What do George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln have in common?
They all grew-up in blended or stepfamilies.
Lisa Wilson, the Charles J. MacCurdy Professor of American History at Connecticut College and author of A History of Stepfamilies in Early America, takes us through the creation and interactions of blended and stepfamilies in early America.
This episode originally posted as Episode 027.
About the Show
Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.
It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.
Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.
Ben Franklin’s World is a production of the Omohundro Institute.
In today’s episode, Lisa Wilson, the Charles J. MacCurdy Professor of American History at Connecticut College and author of A History of Stepfamilies in Early America, leads us on an investigation of blended and stepfamilies in early America.
During our conversation, Lisa reveals how and why early American men and women chose to remarry and form stepfamilies; the origins of the “evil stepmother” myth and the truth about early American stepfathers; And, what happened when blended families came together.
What You’ll Discover
- What drew Lisa to investigate stepfamilies in early America
- Reasons early American men and women chose to remarry and form stepfamilies
- Information about family size in early New England
- Legal implications of remarriage for both early American men and women
- Why many early American women tried to remain single after the death of a husband
- What characteristics early American men and women looked for in second husbands and wives
- What the idea of partnership looked like in the 18th century
- Origins of the evil stepmother myth
- The transition from evil mothers to evil stepmothers in fairy tales
- Why women and children feared stepfathers in the early 18th century
- They myth of evil stepfather
- The story of Silas Deane and his role as a stepfather
- How early American stepchildren received their new stepmothers and stepfathers
- Details about the relationships between half and step-siblings
Links to People, Places, and Publications
- Lisa Wilson
- Lisa’s Connecticut College webpage
- A History of Stepfamilies in Early America
- Liz’s Journal of the American Revolution article about Silas Deane
- Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum
- Episode 150: Woody Holton, Abigail Adams: Revolutionary Speculator
- Episode 175: Daniel Epstein, House Divided: The Revolution in Ben Franklin’s House
- Episode 183: Douglas Bradburn, George Washington’s Mount Vernon
- Episode 207: Nick Bunker, Young Benjamin Franklin
In your opinion what might have happened if George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, or Abraham Lincoln had not been raised in stepfamily situations? Do you think their history and the history of the early United States might be different?
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