Monday, January 08, 2007

Good Wives

Ahhh! Nothing like a book that tells all in the title!

Last week I finished Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England 1650-1750. This is another good book by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, who also wrote A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 and The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth.

The book is divided into three parts, named after three women from the Bible. Part One is Bathsheba. This first part explains the domestic economy of colonial New England households. Part Two is Eve. Here are details of the intimate side of marriage. Part Three is Jael. In this last third of the book Ulrich tells how religion was sometimes used in strife or discord between neighbors, and how women were able to shape religious practices.

Although I was hoping to follow Down the Common with a similar work of fiction, this non-fiction book was better. I enjoyed the bits and pieces from the lives of ordinary women, several of them descendents of the poet, Anne Bradstreet.

Ulrich writes in the preface, "[Readers]... will find much about housekeeping, childbearing, and ordinary churchgoing, about small conflicts experienced by forgotten women, and about little triumphs that history has not recorded."

These "little triumphs" and notations of the small, ordinary things of daily life make for amazingly rich reading.



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