I grew up memorializing Puritans, maybe more than most. In 1976 in Massachusetts it was not just John Hancock and Samuel Adams who were in our elementary-school classrooms but also the Puritans, those pious rebels who, as we learned, gave birth to the American Revolution. It was not any particular Puritan. It was the Puritans, our Puritans, and anything we needed to learn about being American would start with them. At school, we girls sewed bonnets and learned quilting, proving that our hands “a needle better fit” after all. On field trips, we went to Old Sturbridge Village and walked through small doors into dark kitchens that smelled of smoke and stone. We watched as a woman tended iron pots hanging from hooks over a deep hearth. We visited the blacksmith; we practiced dipping candles; we hushed ourselves up and sat down...

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