I’ve been reading The Age of Homespun–Objects And Stories In The Creation Of An American Myth by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.
It is about the role of women, and importance of the crafts and creations these women made in Colonial and post-Revolutionary America.
The author notes the role of women working together to spin clothes and needed textiles that could not be taxed by the British. The author says–“While New England’s Sons of Liberty indulged in rum, rhetoric and roast pig, her daughters worked from sunup to sundown to prove their commitment to “the cause of liberty and industry.”
The book discusses both the role of women in the time and the many limits to the lives that women could lead in early America.
“The American pastoral, with its central signifier of clothmaking, is the subject of a remarkable new book by the Harvard historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Ulrich is a supremely gifted scholar and writer. And with ”The Age of Homespun” she has truly outdone herself. Venturing off in a new and highly original direction, she has put physical objects — mainly but not entirely textiles — at the center of her inquiry. The result is, among other things, an exemplary response to a longstanding historians’ challenge — to treat objects, no less than writings, as documents that speak to us from and about the past.
”The Age of Homespun” is loosely but effectively organized around 14 specific objects, including two baskets, two spinning wheels, a yarn winder, a rug, a tablecloth and ”an unfinished stocking.” If this list seems unprepossessing on its face, the point is all that Ulrich makes of it through a deeply creative process of analysis and contextualizing. In fact, her objects become meaningful only when they are joined to the experience of the people who produced, owned, used and preserved them. It is, finally, the connections that make her investigation so unusual and rewarding.”
Much of what we need to understand the world can be found in everyday objects and everyday life. These objects can be studied and interpreted in ways that are both precise and creative.
We can can look at everyday things and see the connections that exist between the people who made these things, the purposes these objects serve, the materials used, and the metaphoric value that objects hold when we consider possible ways they could be perceived by people.
There is a whole big world right out in front of us each and every day. This world is founded on both fact and imagination.
There is nothing in everyday life that the average person cannot understand and think about on a deeper level.
Occupy Wall Street Type Protests Being Held Across The Nation—Dissent A Part Of Our Nation Since Earliest Colonial Times.
(Update– 10/06/11–Here is my post on the Occupy Houston event today.)
Above is the art for the Occupy Providence event that will be held later today.
This art includes the great religious dissenter and the founder of Rhode Island—Roger Williams.
I’m glad to say I’m a descendant of Roger Williams and that I lived in Rhode Island for 12 years.
I’m also very glad for my 13 years so far in Houston.
This event and march begins at Market Square Park in Downtown Houston at 8:30 AM. I will be there. I hope you will be there as well.
The concern that many Americans have about the corporate takeover of our nation, and about the fact that hard work often does not pay off in our nation anymore, is shared by people all over America.
People just want a fair deal for an honest day’s work.
Here is an Associated Press story where the Occupy Wall Street folks say they are in it for the long haul.
A book I own but have not yet read is Liberty of Conscience—Roger Williams in America by Edwin Gaustand.
Below is a photo I took of the Roger Williams Memorial Park earlier this year. People lived in crude shacks.
The spirit of dissent and of liberty is part of the American fabric from the earliest colonial days right up to the present day.
Let’s follow the Occupy protests and let’s be a part of this movement.
The Occupy protests may or may not lead to something bigger.
We can be hopeful. We can be informed. We can be involved.
The work of freedom and democracy is up to each of us.
I’m pleased to share with my readers that I just found at my mom’s house in Cincinnati this copy of Fat Mutton and Liberty of Conscience—Society in Rhode Island, 1636-1690. This book was written by Carl Bridenbaugh.
I’m very much looking forward to taking this book back to Houston for to read. I very much enjoy reading about Colonial America.
I just can’t imagine how–no matter how good a day you are havng—that you can have anything approaching the good fortune I have had to find Fat Mutton.
The Fourth of July will be here soon.
(Above–Black Americans observing the Fourth in 1939 in St. Helena Island, South Carolina.)
What books would be helpful to learn more about the American Revolution and about America?
As I’ve said before, I don’t believe the Revolution was a liberal or conservative event in the sense we think about such things today.
Some of the Founding Fathers were religious. Others were not. The Revolution had some aspects of a tax revolt. But who can know if folks in the early days of the nation would not have paid more taxes to get all the garbage out of the street or to prevent so many women from dying in childbirth? Some of the founders believed in government being run from state capitols. Others supported a stronger national government.
Anybody who asserts that the American Revolution was a liberal or conservative victory in the modern sense is more concerned with today’s politics than with historical facts.
At the bottom line, it is up to you to know and understand our shared history. If you allow others to define your past, they will likely use that power to help bring about a future you don’t want.
(Below–1887 Fourth of July picnic in Custer County, Nebraska.)
Here are six book suggestions and a history blog suggestion that are strong sources to learn about the life in North America before colonization, after colonization, at the time of the Revolution, and to learn about the full history of our nation.
* 1491–New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann
There was a whole world here before 1492. 1492 is one marker in history. There is little understanding of who lived in the Americas before Columbus. American history did not begin in 1492 or in 1620 when the Mayflower arrived.
* Mayflower–A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick
There are starting points in American history other than the landing of the Mayflower. Yet learning the story of the Mayflower is basic to knowing our history.
* Before The Mayflower—A History of Black America by Lerone Bennett.
In many ways, nothing is more central to the American experience than the history of black Americans. So much has turned on the decision to bring black people to America, and on how those unwilling immigrants responded to life in North America.
* American Colonies–The Settlement of North America by Alan Taylor
This book is a good way to learn about the British colonies. It includes chapters about not just the 13 colonies we all know and love, but also has chapters on British Canada and about colonies in the Caribbean.
* History of American Women–A blog.
This blog is a useful resource to know more about women of early American history.
* Patriots–The Men Who Started The American Revolution by A.J. Langguth
This book reads like a novel. It is an enjoyable and informative way to learn about the events and personalities of the Revolution.
* The Penguin History Of The United States by Hugh Brogan
The Penguin History is a one-volume non-ideological account of our nation that discusses the events of the Revolution and then goes on to provide the full context of American history. While I do sometimes read history books written from the left or the right, I find I’d rather have a balanced account that leaves ideological judgements up to the reader.
As a liberal, I’m confident that an examination of the facts–In a way both comprehensive, and sympathetic to the strengths and weaknesses of our fellow men and women— will lead to a view that America is best when it is welcoming of people of all kinds, and that government has, in tandem with the hard-work of a free people, a role to play in providing a basic social safety net for its people.
In any case, it is your responsibility to learn your history and to consider what this history means in terms of your beliefs and actions in the world.
Learn the past so you can be a hopeful and relevant part of the future.
(Below–How some see the Fourth of July. It is fine as far is it goes. But there is so much more. The painting–called The Spirit of ’76– is by Archibald Willard.)
Events Of American Revolution Do Not Offer Clear Answers For Today’s Issues—Everybody Is Welcome At Our Great Historical Sites
With the Fourth of July just over a month away, it’s time we take back our history from the right-wing Tea Party extremists who have been allowed to commandeer some portion of our past. The so-called Tea Party wants to use our shared American history in the service of the very un-American ideals of exclusion, and of benefiting the rich over the working man and woman.
One such Tea Party cell here in Texas is called the King Street Patriots. This Houston-based Tea Party outfit takes its name from the street in Boston where the Boston Massacre took place.
King Street is now known as State Street in Boston.
The effort to define our past is about finding justification for political positions in today’s debates. If we can prove that our viewpoints and actions in the present day match the intent of the folks who led the American Revolution, then we can claim that these viewpoints and actions have a special validity and are true to our founding ideals.
The picture above is of the Old Massachusetts State House on the former King Street. I took this picture while visiting Boston in 2008. The Boston Massacre occurred pretty much at the location from where I took the picture. The yellow balcony is the place where the Declaration of Independence was first proclaimed in Boston in 1776.
All people are free to visit this historic location. You can stand at the spot where the Massacre took place. You can tour the Old State House. People of all political beliefs are welcome. People of all nationalities are welcome. There are no immigration checkpoints to see if people have the proper papers. People of all religions are welcomed. Nobody feels compelled to offer a prayer at this great and important site that favors one religion over other religions.
Over the next few weeks I’m going to be writing about some aspects of early American history, and suggesting books and websites for people who would like to learn more.
The first book I’m recommending is Patriots–The Men Who Started the American Revolution by A.J. Langguth. Patriots is an accessible and detailed account of events leading up to the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War.
Good luck in finding a clear ideological lesson for today in the events describes in Patriots or in any serious account of our independence.
Yes–In many ways the American Revolution was a tax revolt. At the same time, the streets of colonial Boston were covered with garbage and animal waste. Women were always pregnant and many died in childbirth. Many children died before reaching adulthood. Folks drank rum and beer all day long in part because clean water could be hard to find.
Would people back in colonial times have paid more taxes for better sanitation, better public health, and for clean water?
Who knows? Those folks are long dead and we live in a very different nation and world.
There is plenty to learn and understand from studying our past. We’ve got to know who we are and where we come from. But nobody can take events from more than 200 years ago, and feel that they now have all the answers to today’s public policy debates.
At least nobody who has any idea what they are talking about has this ability.
Don’t learn your history from this blog. And be certain that you don’t learn your history from far-right fanatics who glorify states rights and who want to return to the injustices of the past.
A clear example of why not to listen to representatives the far-right when they attempt to define our history can be found in this video clip of Sarah Palin talking about Paul Revere’s Ride. She simply has no idea what she is talking about.
Figure stuff out for yourself.
Don’t let other people define your past, and then seek to shape your future while you stand idly by.
Many on the right on are criticizing Barack Obama’s support of the mosque near the former World Trade Center location in New York City.
Some of this criticism has come from backers of the so-called Tea Party.
Yet as these angry Tea Party folks attempt to claim they are the heirs to our Founding Fathers by calling themselves “Tea Party”, they forget one of the bravest acts of the Revolutionary era.
John Adams represented the British soldiers accused of the Boston Massacre. He did so in the defense of liberty and in the face of great public anger.
(In saying this, please make note that the people building the N.Y.C. mosque are guilty of nothing. And in fact, despite the public outrage over the Massacre, only two of the nine originally charged were convicted. Public opinion does not always get it right.)
Our modern Tea Party would not know the kind of honor and courage John Adams showed back in 1770.
The Tea Party asserts they know something about the Constitution.
But the truth is, like a political movement that flourished briefly in the 19th century, the Tea Party folks are Know Nothings.
Blogger’s Note—Because I have some other projects I want to take on, I’ll be offering up shorter and more formulaic posts for the remainder of August. These posts will still be quite good and will merit your visiting the blog each day. Yet at the same time, shorter posts will allow me time to accomplish other objectives. Thanks for reading Texas Liberal.
Texas Liberal Book Of The Day—Albion’s Seed—Four British Folkways In America by David Hackett Fischer. This is book is shown above by my friend Hamburger Wearing An Astros’ Hat.
This book is an account of the ongoing impact of British settlement in colonial America. It is interesting to see how the beliefs and habits of people who lived so many years ago are still impacting American life. You can see by how tattered the book ios that Hamburger really enjoyed this title.
Link Of The Day-—The forest fires in Russia are burning trees that were coated in radioactive fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident. This has raised a concern of radioactive smoke.
We’ve found a way in the world to make even trees be toxic.
Texas Link Of The Day—Please be certain to visit the Houston political blog Brains & Eggs each chance you get.
Local political bloggers do the best they can do with the time they have to make the world a better place.
Colonials Get Machine Gun—Think Of The Extra Killing We Could’ve Had Over The Years If Machine Guns Existed During American Revolution
Here’s a picture I found this evening.
Here we see this Revolutionary Era soldier bringing his colleagues a big machine gun.
I imagine that is Paul Revere holding the lantern.
Folks do have the right to own a gun. These are the facts.
I don’t assume that gun ownership makes somebody a bad person. I simply feel that gun ownership and the huge number of guns in America makes society a far more dangerous and brutal place than it would otherwise be.
Do the folks who made this machine gun picture share the Federalist outlook of George Washington that called for a strong central government to combat the failure of state legislatures to effectively govern during the time of the Articles of Confederation?
I wager they do not agree with this outlook.
Instead, these folks seem to enjoy the right to own a gun without accepting the responsibility of paying the taxes needed to have a decent society, or offering any vision for the future other than a loud resounding “NO” to anything that might make people’s lives a little less difficult in these hard times.
Don’t you just wish that people had invented machine guns like the one in the picture back in the 1770’s? Think of all the additional killing that could have gone on over the years, and just how powerful our guns would be today if this was the type of gun used at Lexington & Concord.
And folks, no matter the lies the NRA is telling you so they can rack up more memberships and money, nobody is coming to take your gun.
When The Mayflower Landed In West Texas—In Texas You Can Teach Schoolchildren Nearly Anything At All
As many know from following the news about the Texas State Board of Education, it is okay to teach Texas schoolchildren nearly any type of wrong information.
Far right-wing ideologues have taken control of the Texas Board. As a result, kids in Texas are not getting a clear view of the facts as they really are in the world.
Why would employers want to hire people educated in such a way?
Above is a picture illustrating how the landing of the Mayflower is taught here in Texas.
Here is the lesson as I am nearly sure it is being instructed—
In Texas, you can teach our kids anything at all. It’s like a Wild West of education.
You can teach anything you want so as long as you don’t get to close to what is actually the truth.
In the picture above, I have sought to recreate what it must have been like for a Puritan ready to board the Mayflower.
Such a person would have packed a bag, put on his Pilgrim hat, left home and headed over to the port for the long voyage ahead.
I feel the picture above shows exactly what that departure must have looked like back in the 17th century.
It is as if you were there.
When the Pilgrims reached Cape Cod, the Mayflower Compact was signed to provide a framework and guidelines for the task ahead.
At the bottom of this post is the text of the Mayflower Compact.
As is well-known, the arrival of the Mayflower was not good news for the native population.
As well-known as this fact is, it always merits repeating. Where we live today was quite possible land once occupied by someone who did not wish to leave.
As our day-to-day lives go on, it easy to forget the larger context in which we exist.
Here is the link the excellent C-Span broadcasts about Mayflower Compact author William Bradford. If you click the video archives link on the left of the screen, you’ll be able to learn about Mr. Bradford and what it was like to live in Plymouth after the arrival of the Mayflower.
If you know history, you will have a better understanding of who you are and why the world is as it is.
The Mayflower Compact—-
- In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King,Defender of the Faith, etc.
- Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together into a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620
Above you see a sultry Pilgrim holding a Thanksgiving Turkey.
She’s going to have that turkey beheaded and served up for dinner.
What was the role of women in Colonial Massachusetts and Colonial New England?
From American Colonies—The Settling Of North America by Alan Taylor—
“It took a family to cope with the diverse and constant demands of building and maintaining a farm in New England. English culture expected all adults to marry and divided their labors into male and female responsibilities. Men conducted the heaviest work, including clearing, constructing, tending the livestock, harvesting the hay, and cultivating the grain crops. Women maintained the home and its nearby garden, cared for the numerous children, made clothing and soap, and prepared and preserved foods, including butter, eggs and cheese. But when a husband was away or incapacitated, the wife also had to assume his labors, taking the role of ” deputy husband” until he returned or recovered….The New English understood marriage as both romantic and economic. Husband and wife were supposed to be both temperamentally and financially compatible…As in the mother country, New English men monopolized legal authority, landownership and political rights….In all this, New England simply replicated the gender hierarchy of the mother country. More noteworthy are the modest ways in which the Puritan faith provided a bit more authority, protection, and respect for women in New England than they enjoyed in the Chesapeake or the old England. … Above all, Puritanism preached the importance of love and mutual respect as the foundations of Christian marriage.”
American Colonies is a great book.
Take the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday to learn more about our colonial origins.
A great source to learn this history is the blog History of American Women.
No Surprise That 17th Century Book That Respected Native Americans Also Respected Women—Roger Williams Of Rhode Island
I’ve been reading A New Literary History of the United States.
I read an essay in A New Literary History today about a book written in 1643 by Roger Williams.
(Above–A 1681 painting by an unkown artist of a Narragansett Indian Chief named Ninigret. It is the only reliable image of a Southern New England Indian of the time. This painting is owned by the Rhode Island School of Design.)
The name of the book Williams wrote was A Key To The Language Of America.
Key was about the langauge and customs of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Indians.
A New Literary History says that Williams saw these Rhode Island natives as equal to the New England Puritan colonists.
This angered the leaders of Massachusetts because it set a precedent of treating the natives in a way that might encourage them to be more assertive in their dealings with the colonists.
In A Key To The Language Of America Williams also acknowledged the role of Narragansett Indian women. This was unusual for the times.
Williams wrote that Narragansett women worked at least as hard as did the men and that they never complained no matter how difficult life became.
It is no surprise that a book that was ahead of its time in regard to Native Americans was also respectful of women in a time that women were not treated so well ( Just like today.)
Respect for all people is connected. Regard for one only has meaning when it is regard for all. Roger Williams of Rhode Island had this insight in the 17th century. It is that many people lack in the 21st century.
If I had the time, the kind of blog I would write beyond Texas Liberal is the blog called History of American Women.
Run by a woman who goes by the name Maggiemac in North Fort Myers, Florida, History of American Women is about women from colonial and revolutionaryera America. The blog offers profiles and, where available, paintings of these women.
Maggiemac also provides historical overviews of the colonies and addresses topics such as slavery in the colonies, witchcraft trials and the lives of Native Americans.
From my own experience as a blogger, I can only imagine the time Maggiemac puts into her blog to make it such a enjoyable and useful resource.
Here is Maggimac’s profile of Lydia Chapin Taft. Ms. Taft was the first legal woman voter in America. She first cast a vote in a Massachusetts town meeting in 1756.
From the post–
Women in Cherokee society had the same rights as men. Long before the arrival of the white man, women enjoyed a major role in the family life, economy, and government of the Cherokee. They lived in villages built along the rivers of western North Carolina, northwestern South Carolina, northern Georgia, and eastern Tennessee. When white men visited these villages in the early 1700s, they were surprised by the rights and privileges of Indian women.
Sometimes you see something in life that merits your recognition and time. I can’t recommend History of American Women strongly enough.
June 14 is Flag Day in the United States.
(Above–Betsy Ross knits a flag while a colonial creep leers at her.)
From that link—
The Fourth of July was traditionally celebrated as America’s birthday, but the idea of an annual day specifically celebrating the Flag is believed to have first originated in 1885. BJ Cigrand, a schoolteacher, arranged for the pupils in the Fredonia, Wisconsin Public School, District 6, to observe June 14 (the 108th anniversary of the official adoption of The Stars and Stripes) as ‘Flag Birthday’. In numerous magazines and newspaper articles and public addresses over the following years, Cigrand continued to enthusiastically advocate the observance of June 14 as ‘Flag Birthday’, or ‘Flag Day’.
Betsy Ross was a successful woman in many respects. Please click here to read about her life.
Is Betsy Ross the mother of the U.S. Flag? Please click here and see what you think.
I can write this blog post, but it is up to you learn the things you would like to know.
Many nations have a flag day. Please click here to see what nations have a flag day and on what day it is observed.
Far-right activists are staging so-called “tea parties” on April 15 to protest the fact that in a free society one must pay taxes and abide by the decisions of the electorate. (Old-time image of tea party above.)
The claim being made by these extreme elements, when they are not advocating violence, is that somehow we are moving towards tyranny.
By trying to steal the symbolism of the Boston Tea Party, Republicans and the extreme right (no distinction appears to exist between the two) are confusing the idea of no taxation without representation with bitterness about losing last November’s election.
Below is from the web home of a tea party web site. They say here that “Revolution is brewing.” Just what does that mean? Is it violence? What do they think a revolution is in this context?
Today’s Southern-based overwhelmingly white American right has nothing to do with the legacy of the Boston Tea Party.
The only historical tradition these people are drawing upon is that of the treason of the first shot fired on Fort Sumter in 1861 to begin the Civil War. (Engraving below.)
America does have a visible representative of the best and most inclusive traditions of American History— The America of Thomas Paine, William Lloyd Garrison, Abe Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Sitting Bull, Franklin Roosevelt, Martin Luther King and Caesar Chavez.
That leader is the President of the United States and his name is Barack Hussein Obama.