Feminist Fourth Of July Reads

Posted by Rose Moore

[Photo by Morgan Sessions on Unsplash]

This Independence Day, we’re celebrating historical fiction with a female focus—a perfect match up to follow the success of Wonder Woman this summer, and to celebrate the 4th of July with fireworks and a good book. There has been plenty of historical fiction written about the American Revolution, of course. As one of the most significant events in US history, it’s not surprising that this tale has been told time and time again. In 2017, we’re shifting our focus away from the men normally pictured in Revolution literature and toward the often untold stories of the women that surrounded them. From camp followers to slaves, wives to rebels, these novels are the perfect way to celebrate a Feminist Fourth – and then enjoy the BBQs with a new perspective on what we are celebrating.


Outlander (series) – Diana Gabaldon

In the first book of Gabaldon’s famous time-travel series, Claire Randall finds herself in the highlands of Scotland in 1743—not exactly the American Revolution! However, as the adventure unfolds, it takes Claire and Jamie from the highlands all the way to the colonies, where they eventually become embroiled in the heart of the Revolution. Although the series does take time to get to this point, that isn’t a bad thing! In fact, it really helps to build the background to the revolution, and allow the reader understand the state of the empire at the time. And, of course, it’s currently being adapted as a TV series on Starz, so in a few seasons’ time, readers can see this story brought to life on the small screen.


America’s First Daughter – Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

A new look at the life of Thomas Jefferson, this story is told from the perspective of his oldest daughter, Patsy Jefferson. From the family’s days in Paris through to their time in the White House, America’s First Daughter draws from thousands of letters and original sources to paint a detailed picture of a little-known member of the Founding Family. Much of the book takes place beyond the days of the Revolution itself, allowing the reader to see how this new nation was growing and changing for years after the war. 


The Traitor’s Wife – Allison Pataki

The full title of this novel is The Traitor’s Wife: The Woman Behind Benedict Arnold And the Plan To Betray America, and that sums it up perfectly! Similar to America’s First Daughter, The Traitor’s Wife flips the focus on one of the best-known stories of the Revolutionary War, telling it from the perspective of the women closest to it. The narrator is actually Peggy Arnold’s maid, and the novel covers her seduction of Arnold through his defection, claiming that it was in fact this scheming young socialite who orchestrated one of the most famous betrayals in history.


Just Jane – William Lavender

Another book with a longer full title, Just Jane: A Daughter of England Caught in the Struggle of the American Revolution focuses not on the rebels, but on a young girl caught between family (and country) loyalties. Jane, the orphaned daughter of an Earl, comes to the colonies at the tender age of 14 (in 1776, just as the Declaration of Independence is signed). As the revolution heats up, the story of the nation is echoed in her own story of finding independence and growing up.


Renegades of the American Revolution (series) – Donna Thorland

This series of four novels is a must-read for those who prefer a little more bodice-ripping in their historical fiction. Each book centers on a different couple over the course of the American Revolution. Each novel can be read separately, but taken together they paint a detailed picture of the lives and loves of women in different situations and at different times during the War of Independence. These are definitely romance-heavy, but it makes them perfect poolside reading for this fourth of July. 


Seeds of America (Series) –  Laurie Halse Anderson

Another series, this time a trilogy, the Seeds of America comprises Chains, Forge, and Ashes. Unlike most historical fiction written about this time period, the Seeds of America tells its story from the perspective of the slaves in America, primarily from the viewpoint of a young girl named Isabel. The series does a phenomenal job of exploring what the fight for freedom meant for those who were not free, and the kinds of difficult choices that they had to make – and have made for them, too. 


The Whiskey Rebels – David Liss

The Whiskey Rebels moves to the years after the Revolution, and a new frontier of the young nation, where two characters are both driven to try and build a new life after the war. The novel weaves the history of the whiskey trade with the practicalities of starting a new nation – including the issues of back payment from a new government cut off from the immediate wealth of the Empire. The book focuses on two protagonists, one male and one female, so it’s not as purely female-focused as the others on this list, but it is still a phenomenal read about the post-revolution era.


Celia Garth – Gwen Bristow

To wrap up our list, we have Celia Garth, a story told from the perspective of a young dressmaker turned spy by a captivating rebel. Set in Charleston, one of the hubs of the war effort for rebel troops and supplies, the novel brings to life a very different kind of love story, and charts the fall and rise of the rebellion in the heart of the colonies. It’s straightforward historical fiction with the perfect balance for fourth of July reading.