When we Botkin children were little, our mother would read aloud to us for a couple of hours each day. We loved the sound of her voice, and we loved the books she chose to read. She had a knack for finding books that would be both educational and exciting — not the twaddle that insults a child’s intelligence — and dramatizing them in a way that riveted us and imprinted them on our memory.
In the last few years, Mom has had many mothers beg her for tips on good literature for girls, when so much of what’s available is fluffy, saccharine-sweet, or unrealistic — especially, they ask, books with good role models for their daughters. Where are the figures young girls are supposed to be looking to for examples? Though much of it is re-told through a feminist lens, or simply not told at all, America has a history of great stories and great heroines — you just have to know where to look. After years of collecting little-known diaries, memoirs, and letter-books of such American heroines, our mother decided to combine her cache of good stories with her love of reading aloud, in this exciting new audio book series.
Introducing “Voices from the Past”
The Historical Heroines Audio-Book series by Victoria Botkin
This summer, our family dove into making Mom’s idea a reality. She wanted to produce high-quality audio books, drawn straight from the words of the historical heroines themselves, and enhanced with period music and sound effects. We previewed dozens of book options, chose four favorites to begin with, and spent the next couple of months working on researching, editing, recording, editing audio, arranging and composing music, and designing the cover art.
The most fun part was researching the popular tunes of each book’s era, arranging and recording them, and placing them into the most fitting places in the audio books. Our brother Ben, a gifted composer, was too busy preparing for his wedding and working on other projects to do the music, but he let us requisition his composing station for a couple of weeks. You can hear a few of our musical attempts here:
The Old Chisholm Trail
Duke of Kent’s Waltz
Johnny has Gone for a Diplomat
Projects like these always make us reflect on the diversity of opportunities that can be explored by girls that work with their families. Plugging ourselves into our family’s endeavors has opened up many new avenues and interests we’d never dreamed of. It also reminds us that femininity is not limited to the trends of generic “feminine” activities (baking muffins, knitting tea cozies), but can include any manner of activities that help and support one’s family in the context of the home. We’re inspired by our friends who, for instance, help out in the family concrete business, do bookkeeping, help run a family bakery, help research alternative energy solutions, do market gardening, and more. One of our favorite historical examples of this highly competent, dominion-oriented femininity is Eliza Lucas Pinckney, whose story made it into our audio book series (see below.)
And so — after a couple of rigorous months of family teamwork — here are the finished products.
Abigail Adams: Her Letters
The letters of Abigail Adams bear faithful and moving witness to one of the greatest epochs of world history: the American War for Independence. They also attest to the remarkable life of a wise and witty New England woman who was her husband’s chief adviser and war correspondent, who raised and educated four children, managed a farm on a war-time budget, and served her country as its ambassadress and First Lady. This spell-binding narrative takes the listener from the bustling hub of Boston, to Penn’s Hill, where Abigail stood with her son and watched the slaughter of her people and Charleston going up in flames, to the glittering courts of Europe, where she came face to face with the perpetrator of these crimes, King George III himself.
A Bride Goes West
A well-bred West Virginia bride begins the adventure of her life when she marries a young Montana rancher, who takes her back with him to share his life among the cowboys. Follow Nannie’s adventures in adapting, with grace and pluck, to her new life in the Wild West — one of the few white women there, trying to bring civilization to the range, amidst a host of rowdy cowboys, Indians, and outlaws. Colorful and unforgettable characters, cattle roundups, bucking broncos, Indian attacks, and pioneer spirit, make this a thrilling Wild-West-show of a story. Nannie T. Alderson’s tale is a true story of honor, courage, resourcefulness, and faith, on the range.
The Letters of Eliza Lucas Pinckney
When 16-year-old Eliza Lucas’s father was deployed to Antigua in 1740, he left the management of his household and three plantations in Eliza’s capable hands. In these lively letters, she describes her adventures handling her father’s affairs, cultivating and exporting indigo, educating her sister and the black children on the plantations, and helping to build up the economy of her fledgling colony through her many business schemes. Hear her words of encouragement and exhortation to four generations of men in her family, including her two sons, both Revolutionary War heroes, over the full and fruitful lifetime of this great mother of our country.
An English Family in the American Wilderness
In 1831, Rebecca Burlend, with her husband and five small children, said goodbye to their homeland of Yorkshire, England after years of struggle to survive as tenant farmers, and emigrated to America. Through her first-hand account of moving to a new country, we can feel the anguish of standing on the deck of a ship, watching one’s homeland disappear into the distance, the experience of traveling steerage on an Atlantic voyage, and then of the pioneer’s experience in what was truly a New World — the virgin wilderness of the interior of the continent — and their family’s struggle, ultimately, to prosperity. A true picture of the stark beauty, hard work, and hope of the pioneer adventure.
We are having a 20% introductory sale on the individual audio books and a 30% sale on the entire series. Go here for more information.