Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America’s Independence

Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America’s Independence

Carol Berkin

’64 BC, ’72 GSAS
Presidential Professor of History, Emerita
Baruch College & The Graduate Center, CUNY

For decades historians reconstructed the American revolutionary struggle as an exclusively male endeavor. Yet the years of fighting took place on farms, in towns and cities where women worked and lived.

In this talk, Prof Carol Berkin repopulates the revolutionary stage, adding women of all races and social classes, telling the stories of white women’s participation in the prewar protests and their roles as propagandists, boycotters, spies, messengers, saboteurs, and even soldiers. It also looks at the choice of loyalties by Native Americans and African Americans who interpreted the ideals of the revolution– liberty, freedom, and independence– and pondered whether the British offered them a better opportunity to achieve these ideals than the patriot’s cause. Finally, Prof. Berkin examines the impact of white women’s participation in the war on the long-held gender assumptions of 17th & 18th America.


Dr. Carol Berkin

Carol Berkin is the Presidential Professor of History, Emerita, at Baruch College & The Graduate Center, CUNY. Born in Mobile, Alabama, she graduated from Barnard College in 1964 where she was a Barnard Scholar and received her M.A. and Phd from Columbia University where she was a Presidents Fellow. Her dissertation, written under the direction of Richard Morris, won Columbias Bancroft Dissertation Award and was published by Columbia University Press in 1794. This book, Jonathan Sewall: Odyssey of an American Loyalist was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Before receiving her Phd, Carol was a member of the editorial staff of both the Papers of Alexander Hamilton and the Papers of John Jay. During her forty years of teaching undergraduates and graduate students at CUNY, she also served as Baruchs Associate Provost from 1985 to 1988. She was awarded Baruchs Presidential Excellence Award for Scholarship in 1998 and the CUNY Lifetime Performance Award in 1999.

Professor Berkin was elected to the Society of American Historians, an organization that honors excellence in writing, in 1996, and became a Fellow of the American Antiquarian Society in 2005. She has received grants from The National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Antiquarian Society, and the American Association of University Women, and was included in the Whos Who in Teaching in 2004, 2005, and 2006. She has also served as a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians.

She has written or edited a dozen books, including First Generations: Women in Colonial America [1996];  A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution [2002; a History Book Club Selection and Awarded the Colonial Dames of American Book Prize in 2004]; Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for American Independence [2005]; Civil War Wives: The Lives and Times of Angelina Grimke, Varina Howell Davis, and Julia Dent Grant [2009]; Wondrous Beauty: The Life and Adventures of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte [2014]; The Bill of Rights: The Fight to Secure Americas Liberties [2015]; and, most recently, A Sovereign People: The Crises of the 1790s and the Birth of American Nationalism [2017]. She has also appeared in over two dozen documentaries on PBS and the History Channel, including her sons favorite, The History of Sex.”

Carol has been active over the years in programs that bring scholars to share their expertise with teachers and elhi students, including the U. S. Department of Educations Teaching American History Grants, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History many initiatives, and the projects of the New-York Historical Societys Education Department. She continues to travel across the country giving lectures and running workshops for Gilder Lehrman and Humanities Texas, and she edits the online journal, HistoryNow, which is dedicated to bringing the latest scholarly work on a variety of topics to classroom teachers. These commitments have taken her to every state in the union except North Dakota!