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The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers    by Thomas Fleming order for
Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers
by Thomas Fleming
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Elizabeth Schulenburg

The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers offers a fascinating glimpse into the home lives of six of the most prominent men involved in the founding of the United States. Author Thomas Fleming combines detailed research with a conversational, storytelling style to give readers an accessible account of the mothers, wives, lovers, and daughters of the most powerful men of the time.

Fleming chooses six men - George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison - and divides his volume into six books, one for each subject. Each man's personal life is probed, with special attention given to the women who played a role in the shaping of his career. With the author's using letters and original sources as much as possible, these fascinating women come to life before the reader's eye.

Far from passive, Fleming's version of these women shows them as passionate, intelligent, and involved in the politics of the day. Their marriages were sometimes made for the sake of convenience, but were more often relationships of deep emotion and abiding friendship. Born years before the feminist movement, these women forged paths for their successors, commanding attention and demanding respect from the men in their lives.

If the book has a shortcoming, it is that each man's story is only a portion of the account - with so much material, the author could easily have written a complete volume on each of his six subjects, and it would have made for interesting reading. Instead, he must limit each to only one section, and occasionally leaves the reader wishing for more. However, the book as a whole provides a compelling snapshot of gender relations at the time, and for readers interested in the subject matter, will prove to be a quick, rewarding read.

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