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Founding Mothers and Fathers

Founding Mothers and Fathers by Mary Beth Norton
4 reviews (1996) (496p)
Pulitzer Prize for History Finalist

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Book Description
Much like A Midwife's Tale and The Unredeemed Captive, this novel is about power relationships in early American society, religion, and politics--with insights into the initial development and operation of government, the maintenance of social order, and the experiences of individual men and women. Review
Founding Mothers & Fathers is a scholarly study of the responsibilities and rewards New World colonists assigned to adults solely on the basis of gender. Historian Mary Beth Norton asserts that a changing world-view caused the limited power wielded by a handful of early colonial women to trickle away by the time the American Constitution was framed. Since nearly every moment of daily life was subject to intense scrutiny by the entire community, the court records and other public documents Norton diligently combed to make her case are anything but dull, and the offenses and punishments meted out speak loudly to the issues of gendered power.

Crystallizing the inflexibility of gender roles in the American colonies is the tale of a servant known as Thomasine or Thomas Hall, alternately. Raised for two decades as a girl, Hall later switched several times between the clothes and roles of a man and those of a woman. Although outraged townswomen repeatedly assured colonial authorities that Hall was physically male, his feminine mannerisms and skill with a needle and thread so unnerved one regional commander that he demanded Hall "be putt in weomans apparell." Other stories include that of the ne'er-do-well Pinion family, who brawled through two generations of theft, adultery, and domestic squabbles in New England, and a man and woman brought up before a Virginia tribunal accused of "a great bussleling and juggling of the bed" judged unseemly in an unmarried couple. Founding Mothers & Fathers offers a full-bellied, incisive view of a developing social hierarchy and the slim margin of power that women held and lost within it. --Francesca Coltrera

Mary Beth Norton Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 1  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 1  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 0  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 1 Founding Mothers and Fathers ·  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 0  
National Book Award Wins 0  
National Book Award Nominations 0  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 0  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award


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