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Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  7,518 ratings  ·  1,306 reviews
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Cokie Roberts comes New York Times bestseller Founding Mothers, an intimate and illuminating look at the fervently patriotic and passionate women whose tireless pursuits on behalf of their families–and their country–proved just as crucial to the forging of a new nation as the rebellion that established it.

While much has been writte
Paperback, 384 pages
Published February 15th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published April 13th 2004)
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Adelaide 1. Abigail Adams, America's first voice for Women's Rights
2. Mary Barlett
3. Esther Burr
4. Lydia Darragh
5. Elizabeth Ellet
6. Deborah Read Franklin
7. Sa…more
1. Abigail Adams, America's first voice for Women's Rights
2. Mary Barlett
3. Esther Burr
4. Lydia Darragh
5. Elizabeth Ellet
6. Deborah Read Franklin
7. Sally Franklin
8. Elizabeth Freeman
9. Emily Geiger
10. Mary Katherine Goddard
11. Catherine Raye Greene
12. Kitty Greene
13. Anne Gwinnett
14. Betsey Hamilton
15. Nancy Hart
16. Harriott Horry
17. Lucy Flukner Knox
18. Sarah Livingston Jay
19. Martha Jefferson
20. Martha Laurens
21. Sybil Luddington
22. Catherine Macaulay
23. Dolly Madison, an American icon for 2 decades
24. Francis Marion
25. Jane Franklin Mecom
26. Rebecca Motte
27. Sarah Osborne
28. Eliza Lucas Pinckney
29. Molly Pitcher
30. Sarah Prince
31. Jane Randolph
32. Esther DeBerdt Reed
33. Betsy Ross
34. Deborah Sampson
35. Elizabeth Schuyler
36. Annis Boudinot Stockton
37. Mercy Otis Warren
38. Martha Washington
39. Phillis Wheatley
40. Hannah Winthrop(less)

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Jason Koivu
Nov 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
Having read numerous biographies on the men from this era, I was eager to read about the female side of things. I should have read something by a better writer with more knowledge on historical matters.

In Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation Cokie Roberts often gets her facts slightly askew. That's not a good thing in a history book. It leads one to question the validity of everything the author says. If relaying factual information isn't the historian's number one priority, what is
With the death of Cokie Roberts this week, I checked to see if I had read all of her books. I discovered I had missed this one.

The book is well written and researched. The problem is the lack of information on many of the women except for Abigail Adams. In this period women had no rights and few were educated so little information about them was recorded. The Adams’ family was an exception as they were educated, including the women, and were prolific letter writers and diary recorders. Some of t
Corinne Edwards
I am ashamed that it took me so long to get around to reading this book - it was given to me for Mother's Day in 2004. That's me looking sheepish :) Although I am a big fan of historical fiction, straight up history tends to make my eyes droopy - so I either really have to be motivated or have some sort of external force urging me onward. Since my online book club chose this for our book of the month, I knew this was the time to remove the dust jacket and sink my teeth into some American History ...more
Oct 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
As late as November 1792, when [President George Washington] was still telling her that he was determined to retire, Eliza composed a letter detailing the "consequence of the sentiments that you had confided in me." First she threatened him, telling him that "the well earned popularity that you are now in possession of will be torn from you by the envious and malignant should you follow the bent of your inclinations." People would say that he cared only about himself, that the job could do nothi ...more
"Behind every great man, there's a great woman"

We hear a whole lot about the founders of America, at least here in the US we do and I assume the rest of the world knows a thing or two about them as well.

Side Note: Non US readers does it bother you that while you follow what happens in the US most Americans have no clue what's happening in your country?


But what do we know about the women who stood by them?

Of course we've all heard of Martha Washington, Abigail Adams and Betsy Ross bu
Linda Hart
Jun 27, 2009 rated it did not like it
She's a poor journalist/commentator and a worse writer. What could have been a fascinating read (the title is great) was presented in a boring, sophomoric style. Her prose is bad, the content is mere filler of cute stories of women doing very little, and she doesn't stay on the subject. Those who gave this high marks in their review surely have lost their abilities for critical thought. This repetitive, plodding clip-job is really the result of a popular hack trying to cash in with as little wor ...more
Jul 24, 2009 rated it it was ok
It is clear that Cokie Roberts (1) knows these women and their stories well and (2) likes them. It is interesting to read about the women who did so much during the War for Independence and the early days of the United States of America. Ms. Roberts has a firm grasp of history and the place of these early women in it.

Having said that, I found this a hard book to read. I suppose every writer of history faces a decision about how to present the material. I was hoping for a set of mini-biographies
Jul 23, 2008 rated it it was ok
A very slow read for me. Although many of the "behind-the-scenes" stories surrounding the Founding Fathers and their women were very new and interesting to me, they were not very well organized. I kept having to scan back for dates and names, making it a tedious read at times. There was little flow or focus throughout the book, as the author jumped from one story to the next, sometimes connecting back to a story in the first chapter. I also thought there seemed to be a lot of pointless quotes, i ...more
Aug 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2006-2010
While the men were busy founding the nation, what were the women up to? Aside from Betsy Ross, I don't remember ever hearing about women as a child (By the way, some of Ross's descendants still insist that she did, in fact, sew that first flag.) My courses in American history provided me with a glimpse of Martha Washington's bravery at Valley Forge, and gave a brief account of Dolley Madison's daring rescue of the portrait of George Washington as the British marched on the White House. When the ...more
BAM Endlessly Booked
A Book for all Seasons topic: related to this season
Aug 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
This enlightening journey with the famous ladies of early America was extremely well researched and well-organized. There was plenty of intrigue, heroism, and determination in all of the life histories contained here and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire ride. Just be forewarned that this is not a quick read; the information is interesting but dense in places and there’s much to sort through. It’s all well-worth the time, though!
Jan 08, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: did-not-finish
I wanted to like this book. My sister-in-law raved about it so I picked it up from the library and settled in. Perhaps it was me, but I found the stories a little bit muddled. It was so hard to keep track of which woman was being discussed because in the middle of one woman's life it would be like "oh and she also knew this other girl who was really cool so I'll talk about her right here and then get back to where I was". I couldn't follow it. It's also just so many women that unless you're real ...more
Literary Chic
Apr 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
Sadly, Ms. Roberts' Founding Mothers is pretty boring. I generally like her work, but I think only an occasional American history reader would find new material here. Ms. Roberts has good subjects for her biographies, but she doesn't have enough material for most of the characters. A majority on the content seemed like a dry middle grade history.
I don't suggest this book, but Capital Dames by the same author is much stronger and more entertaining.
Roberts shows a light on all those women who play second fiddle to all those men in those history books and on those tv shows. Very readable. Very enjoyable. Mostly white women, but she does mention and tell the story of Elizabeth Freeman, who needs her own movie.
Nov 29, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who thought colonial women were stuck in the kitchen!
I'm not particularly interested in the American Revolution or the founding fathers, but I picked up this book because I thought I might learn some interesting stories. And I certainly did.

This book uncovers incredible stories of women running farms, businesses and families through the uncertain times of late colonial life. There are stories of women defending their homes from Loyalists, outwitting the British as spies and even fighting on the front lines.

Two famous women, Martha Washington and
Katie Brown
Jul 09, 2008 rated it it was ok
That's right, my book club selected a book by Cokie Roberts.

I really liked the idea of this book--true stories, many taken from actual letters--about the women who were influential in early days of America. But the actual book is boring, and hard to get through. The book is organized by person, and not as much with a specific timeline, so I got confused with trying to keep track of the chronology. Sometimes the letters themselves can be a little boring, too. It seemed like the author was trying
Jan 27, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. I am Canadian, and so did not know much about the events leading to American independence, and certainly the names I was familiar with were men (Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Hamilton etc.) I also am not yet on the Hamilton bandwagon, have not seen the musical or read any of the Hamilton-themed historical fiction. Now I might be interested. I enjoyed the detailed examination of what women's lives were like pre- and during independence. I loved the figures of Martha Wa ...more
I hate to say it, but this was a dud for me. I’m generously giving her 3 stars because of the subject matter, but her writing style, filled with personal interjections throughout, was off-putting and came across as almost juvenile. From what my friends have said after reading it in book form as compared with the audio version that I listened to, neither form was better than the other from that regard. Yes, I learned a lot about our often-heroic and long-suffering Revolutionary War wives, but Cok ...more
Kressel Housman
This book was on my “to read” list for quite some time, but I always felt that I ought to get a better grounding in the founding fathers, ie the colonial, Revolutionary, and Constitutional period, before I took on the founding mothers. So after my recent reads of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and A People's History of the Supreme Court, the latter of which gave a thorough picture of the Constitutional Congress, as well as a re-read of Johnny Tremain with my kids and my middle so ...more
Apr 05, 2009 rated it it was ok
This book has a lot of potential, but unfortunately, it's hard to keep focused because there are so many names, places, time periods covered all at once. There are some great stories and I learned quite a bit, but I would have organized the book in a completely different way to make it more reader friendly. The way it is now, this is a grazing book instead of a sit-down-and-read book. ...more
Mar 14, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in history or herstory if you will
this is an extremely interesting yet dry book about the women who helped establish the United States. It's amazing how little credit these women get in the grand scheme of things. it made me realize the resilience and passion these women had in order to create the land in which i live today. ...more
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I learned more from this book about the American Revolution than I did during my high school and college history classes.
Jul 29, 2013 rated it did not like it
Okay, I feel a bit silly giving this New York Times Bestseller's author's book a rating of just one star. But the definition of one star is "did not like it," and that's how I feel about this book. That may not be fair, since I didn't finish reading it, and, in fact, only just started reading it. But I'm put off by the author's feminist viewpoints. It feels like every page has her commentary about how these "women who raised our nation" were wonderful in spite of the men around them, or oppresse ...more
Jan 29, 2009 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this book. In the beginning Cokie's comments got to be a bit much, but at least she did not try to disguise her opinion. It was easy to discern it from the facts. She got me a bit miffed at times with her man-hating but that added energy to my read.

The information and stories told were wonderful to learn. Cokie must have done a phenomenal amount of research and it showed. She included many letters and interspersed them in her narrative reasonably effectively.

I wish I could give
Ghost of the Library
Give me history books - memoirs, bios, tales of wars and lost loves, of revenges and death - and i am a happy woman!...perhaps i was born in the wrong century after all....
What we have is a very interesting piece of american history that approaches the women whose husbands, fathers, sons and brothers played a pivotal role in the american independence and the birth of the new nation.
Abigail Adams and her famous correspondence with her husband - future President John Adams; Martha Washington and h
Feb 18, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: history fans
Anecdotal but does get a bit dense with the history at times. Roberts said in the preface that she started out thinking she was writing about a bunch of extraordinary women but then realized the women during the Revolution were doing what women always do: put one foot in front of the other every day doing what needs to be done. They were running farms, raising kids, managing households, collecting debts, facing British soldiers, whatever, so the men could sit in Philadelphia and create a new kin ...more
Aug 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This was a second read. I have read enough other books about this time period that I am more familiar with the characters...who they married....who they wrote to...other names they were known by....who else they were married to......what they did to contribute to the founding of our nation( and it was significant!).....and how they fit in with the time line of events. As fascinating as the book is, I found it difficult to follow time lines and relationships due to the way Ms. Roberts presents th ...more
Feisty Harriet
The author includes a lot of great content, the snippets of information we have about many women in the early, tumultuous days of the American republic. However, I don't care for the organization or the frequent commentary from the author. It was hard to follow the characters and what they did in the larger framework of the war chronology (as opposed to what I would have preferred, a small story about a woman and what she did throughout the war, then the next, and the next. Spreading them out wi ...more
Apr 30, 2009 rated it liked it
This wasn't one that I "couldn't put down" but it definitely held my interest while I read it.

I learned A TON about Early American History--things you'd assume one already knew or understood--like how many years later the Constitution was written after the Declaration of Independence.

It also made me think about things I'd never considered--like what were the women doing and where were they while the men were writing the Constitution or while the men were slugging it out on the battle fields. (
Jul 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I rarely read non-fiction, but this one appealed to me. And my son, who reads almost nothing but American History, was very persuasive. This was very "readable" and worthy. Well written, it paints the portraits of the women who helped shape the new nation. I had no idea they were so involved in the actual policy-making, let alone the miracles they pulled off to make it possible for the men to do their part. Indeed, I will never see the Revolutionary Period the same way. My understanding and appr ...more
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Cokie Roberts was an American journalist and bestselling author. Her career included decades as a political reporter and analyst for National Public Radio and ABC News, with prominent positions on Morning Edition, The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, World News Tonight, and This Week.

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“John Quincy Adams subscribed to the thesis that his mother's generation was unique when he complained to [his wife] that there were no modern women like her. Abigail, God love her, shot back that women might act frivolous and flighty, but only because men wanted them to.” 5 likes
“Cornwallis voiced his lament that even if he destroyed all the men in America, he’d still have the women to contend with.” 2 likes
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