Berkin, Carol 1942- (Carol Ruth Berkin)
Berkin, Carol 1942- (Carol Ruth Berkin)
Born October 1, 1942, in Mobile, AL; daughter of Saul (a businessman) and Marian (a bookkeeper) Berkin; married John Paull Harper (a dean of curriculum), June 21, 1970 (divorced); children: two. Education: Barnard College, A.B., 1964; Columbia University, M.A., 1966, Ph.D., 1972. Religion: Jewish.
Writer, educator, editor. Editorial assistant for "Papers of Alexander Hamilton," New York, NY, 1964; Hunter College of the City University of New York, New York, NY, lecturer in history, 1968; member of editorial staff for "Papers of John Jay," New York, NY, 1972; City University of New York, assistant professor, 1972-75, associate professor, 1975-81, professor of history at Bernard M. Baruch College, 1981—, William E. Hewit Distinguished Professor, 2007, member of university graduate faculty, 1982—. Has worked as a consultant on several PBS and History Channel documentaries and has appeared as a commentator on screen for PBS and A&E documentaries.
American Antiquarian Society (fellow), American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians (member of bicentennial celebration committee, 1975—), Coordinating Committee for Women in the Historical Profession, Smithsonian Institution, Essex Institute, New York Historical Society, Columbia University Seminar in Early American History and Culture.
Bancroft Award from Bancroft Foundation and Columbia University, 1972, for doctoral dissertation on Jonathan Sewall; National Endowment for the Humanities grant, 1974; American Council of Learned Societies grant, 1975, study fellowship, 1978; City University of New York Research Foundation grant, 1975; American Association of University Women fellowship, 1978.
Jonathan Sewall: Odyssey of an American Loyalist, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1974.
Within the Conjurer's Circle: Women in Colonial America (pamphlet), General Learning Press (New York, NY), 1974.
(Compiler) Women in the American Revolution, Grossman (New York, NY), 1975.
(Contributor) The American Revolution: Changing Perspectives, edited by William M. Fowler, Jr., and Wallace Coyle, Northeastern University Press (Boston, MA), 1979.
Land of Promise: A History of the United States, Scott, Foresman (Glenview, IL), 1982.
(With Leonard Wood) National Treasures: Source Readings for Land of Promise, Scott, Foresman (Glenview, IL), 1984.
(With John Patrick) History of the American Nation, two volumes, Scribner Educational Publishers (New York, NY), 1986.
(With Joe B. Frantz and Joan Schreiber) America Yesterday and Today, Scott, Foresman (Glenview, IL), 1988.
(With others) Making America: A History of the United States, instructor's annotated edition, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1995, 5th edition, 2007.
First Generations: Women in Colonial America, Hill & Wang (New York, NY), 1996.
American Colonial History, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1997.
A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution, Harcourt (New York, NY), 2002.
(With Betty S. Anderson) The History Handbook Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2003.
Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America's Independence, Knopf (New York, NY), 2005.
(With Mary Beth Norton) Women of America: A History, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1979.
(With Clara M. Lovett) Women, War, and Revolution, Holmes & Meier, 1980.
(With Leslie Horowitz) Women's Voices, Women's Lives: Documents in Early American History, Northeastern University Press (Boston, MA), 1998.
(With others) Encyclopedia of American Literature, Facts on File (New York, NY), 2002.
(With Judith L. Pinch and Carole S. Appel) Exploring Women's Studies: Looking Forward, Looking Back, Pearson Prentice Hall (Upper Saddle River, NJ), 2006.
(With Margaret S. Crocco and Barbara Winslow) Clio in the Classroom: A Guide for Teaching U.S. Women's History, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2009.
The role of women in America's past is the forte of historian Carol Berkin. Her 1996 volume, First Generations: Women in Colonial America, was widely reviewed. "Inspired" was the term used by Billie Barnes Jensen of History. Covering the variety of races, religions, and social classes that comprised the women of early America, Berkin used the technique of profiling in each chapter an individual woman whose "life exemplifies in some way the theme of the narrative," Jensen noted. Some of the author's subjects are such well-known historical figures as Hannah Duston and Eliza Lucas Pinckney; others, including a slave known only as Mary, are relatively anonymous—"yet the lessons of their lives are no less significant," Jensen stated.
In an article for the Journal of Social History, Jacquelyn Miller pointed to Berkin's chapters on the elite classes of the early eighteenth century. The women in these fortunate positions had access to goods and luxuries unheard-of by most of their colonial and indentured sisters who faced a much more demanding struggle to survive. Yet the growth of consumerism in the upper classes "did not necessarily mean expanded independence for women," wrote Miller. "In fact, Berkin argues that the social conventions of gentility placed additional burdens on women's time and energy, while at the same time giving them little control over the wealth of their society." Wealthy or not, the author concluded, "women of all sorts were united in their dependence on men for their economic status." While C. Dallett Hemphill of the Historian felt that the author "is not wholly consistent" in her presentation of controversial issues, the critic also acknowledged that First Generations "remains a clear and engaging overview."
Berkin explored another aspect of history with her 2002 release, A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution. In the years following the Revolutionary War of 1776, the new country faced economic, military, and political challenges. When James Madison, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and their peers convened the first Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia during the sweltering summer of 1787, anxieties ran high. Small states complained of manipulation by the bigger states, and "a few nationalists fretted about America's international impotence," as Booklist contributor Gilbert Taylor put it. A Publishers Weekly reviewer emphasized that "the framers saw the Constitution as a working document, one that would require revision as the country grew." In the same piece, the author was praised for her novelistic approach, "capturing the human dimensions" of the historic convention. Thomas Karel of Library Journal wrote: "With this concise and masterly book, Berkin joins the upper ranks of popular historians."
Berkin explores another facet of the origins of the United States in her 2005 work, Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America's Independence, in which she profiles the common women who helped to make the American Revolution possible. Berkin divides her profiles into numerous categories, including females who were involved in the protest against British policy regarding the Colonies, females active on the home front, those who traveled with the armies, the wives of military men, women who stayed true to the Royalist side, and Native American and African American women involved in the Revolution in some way. Berkin's main contention in Revolutionary Mothers is that it took more than just a select few women—such as Abigail Adams or Martha Washington—to foment and carry out a revolution. Just as with revolutionary men, a broad swath of female society was needed to make the revolution possible and successful. Her intention in the book is to tell the story of these lesser-known women in American history who participated in roles from writing broadsheets to spying against the British.
Critical praise came from many quarters for Revolutionary Mothers. Booklist contributor Margaret Flanagan found it "a splendid overview of the remarkable contributions made by a cultural cross section" of female supporters of the revolutionary struggle. Similarly, a Publishers Weekly contributor commented: "First-person accounts lend immediacy and freshness to a lucidly written, well-researched account that is [not] a romantic version." And Journal of Southern History reviewer Cynthia A. Kierner termed the work "an engaging synthesis that nonspecialists will read and enjoy." Kierner went on to observe, "Berkin tells stories that deserve to be known, and her book is a good read." Further praise came from Parameters writer Jason N. Palmer, who noted, "Carol Berkin goes beyond the whore, victim, and madonna archetypes in Revolutionary Mothers to broaden our understanding of the roles women played in the War for Independence."
Carol Berkin once told CA: "My primary focus in my work has been to examine the personalities of men or women whose lifestyle, ideology, or career patterns have placed them on the ‘losing side’ or out of the mainstream. Thus, the American Loyalists, for whom, in many ways, the world was turned upside down; thus, also, the study of American women who have always been outsiders as the ‘second sex’ in our history. Recently it has been noted that, ‘while the patriots won the revolution, the Loyalists seem to be winning the bicentennial’ because of the many sympathetic studies of these men and women in the 1960s and '70s. Perhaps with the new and exciting examination of women in our past being done by so many able scholars today, it will also be said that women lost many struggles for equality, but they are winning a sense of their past."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, February, 1998, review of First Generations: Women in Colonial America, p. 274.
Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, spring, 1998, review of First Generations, p. 227.
Booklist, September 15, 1996, Kathleen Hughes, review of First Generations, p. 185; August, 2002, Gilbert Taylor, review of A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution, p. 1914; January 1, 2005, Margaret Flanagan, review of Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America's Independence, p. 805.
Bookwatch, January, 1997, review of First Generations, p. 3; August, 1998, review of Women's Voices, Women's Lives: Documents in Early American History, p. 2; September, 1998, review of Women's Voices, Women's Lives, p. 4.
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, September 17, 2002, Gary Rosen, review of A Brilliant Solution, p. 2.
Choice, September, 1987, review of Women of America: A History, p. 68.
Come-All-Ye, fall, 1998, review of Women's Voices, Women's Lives, p. 1.
Greeley Tribune (Greeley, CO), April 7, 2007, Chris Casey, "Distinguished History Professor to Lecture at UNC."
Historian, fall, 1998, C. Dallett Hemphill, review of First Generations, p. 150.
History: Review of Books, fall, 1997, Billie Barnes Jensen, review of First Generations, p. 15.
Journal of American History, September, 1997, Lee Chambers-Schiller, review of First Generations, p. 621.
Journal of Social History, spring, 1998, Jacquelyn Miller, review of First Generations, p. 733.
Journal of Southern History, August, 2006, Cynthia A. Kierner, review of Revolutionary Mothers, p. 653.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 1996, review of First Generations, p. 937.
Kliatt, September, 1998, review of Women's Voices, Women's Lives, p. 34; May, 2006, Janet Julian, review of Revolutionary Mothers, p. 34.
Library Journal, September 15, 1996, Dorothy Lilly, review of First Generations, p. 78; August, 2002, Cynthia Johnson, review of A Brilliant Solution, p. 76; Thomas A. Karel, review of A Brilliant Solution, p. 114.
New York Review of Books, October 31, 1996, Edmund Morgan, review of First Generations, p. 66.
New York Times Book Review, September 15, 2002, Gary Rosen, "A Design for Living," review of A Brilliant Solution, p. 29.
Parameters, June 22, 2006, Jason N. Palmer, review of Revolutionary Mothers, p. 145.
Publishers Weekly, July 15, 1996, review of First Generations, p. 61; June 24, 2002, review of A Brilliant Solution, p. 49; January 31, 2005, review of Revolutionary Mothers, p. 63.
Reference & User Services Quarterly, June 22, 2003, Danny Kissane, review of Encyclopedia of American Literature, p. 363.
Seventeenth-Century News, fall, 1998, review of First Generations, p. 141.
William and Mary Quarterly, July, 1998, Catherine Clinton, review of First Generations, p. 444.
Women's Review of Books, December, 1996, Joni Adamson Clarke, review of First Generations, p. 26.
Baruch College, City University of New York Web site,http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/ (August 15, 2008), "Prof. Carol Berkin."
Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (August 15, 2008), "Carol Berkin."
Organization of American Historians Web site,http://www.oah.org/ (August 15, 2008), "OAH Distinguished Lectureship Program 2008-2009: Carol Berkin."