Book Review | The Randolph Women and Their Men
Author: Ruth Doumlele
In all likelihood, The Randolph Women and Their Men is a book unlike any you’ve read before. It is so unbelievably crammed with information — names, dates, events — you might feel that you need a scorecard to keep up with the relationships and happenings of this very powerful family.
I like to think of myself as something of a history buff (I have a degree in it, for crying out loud) but this segment of American history is not what you’ll find in the majority of history books. In fact, The Randolph Women and Their Men is a history book in itself.
Let me just give you a taste of who (and what) we’re dealing with here: William Randolph arrived in the Virginia colony in the early 1600s and became a successful and prolific landowner and tobacco merchant. He then married Mary Isham, which made him even more successful. If the union of William and Mary rings a bell, that’s because they founded the college that bears their names. Their children were quite successful as well; one was the first president of the First Continental Congress, another served as governor, secretary of state, and U.S. attorney general. One Randolph woman, Molly, published the first American cookbook. You’ll learn those facts within the first dozen pages or so, mind you. (Molly also invented a “refrigerant” that was useful for keeping drinks and ice cream cold as she entertained…although the blueprints for that invention wound up getting stolen from her.)
Ruth Doumlele has compiled an incredible resource that chronicles the lives of of one of the most influential families involved in the founding of this country. This book, though, doesn’t read like a “resource.” It reads like an historical novel, complete with gossip and entanglements, misdeeds and marriages between cousins, and more. Doumlele includes a family tree of sorts as well as a “cast of characters” which is terribly useful in keeping up with who’s who and who does what. The Randolph Women and Their Men is an amazing, crowning achievement for Doumlele.
*I received a copy of this book to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading this book.*