I’ve been dying to tell you about this for more than 18 months now, but I’ve been waiting for the publication of Women’s America: Refocusing the Past (7th edition) to announce that editors Linda K. Kerber, Jane Sherron DeHart, and Cornelia Hughes Dayton have included a substantial excerpt from chapter 4 of Abraham in Arms in this latest edition of their American women’s history reader.
I’m especially pleased about this, not just because Women’s America is one of the top two women’s history readers*, and not just because I’m in the company of leaders in my field like Sara Evans, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Mary Beth Norton, Jennifer Morgan, Carol Karlsen, Carol Berkin, Annette Gordon-Reed, Sharon Block, Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, and Jeanne Boydston, not to mention Dayton and Kerber themselves. I’m also especially thrilled because they picked a chapter about women that I was particularly proud of, and which has gone largely unremarked upon by my reviewers, most of whom have been military historians who are much more interested in my chapters on guys and guns. (Go figure! They have all reviewed the book favorably, for which I am truly grateful.) I wrote what I thought was some pretty interesting women’s history too–and I’m so gratified to know that top scholars in my field like Kerber and Dayton find value in my work.
From the editors’ introduction to “Captivity and Conversion: Daughters of New England in French Canada,” p. 103:
Ann Little’s essay introduces us to the geopolitics of the second half of the colonial period. Protestant England and Catholic France, along with their independent-minded Indian allies, engaged in a succession of imperial wars involving North American territory from the late seventeenth century through the Seven Years’ War of 1756-63. In 1700, English settlers far outnumbered the 15,000 French soldiers, missionaries, fur traders, and habitants(farmers) clustered chiefly in settlements along the St. Lawrence River. However, the English occupied only a narrow sliver along the eastern seaboard, while the French claimed authority (and established mutually adventageous relations with native groups) from Louisiana to Canada along the Mississippi River and around the Great Lakes. It was not at all clear if one European power (France, Spain, orEngland) could gain ascendancy over the continent as a whole.
The author takes us on a detective’s journey to recover the voices of and find out what happened to the children, teenagers, and grown women who were captured from New England towns and farms in wartime raids by Abenaki allies of the French. On arrival in Canada, English girls were typically schooled at Ursuline convents in New France’s principal northern towns, Montreal, Quebec (City), and Trois Rivieres. Finding these New England women in the thorough records kept by French notaries–baptisms, marriages, deaths–means that they converted to Catholicism. Letters exchanged with their birth families in New England confirm that a high proportion of them chose not to be redeemed or ransomed so as to return to their onetime homes.
Wasn’t that a nice touch–”a detective’s journey?” I’d almost want to read my chapter, even if it were assigned to me on a syllabus. Thanks Linda, Nina, and Jane!
Have any of you had the experience of having your books reviewed by people outside of what you thought were your major fields? Were you surprised at the audiences who found value in your work, even when you weren’t writing specifically within that scholarly tradition? Like I said, I’m grateful for the favorable attention military historians have paid my book, but I wonder: if I had subtitled the book “Gender and War” rather than “War and Gender in Colonial New England,” would my book have been sent out to more women’s and gender historians from the first?
*I say that WA is one of the top two readers, because the other one, Major Problems in American Women’s History,is edited by my fellow WA anthologee Mary Beth Norton and my colleague here at Baa Ram U., Ruth M. Alexander.