Sunday, July 6, 2014

Our founding mothers

On this, Independence Day weekend, I make my traditional observations:
  • This is a wonderful country, and I'm proud to be an American.
  • I really don't like firecrackers.
  • Oh, say, how I wish "America, the Beautiful" was our national anthem.
Today I add a fourth observation. It's one that I've always suspected but has been made clear by Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts, which I started reading this weekend:
  • The women behind our founding fathers were remarkable and, with the possible exception of Abigail Adams, have not been given their appropriate place in history.
The first of these women who took multitasking to another planet is Eliza Lucas Pinckney, who practically ran the colony of South Carolina. She was in charge of a plantation for her father off in Antigua and later as a young widow, developed the indigo crop in the colony for international trade, ran a school, and, of course, raised children (her two sons fought in the Revolutionary War, served in state politics, and were key figures of the young nation).
Mercy Otis Warren was an influential writer for the cause of independence through her poems, personal letters, pamphlets, and plays (even though theater was banned in her native Boston).
Deborah Franklin wasn't just the women behind a founding father; she took care of much of his ventures such as the postal service when he was in London representing Pennsylvania. His presence there brought ridicule and threat to her and her Philadelphia household after British measures such as the Stamp Act. But this is the clincher: his second term in England was to be seven months, but he decided to stay 10 years and lived with another woman and her daughter.
I come by my patriotism honestly, as my parents named me after Betsy Ross (that's my real first name, not Elizabeth). I choose to believe the accounts about her creating the first American flag and honor her work to create a vital symbol of the new nation. And I've long made peace with the kidding of my childhood. When I went to college, it was a conversation opener for my rather shy self. I'll never forget the equally shy Purdue engineer at a mixer who said quietly, "Betsy Rossen. I'll have to remember that and flag you down."