Friday, December 05, 2014

Cover story: "A History of Stepfamilies in Early America"

Lisa Wilson is the Charles J. MacCurdy Professor of American History at Connecticut College and the author of A History of Stepfamilies in Early America (University of North Carolina Press, 2014). She is also the author of the award-winning, Ye Heart of a Man: The Domestic Life of Men in Colonial New England (Yale University Press, 1999) and Life After Death: Widows in Pennsylvania, 1750-1850 (Temple University Press, 1992).

Here Wilson explains the connection of the book's cover to the pages within:
The cover of my book is a group portrait called The Washington Family. It was created by the well-known portrait-painter, Edward Savage, between 1789 and 1796. The children in the portrait are the stepson and stepdaughter of George Washington -- George "Washy" Washington Parke Custis and Eleanor "Nelly" Parke Custis. They were the children of Washington's stepson, Jackie Custis who by his stepfather's side at Yorktown at the end of the Revolution contracted "camp fever" and died soon after. Washington promised to take in his children. This portrait was very large and was proudly displayed at Mount Vernon. The father of our country was actually the head of a stepfather family. He never had children of his own. He like other members of the founding generation, such as Benjamin Franklin or Paul Revere, was a member of a stepfamily. Stepfamilies were very common in the past as well as the present. In fact, I argue they were "traditional" American families.
Learn more about A History of Stepfamilies in Early America at The University of North Carolina Press website.

The Page 99 Test: A History of Stepfamilies in Early America.

--Marshal Zeringue