously cited sources. And I also wish it could have been longer. But it hits the spot for a fun compilation of the misinformation repeated by some tour gu ...more
Lis Carey
Jan 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
This little book covers a collection of popular, oft-repeated myths of American history, both the completely fabricated and those with a grain of truth vastly over-inflated to make a better story.

The title refers to the claim that long skirts and petticoats were so likely to catch fire that "death by petticoat fire" was the second leading cause of death for colonial American women, with only childbirth beating it out. In fact the leading cause of death for colonial American women was disease--an
Sharon Tyler
May 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Death by Petticoat: American History Myths Debunked by Mary Miley Theobald, with the support of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, is schedule for release on June 5 2012. This book explores sixty-three myths about Colonial America that are often repeated in schools, trivia games, and even historical homes or museum. The truth of the myth, how it might have come about, and why it is still repeated is given for each. There are also full color photographs to illustrate some of the myths. Some of ...more
Mar 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
"Death by Petticoat" is a cute, rather fluffy piece with all of the serious, scholarly weight of the Reader's Digest.

And that's why it works.

Theobald writes in the kind of voice you expect to hear over a kitchen table, amused with just a touch of sarcasm. Clearly enjoying her task of putting paid to some of the sillier legends that pepper American history, she goes after some of the things I'm sure tour guides and curators roll their eyes at on a regular basis. Closet taxes. Quilt codes. The j
Elizabeth Kennedy
While this book includes a variety of myths anyone studying American History will have read or heard, I kept coming back to the question of "Where did this information come from?". There is no bibliography, just a list of people the author says helped her. Not knowing these people, I am left to wonder if the author's debunking of the myth is in fact just adding a layer to the myth. To me, if I had read this while researching for a scholarly paper or while gathering info for an article, I wouldn' ...more
Feb 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I love books like this, fun facts that no doubt will prove useful at some point. It was very well done, and really very informative. I couldn't believe how many of these myths I thought were fact. If your interested in early American history the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation really is the place to go for such information and it was entertaining.

Thanks to Net Galley and to the publishers for my review copy.
Jul 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Stories from American History that are not true are repeated in museums and classrooms. This book debunks many myths and explains how they may have come about.
It was a quick 1 day read and very interesting.
Maureen M Carlson
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
Death by Petticoat: American History Myths Debunked by Mary Miley Theobald is an American Historical book full of many historical myths told around the US in museums, historical books, and classrooms. This book, as the title states, debunks those myths, telling how they were or may have started, or even just stretched with a bit of truth, then giving the facts at the end of each myth.

Everybody has heard that the second most common reason for death for Colonial women, just under childbirth, was b
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, virginia
Fun and surprising. I had the chilling feeling of having heard many of these myths repeated as fact at various different house tours around Virginia, and some pretty recently. One of them I actually heard at Colonial Williamsburg (that shops used pictures on their signs because many people couldn't read), albeit a decade or so ago. Some I had to sheepishly admit I had assumed were true, they're so oft-repeated by tour guides (that fear of fire caused kitchens to be constructed separately from th ...more
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Finally, a full collection of facts for myth-busting history buffs. It's great to see so many in the same place, almost like a reference guide for when one hears trite inaccuracies at historic sites or museums. A bit ironically, this book set on getting the facts straight does not cite sources. One excuse is that many of these myths are busted from lack of any evidence, not simply evidence against. That can be very hard to cite, so I understand. The reader just has to take this book with a grain ...more
May 02, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a fun, short book, the kind that I often get sucked into buying at museum gift shops! Put out by the Colonial Williamsburg foundation (I bought it at Londontown in Anne Arundel Co., MD), it lists 63 historical ‘myths’ many of which I had heard of. The biggest selling point of this book is probably the beautiful photographs which illustrate it.
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a fine book for an enjoyable hour of reading, but I wish there was more information and citation given. I certainly would not consider any of these myths debunked after reading this book alone. Great for a quick, shallow read that may lead to more research into some of these myths, but it certainly didn’t blow me away.
Jan 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
2013-08 - Death by Petticoat: American History Myths Debunked. Mary Theobald (Author). 2012. 144 Pages.

Amusing and informative. How myths and legends at historical sites start and carry on. Many of the myths we here and accept … yea … they are myths. As a tour guide at a historic site I found it fun.
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is a weird little volume. More appropriate for children and sadly lacking in context or details. Seems like something you'd pick up in a historical society gift shop to beat back the boredom of a long bus ride...assuming it's also 1993 and there's no one to text.
Mara Vetters
Mar 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Young Historians
A nice little collection of myths from colonial America. I didn't find anything particularly shocking, but it's a fun little collection that could be very interesting to younger readers or people who don't have much experience with history. I found it a very fast read!
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fun read about American history!
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was extremely interesting, however it was such a quick read, which is why I spaced it out. I wish there was more myths and maybe more references to sources. Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and see myself reading it several more times. The majority of these myths seemed like no-brainers to me, but there were some that surprised me, like the quilt myths. Anyway, I recommend it to anyone in need of a quick read, or anyone who loves history, especially American history.
Nov 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a nice volume debunking some of the most commonly-repeated history myths. How often have you heard that people didn't bathe regularly until the 20th century? Somehow we believe people changed so drastically that they suddenly starting noticing they were dirty and smelled bad. In fact people have always bathed, or at least, washed, but they didn't always have bathtubs nor ready access to running water, especially not hot running water. I mean, men were generally clean-shaven in the 18th c ...more
Andrea Dubnick
Jul 10, 2012 rated it liked it
This one comes out of Colonial Williamsburg, so it has a decidedly 17th- and 18th-century slant. But so many of the myths pertain to earlier centuries as well as the 19th (and later, I suppose; I am not involved in historical interpretation later than about 1910).

The "Petticoat Death" of the title refers to the conviction by many folks (myself included, at least before I read this book) that the second-commonest cause of death in historical women resulted from long skirts catching fire from out
Donna Brown
Mar 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
I live with - am married to - a history buff, so of course a little of it rubs off. That said, I've always been pretty interested in history myself, especially some of the everyday details, so Death by Petticoat was an exciting book choice for me. I loved the idea of debunking some of the myths, such as petticoats catching fire being a major cause of death!

The premise of the book is simple: it examines a myth and how it came about and quickly approves or debunks it, explaining why it was or wasn
Nov 29, 2011 rated it liked it
I'm always interested in historical trivia, so this book seemed right up my alley. It was simple, quick to read, and more than striving to explain the truth behind some of the myths, it also opened my eyes to some of the more ridiculous things that people actually believe about not just Colonial America, but North American history in general.

This isn't the sort of book that a hardcore historian might want on their shevles, though. It breezes through things, relying more on dispelling eneral myth
I love the idea for this book-it is right up my alley as a history major who specialized in US history. I love collections of truths and myths that break them down in easy-to-read ways and this looked like the perfect quick read for me.

And it was a quick read. Each entry is only about one page and includes a picture to further illustrate the point. The writing was easy to read and due to the shortness, you can very quickly read this book. I think it would be fun to pick it up and read an entry o
Jillian (PidginPea's Book Nook)
{ I received this as an ebook from NetGalley. Review originally posted to my blog, PidginPea's Book Nook. }

Death by Petticoat is a collection of fun, brief explanations of historical myths. Each myth is covered in a few paragraphs, making for a sufficient explanation, but I wouldn't have minded a little more depth. Some of the explanations ended a little abruptly, leaving me wishing there was more to it. But the short style makes it perfect for picking up here and there whenever you have a momen
Dec 13, 2011 rated it liked it
This is not the type of book that you can sit down and become thoroughly engrossed in, nor would any adult want to. Only one page is dedicated to each myth, occasionally using only 4-5 sentences in order to debunk the popular tales. Theobold is not one to go into detail or produce thorough explanations. The reader is simply made aware of a myth and immediately told "Nope, not true." There is not even a list of references in this book or citations concerning where Theobold pulled her information ...more
Aug 06, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: from-oyster, tripe
This is one of the worst books on a historical subject I have ever read. Supposedly Ms. Theobald has an advanced degree in American history yet somehow never learned how to cite her sources. She mentions "reports" and "studies" many times throughout the book but never actually lists them. How can a reader know if this is more than just more anecdotes or myths without some indication as to where she got her information from.

I would have given this book more than one star because some of it was am
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Mary Miley Theobald is a historian and free-lance writer specializing in history, travel, and business topics. She received her B.A. and M.A. from the College of William and Mary, worked for Colonial Williamsburg for many years, and taught American history and museum studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. Writing as Mary Miley Theobald, she has written a dozen nonfiction books and 200 articl ...more
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