The best books about everyday life in the Southern colonies

Who am I?

Ever since I started reading the Little House series at the age of ten, I’ve been in love with women’s history. In college I had the opportunity to write a paper on the topic of my choice and I chose women of the American colonial period. I found that while our daily life is now very different, our feelings as women are much the same. The more primary sources I discovered, the more I could feel the fears, sorrows, and joys of the determined women who came before us, unwittingly creating records of their experiences in their correspondence and journals as they built homes and businesses from the raw, wild land.


I wrote...

Jessie's Passion

By Ida Flowers,

Book cover of Jessie's Passion

What is my book about?

My book is about a passionate girl who grows from a headstrong child into a woman against the backdrop of pre-Revolutionary South Carolina. Having been spoiled by everyone around her to believe that she can have whatever she wants, she’s determined to have Robbie and will do whatever she must to be with him. Robbie sees her as a tag-along pest of their childhood and is much more concerned with defending the backcountry against outlaws. As unrest builds in the colonies, Jessie learns that the world is bigger than youthful desire and that choices made impetuously are followed inevitably by consequences—some of which are irreparable.

The books I picked & why

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The Letterbook of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, 1739-1762

By Elise Pinckney (editor), Marvin R. Zahniser (editor),

Book cover of The Letterbook of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, 1739-1762

Why this book?

I kept a diary as a teen, but it won’t be preserved as any kind of example of what the world was like during my life. The Letterbook of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, however, provides a detailed record of daily life in South Carolina in the decades before the American Revolution. Eliza’s letters to her father, friends, and business acquaintances depict life on a plantation from the direct experience of a girl curious, innovative, and determined in her role as manager of several businesses and creator of more. 

The Letterbook of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, 1739-1762

By Elise Pinckney (editor), Marvin R. Zahniser (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Letterbook of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, 1739-1762 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Intriguing letters by one of colonial America's most accomplished women

One of the most distinguished women of colonial America, Eliza Lucas Pinckney pioneered large-scale cultivation of indigo in South Carolina, managed her father's extensive plantation holdings, and raised two sons―Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and Thomas Pinckney―who would become celebrated patriots of the new nation. Pinckney's lively letters reveal insightful details about an eventful life, including her myriad interests, changing politics, innovative ideas about slave education, voracious reading habits, and unusually happy marriage. Substantial footnotes and a newly revised introduction complement Pinckney's delightful correspondence.


The Carolina Backcountry on the Eve of the Revolution: The Journal and Other Writings of Charles Woodmason, Anglican Itinerant

By Charles Woodmason,

Book cover of The Carolina Backcountry on the Eve of the Revolution: The Journal and Other Writings of Charles Woodmason, Anglican Itinerant

Why this book?

Charles Woodmason was an Anglican preacher sent in 1766 by the church to minister to the inhabitants of the South Carolina Backcountry. Through his journal entries I feel “Roads hot and Sandy—and Weather excessive Sultry,” and “Night frozen with the Cold,” and hunger, with nothing to eat but “Indian Corn Bread” and water. I see people who “Live in Logg Cabbins like Hogs” with “Behavior as rude or more so than Savages” and children running half-naked in the cold. Woodmason’s journals, sermons, and letters provide rich and raw details of life in South Carolina before the American Revolution in the way only first-hand accounts can impart. 

The Carolina Backcountry on the Eve of the Revolution: The Journal and Other Writings of Charles Woodmason, Anglican Itinerant

By Charles Woodmason,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Carolina Backcountry on the Eve of the Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In what is probably the fullest and most vivid extant account of the American Colonial frontier, The Carolina Backcountry on the Eve of the Revolution gives shape to the daily life, thoughts, hopes, and fears of the frontier people. It is set forth by one of the most extraordinary men who ever sought out the wilderness--Charles Woodmason, an Anglican minister whose moral earnestness and savage indignation, combined with a vehement style, make him worthy of comparison with Swift. The book consists of his journal, selections from the sermons he preached to his Backcountry congregations, and the letters he wrote to…


Eating, Drinking, and Visiting in the South: An Informal History

By Joe Gray Taylor,

Book cover of Eating, Drinking, and Visiting in the South: An Informal History

Why this book?

My grandfather hunted squirrels to put in the stew pot, raised turnips and mustard greens, and shared all that he had with family and neighbors. Joe Gray Taylor’s book takes us back to the beginnings of the cuisine and hospitality of the American South where folks made the most of the natural environment and its riches. This book also describes the way people “visited” in the South, sometimes staying with relatives or friends for weeks or months on end, the hosts accepting them naturally, adding places at the table. Taylor covers Southern hospitality from the days of the frontier through the antebellum and Civil War years and Reconstruction, including the richest and the most impoverished populations, reminding me that I myself am just one generation removed from living off the land.

Eating, Drinking, and Visiting in the South: An Informal History

By Joe Gray Taylor,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Eating, Drinking, and Visiting in the South as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A lively, informal history of over three centuries of southern hospitality and cuisine, Eating, Drinking, and Visiting in the South traces regional gastronomy from the sparse diet of Jamestown settlers, who learned from necessity to eat what the Indians ate, to the lavish corporate cocktail parties of the New South. Brimming with memorable detail, this book by Joe Gray Taylor ranges from the groaning plates of the great plantations, witnessed by Frederick Law Olmsted and a great many others, to the less-than-appetizing extreme guests often confronted in the South's nineteenth-century inns and taverns: ""execrable coffee, rancid butter, and very dubious…


Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation

By Cokie Roberts,

Book cover of Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation

Why this book?

I love reading about women from the past who asserted themselves in a world where there was little was expected from them besides obedience to the men in their lives. Founding Mothers is a story of influential women prior to and after the American Revolution, with many quotes from personal correspondence, from Abigail Adams to Martha Washington. Not only do we read of the activities in which they participated, including births and deaths of their own children, but the emotions that kept them company as well. Touching on the lives of those less renowned as well, Founding Mothers is a springboard for deeper research into the lives of women living in young America. 

Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation

By Cokie Roberts,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Founding Mothers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Cokie Roberts comes New York Times bestseller Founding Mothers, an intimate and illuminating look at the fervently patriotic and passionate women whose tireless pursuits on behalf of their families—and their country—proved just as crucial to the forging of a new nation as the rebellion that established it.

While much has been written about the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, battled the British, and framed the Constitution, the wives, mothers, sisters and daughters they left behind have been little noticed by history. #1 New York Times bestselling author Cokie Roberts brings us…


Women's Life and Work in the Southern Colonies

By Julia Cherry Spruill,

Book cover of Women's Life and Work in the Southern Colonies

Why this book?

Julia Cherry Spruill is herself a fascinating character, one who worked in her husband’s shadow most of her life, an academic wife, as it were, creating research methods for the decade-long project of examining women’s experiences in the New World. The book, after being published, was largely ignored for thirty years, until it was published in paperback at a time when women’s history was attaining status as an academic field. Women’s Life and Work is overflowing with details concerning women’s activities, clothing, food and drink, childbearing, and death, with personal anecdotes of their feelings about it all. 

Women's Life and Work in the Southern Colonies

By Julia Cherry Spruill,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Women's Life and Work in the Southern Colonies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Out of a wealth of documentation, and often from the words of the people themselves, Spruill's account brings these women's lives out of the shadows-opening a usable past that was not there before.

In the words of Arthur Schlesinger, Sr., it is "an important contribution to social history to which students will constantly turn."

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Colonial America, the South, and drinking culture?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Colonial America, the South, and drinking culture.

Colonial America Explore 41 books about Colonial America
The South Explore 125 books about the South
Drinking Culture Explore 11 books about drinking culture

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Back of the Big House, 1776, and Culture Of Honor if you like this list.